The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing are back on TV, which means one thing to many consumers - the excuse for a Big Night In (BNI) in front of the TV with family and friends.

For Calum Duncan, who runs Kincraig Stores in Aviemore, that’s definitely the case. “People see The X Factor’s back and decide to have a family night in,” he says, “and I think convenience stores do more business than the multiples with BNI because it’s often about impulse buys - realising that a particular programme’s on TV and wanting to stay in specially to watch it.”

SHS Drinks marketing director Amanda Grabham reckons the growing popularity of The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing and even The Great British Bake-off has revived and given new impetus to the weekly tradition of family and friends gathering for a sociable night in to watch TV.


The top five categories bought by people having a Big Night In are:


Soft drinks




Source: HIM CTP 2014

“And with each of these shows attracting an average of between eight and 10 million viewers that provides a big opportunity for convenience retailers to meet the demand for drinks and snacks which go hand-in-hand with these sorts of social occasions,” she says.

Calum’s store trades under the Lifestyle Express banner and he’s taken full advantage of their latest cash-back offer - on BNI lines.

“We’re supplied by Sutherland Bros in Wick and the latest cash back gave us £30-worth of stock if we bought Lifestyle’s 12 best-selling BNI lines.”

Those lines included two Vintners Collection wines, Fanta, Walkers crisps, Doritos, Dr Pepper, Strongbow, Foster’s and Cadbury Dairy Milk.

Calum says Lifestyle Express is currently doing a big push on BNI, so as well as the cash-back offer there’s POS such as shelf-edge labelling and barkers, all with a BNI logo and promoting different lines.

Calum is using the POS on his drinks chiller, which has wine and cider on the top shelf, lager on the next one down and local beers below that. Use of the BNI POS then points shoppers to other lines such as Doritos, which are on offer at two for £2.

In brief

Special treat

Ferrero reckons there’s an opportunity with its Rocher brand for Big Nights In. Customer development director Levi Boorer believes the premium brand is ideal for small, special get-togethers.

Popcorn frenzy

The Phileas Fogg range has been extended to include American-style popcorn in four flavours: Californian tangy & tasty cheese; New Orleans Cajun spice & smoked salt; Arizona sweet & spicy chilli; and Texas wild & tangy buffalo wings.

Musical tie-in

Nando’s Peri-Peri Grooves feature an on-pack promotion offering 20,000 music-themed prizes. Consumers enter unique pack details online to see if they’ve won. One winner will receive an all-expenses paid trip to a South African music festival.

Movie time

Pringles’ latest on-pack promotion, in conjunction with Twentieth Century Fox, gives shoppers the chance to download a free movie on digital HD when they buy two promotional cans. There are 40 films to choose from.

Magnum on TV

Magnum is sponsoring Film 4’s 9pm film slot with Magnum Minis to link the brand and treat-size products to the evening snacking occasion in front of the TV.

Butterkist senior brand manager Richard Musgrave says promoting your BNI offer is vital. “Impactful, well-signposted BNI displays positioned in a prime location at the front of a store will maximise sales. Consumers’ first impressions are formed within a short time frame, and retailers boasting a strong BNI fixture are able to communicate latest trends, while assisting consumers in making a buying decision and create an exciting and enticing buying environment.”

At Nisa Whittlesey, near Peterborough, there’s a dedicated BNI aisle. Anish Keshwara, who runs the store with his brother Jamie, says: “It’s a short aisle - just 4m long - but it has a 1.25m low-level fridge which holds ready meals, an upright freezer with Häagen-Dazs and other premium ice cream, 1m of DVD rental space and a £1 snacks range.

“There’s a link deal on the Nisa ready meals and pizzas. You can have two pizzas for a fiver, or two ready meals for £4.50, and with both deals you get a free 1.5ltr bottle of Coke.

“These types of deals definitely help sales as it means you can feed yourself and your girlfriend for a fiver. I definitely think suppliers should do more link deals to promote BNIs.”

The Keshwaras’ BNI section gets shopped regularly thanks, in part, to being opposite a 4m pound bay.

“We have a lot of crisps and snacks down that aisle for just £1 so people know they can go down there and pick up a bargain, and it means we have a steady flow of shoppers to the BNI section. We also have salted, sweet and multi-coloured popcorn in that aisle.”

For many consumers popcorn is synonymous with a BNI. Adam Hogwood from Budgens of Broadstairs, Kent, says: “Popcorn is the traditional accompaniment to a good film and certainly helps make a bad film bearable. It’s certainly a mainstay of our BNI section and sales are consistently high.”

Butterkist has a range of different pack formats specifically targeted at this occasion. These include the toffee and sweet sharing cartons, which have a strong connection to a cinema experience.

Meanwhile, the Butterkist Pop ‘n’ Pour range has been developed to help consumers interact more with the product. As such, cartons contain two bags of plain popcorn and two sachets of sauce. Consumers warm a sachet of sauce in warm water while the popcorn is popping in the microwave; once ready they drizzle the sauce over the popcorn.

But for many, popcorn is now viewed as a healthier snacking option to higher-calorie snacks, so as well as its sweet range Butterkist offers a selection of savoury flavours, including salted, sour cream & chive, sea salt & balsamic vinegar and Thai sweet chilli.

In the freezer

With the continued popularity of Chinese and Indian food, frozen ethnic snacks are ideal for Big Nights In.

Daloon Foods managing director Geoff Burgess says his firm’s mini spring rolls, mini samosas and onion bhajis are great for these occasions, for both retailers and consumers. For retailers, a longer shelf life means less wastage, while for consumers these snacks offer variety coupled with value for money.

“Mini ethnic snacks are the strongest performing product group in the frozen ethnic snacks market. Growth has been driven by the explosion of party food ranges, which are ideal for that Big Night In and other social events at home,” says Burgess.

Butterkist’s Musgrave suggests siting savoury Butterkist flavours with a selection of alcoholic beverages and its sweet products with a range of soft drinks, to make it easier for the consumer to shop and pick up everything in one go.

CBL Drinks’ sales and marketing director Maurice Newton says retailers can make it easier for shoppers by pairing items to form part of a promotion. This will not only save the customers time, but it will attract customers who are looking to save money.

CBL Drinks has launched its own range of traditional soft drinks, Zack’s Classic Sodas, featuring favourites such as dandelion & burdock, lemonade and ginger beer. The two-litre bottle formats are ideal for a BNI and perfect for pairing with snacks such as a large packet of crisps.

“A well-merchandised BNI display with paired products and cross-promotions will always encourage incremental purchases and help push up profits.”

In Adam’s opinion, the best ‘up- seller’ for the BNI category is the multibuy. “People’s perception of a BNI is ‘money saved’, so they tend to have a budget in mind for what they would spend on a night out - and want something cheaper than that. Shoppers tend to tap in to multibuys to feel that they’ve got even more value for money.”

Kepak Convenience Foods’ marketing director John Armstrong reckons there’s also scope for BNI meal deals to drive cross-category purchases and to increase shoppers’ average weight of purchase. “For example, retailers could offer two micro-snacking products and a two-litre soft drink for £5,” he says.

Another section in the Keshwara brothers’ store that’s popular is the pick ‘n’ mix, which has 12 pods of sweets. These are sold in two cup sizes, priced at £1.99 and £2.99. “They’re obviously very popular with schoolkids, but adults like them, too,” says Anish.

For Adam at Broadstairs, two language schools nearby are good for business. “The students love Pringles, so during term time we see an uplift of about 100%. Budgens always has a sharing bag of crisps on offer, which boosts sales of that line, however other products will sell themselves even when they’re not on promotion, such as Doritos and dips, pretzels, cheese savouries and Haribo sweets.”

You can tell from Adam’s comments that BNI is a big deal in the Budgens shop - they’ve recently had a Subway counter installed and with that came an opportunity to re-merchandise the store.

Adam takes up the story: “As part of the change we wanted to feature the BNI section more heavily, especially as we are a 24-hour, 365-days a year store. Opposite our alcohol section and next to the Subway queue we have six linear metres of mixers, carbonates, snacks and sharing confectionery to provide a solution to the shopper’s night in mission. Round pound and multibuy deals feature heavily throughout this section to encourage impulse purchases, too.

“Six linear metres may seem a lot for a 2,300sq ft shop, but sales have held and grown in this category over the past 18 months. Margins are also great and can reach about 80% on some ranges. We’ve found a shift from our busiest time - it was Sunday after 4pm, but is now Friday nights so it’s up to us to capitalise on this and make the most of grabbing people’s attention while they’re in store.”

He says another opportunity for impulse purchases comes in the form of clip strips, some of which are used for less obvious products including beef jerky, drinking straws and decks of cards. “But they all help to increase basket spend and get that all important message across to the customer that we can supply all they need and more!”

The cross-merchandising for BNI doesn’t end there, either. “A constant seller of ours is bread sticks in the produce chiller, next to the dips,” says Adam.

“Our alcohol sales are very reflective of a night in mission, highlighted by the fact that when there’s a major TV event such as sport or the final of a talent show, we can see a 30% uplift in sales. We therefore always make sure we have full availability and the best offers on show. This year’s World Cup did boost sales. And ice cream was a real winner as Budgens supported us with some great offers on take-home tubs. Some subtly merchandised lines such as wafers, sauces and disposable spoons helped to get some associated purchases.”

Finally, with the economy growing, will BNIs be swapped for Big Nights Out once again? Declan Lockett, marketing director at All About Food, says that although the UK economy may be showing signs of recovery, change is slow and shoppers are still feeling ‘the squeeze’. “Shoppers are still spending less money than they used to on evenings out and are staying at home instead - the BNI is a trend that is here to stay as it’s engrained in consumers’ minds. And at this time of year when the nights are colder and darker, people are more likely to want to watch the TV or a movie with their favourite snacks in the comfort of their own home, regardless of the cost saving.”

Although suppliers are sure that BNIs are here to stay, Best-One retailer Alkesh Gadher is not convinced. “We don’t have a BNI section any more. For us it’s all about the seasonal occasions - Halloween, Guy Fawkes and Christmas. I was recently in Chinatown in London at 11pm on a Saturday night and it was heaving with people. I know many are tourists, but people are definitely going out more.”

Dinner made easy

Saturday night takeaway

Thanks to the TV series Come Dine With Me, along with a whole host of cooking programmes designed to make it all look easy, the pressure is on for consumers to produce home-made meals that impress. But for those more used to pinging than preparing from scratch, Simon Biddle at Simply Fresh in Webheath in the West Midlands has the answer.

Big Night In

Simon’s store has become well known for its home-made ready meals and since he refurbished it he’s increased the range of meals available to take away.

Simon says customers have gone mad for the meals. His best-sellers include pizza, steak & ale pie, rogan josh, shepherd’s pie and Lancashire hot pot. And some people even take in their own dishes to be filled.

When asked whether he thinks customers own up to the meals being shop bought, he says: “What do you think? I don’t think they do.”

He doesn’t mind what they do, as long as they keep on buying. “We have 3m of shelving dedicated to the ready meals. We top them up at 5pm and then again at 7pm. We typically sell 100 meals on a weekday and 150 on Fridays and Saturdays. We also make about 20 sherry trifles for the weekend and they always sell.”