Find out how to hit the back of the net this winter
1. Many group stage matches will kick off during the day
When the 2022 World Cup kicks off at 16:00 UK time on Sunday 20 November, it will be game on for retailers and their suppliers. The tournament usually drives a significant spike in sales of snacks, alcohol, soft drinks and other treats as punters get together with friends and family to cheer on the home sides.
“Major sporting tournaments present a huge opportunity for independents,” says Budweiser Brewing Group (BBG) wholesale & convenience director Sunny Mirpuri. “The 2018 World Cup saw an 18% increase in beer sales compared to an average year, equating to an additional 1.4m shoppers [Kantar Alcovision 4 w/e 11 July 2018].”
But this isn’t 2018, when Russia hosted the World Cup and thousands of fans made the most of the long summer evenings to watch the matches on TV with friends and family. This year’s tournament is the first to take place outside the usual summer dates and the first to be hosted by a Middle Eastern state, Qatar, which is three hours ahead of UK time in winter.
Because of this, many of the group stage matches will take place during the day, as opposed to the evening. England and Wales – the only UK home nations to have qualified for this year’s event – both find themselves in Group B and have matches scheduled to kick off at different times throughout the day (see below table for key dates and times).
“This makes it quite hard to predict because you can’t compare this to a normal summer World Cup,” says Chris Shelley, who owns and runs a Budgens store in Horsham, West Sussex. “I expect there will be a positive impact on sales of party food and alcohol with people getting together but there won’t be many barbecues, so it’s a difficult one to call.”
|Key dates and times for your diary
|Qatar v Ecuador (first match)
|Sunday 20 Nov - 16:00
|England v Iran (group stage)
|Monday 21 Nov - 13:00
|Wales v USA (group stage)
|Monday 21 Nov - 19:00
|Wales v Iran (group stage)
|Friday 25 Nov - 10:00
|England v USA (group stage)
|Friday 25 Nov - 19:00
|Wales v England (group stage)
|Tuesday 29 Nov - 19:00
|World Cup Final
|Sunday 18 Dec - 15:00
Note: knockout stage matches between the winners and runners up of each stage are due to start on Saturday 3 December
2. England v Wales on 29 November will be a key sales opportunity
One thing’s clear, however: Tuesday 29 November will be a particularly big night for fans and retailers in England and Wales. The teams will be up against each other in their final group stage match at 19:00. It will be even bigger if either or both sides are in with a shot of qualifying for the knockout stage.
“Of course, we always see the biggest bounces in sales during the World Cup when England is playing,” says Chris at Budgens Horsham. “How big the bounce will be is usually determined by things like time of kick off and how far into the tournament the match is. The longer they stay in, the better sales are.”
It will be no surprise that drinks suppliers are enthusiastic. “There will be key opportunities for alcohol purchases and consumption during evening and weekend football matches, especially as two early England fixtures are scheduled for 19.00 kick offs,” says Jo Taylorson, head of marketing and product management at Kingsland Drinks.
“The key is for retailers to really understand how different drinkers are approaching the tournament and ensure that they are offering their customers that breadth and depth of choice of drinks at a range of price points. C-stores can capitalise on football viewing parties by making sure that they keep pace with innovation in the drinks category.”
Taylorson points to RTD cocktails and canned wines as a particular opportunity. “Ensuring that shelves are stocked with products that appeal to all demographics and the changing tastes of drinkers, especially in the younger age bracket, is critical to capitalising on the football tournament,” she adds.
3. Weetabix wants in on the World Cup
Because of the earlier start times in the group stages, it’s not just the usual suspects – booze and snack brands – that are licking their lips at the prospect of this year’s World Cup. “With some kick-offs at 10:00, we expect cereal and breakfast snacks sales to perform strongly during this period,” says Weetabix head of sales Darryl Burgess.
Burgess points to Weetabix’s partnerships with the Football Associations of the home nations and the on-pack promotions it ran alongside the Women’s World Cup during the summer as proof of the opportunity. “Snacking brands will see a boost, with more of us looking for sustenance to keep us going through the matches – and penalties!” he says.
“We know cereals are increasingly used as a snack throughout the day, and are confident that, especially for the earlier games, people might reach for the box of cereal to keep them going. Our research is showing that people are dipping into the cereal box multiple times of day, not just at breakfast but as an afternoon pick-me-up, as a second breakfast or a treat. This has meant that more indulgent, chocolaty cereals have sold strongly.”
Sophie Towers says effective merchandising will play a crucial role in driving impulse sales of snacks and the like at the two One Stop stores she runs in Burnley, Lancashire. “Those first matches with earlier kick-off times are going to be a great time to pull people in by promoting snacks and drinks in store,” she says.
“There’s definitely an opportunity to increase impulse sales, not just of beer and crisps which always do well during the later World Cup matches, but also products that are better suited to day-time consumption. We will be looking to advertise what we have in store and draw people’s attention to what’s on promotion.”
4. Four in five shoppers plan to watch World Cup matches at home
There are other reasons for convenience retailers to be optimistic about the first ever winter World Cup. “It’s going to clash with the cost-of-living crisis and Christmas,” says Sophie. “This means that the people who always watch the football might be more likely to come to us to stock up than go to the pub.”
Indeed, Westons Cider’s head of business development Darryl Hinksman points to an IGD poll that found that more than four in five UK shoppers plan to watch World Cup matches at home. “We’re predicting a spike in sales during the coming months that could rival that of the sunny World Cup summer in 2018,” he says.
“People are more likely to opt for watching matches at home with friends and family than going out to the pub on colder days – particularly at a time when consumers are feeling the pinch in the run up to Christmas. In fact, 81% of shoppers will likely watch the matches at home, so this is a significant opportunity for the off trade [IGD].”
This is particularly good news for cider, which tends to see its biggest seasonal spike during the warmer summer months. “To make the most of this, convenience retailers should stock up in advance and ensure their fixture includes a range of cider in different pack formats to cater for all flavour preferences and drinking occasions,” adds Hinksman.
5. Three in five plan to drink beer while watching the football
Cidermakers may have spotted an opportunity to prolong the cider season, but beer brands say the coming festivities offer them the biggest prize. “Beer and sport go hand in hand and the 2022 World Cup is no different,” says Mirpuri at BBG, citing a Bulbshare Pulse Survey carried out in August.
“Sixty per cent of consumers intend to drink beer throughout the tournament, so a well-stocked beer fridge will be key to winning this winter. As the official beer of the World Cup and England’s Men team, Budweiser has a deep affinity with football. As a result, 63% of shoppers plan to purchase Budweiser to drink whilst watching the games.”
BBG won’t be leaving any of this to chance, of course. “We’ll be activating a huge World Cup campaign in the lead-up and throughout the tournament to help retailers tap into this excitement and drive sales,” adds Mirpuri.
“As shoppers look to watch matches at home with friends and families, independents can boost basket spend through food and drink pairings. Retailers should consider using secondary space to create match-day bundles, such as positioning Budweiser alongside a selection of crisps and dips so shoppers can easily grab everything they need to host the perfect viewing party.”
6. Cold beer is key for ‘beer run’ missions
Keeping the beer fridge well stocked might sound like basic housekeeping, but it can get overlooked during busy periods. Retailers who let cold beer stocks dwindle on match days are at risk of losing out, warns BBG’s Mirpuri.
“Match days see a rise in consumers looking to stock up on chilled beers as part of ‘beer run’ missions on the way to social gatherings, so a well-stocked beer fridge is vital,” she says. “Additionally, as friends and families look to watch the games together, retailers should ensure they’re stocked up on mid-large packs, perfect for larger gatherings.”
Offering drinks in the right format will also be crucial during the World Cup. “When it comes to beer, stocking a range of formats will be important when encouraging sales,” says Diageo head of off trade category development Lauren Priestly.
“For example, 330ml bottles are great for trial whereas 4-packs and 10-packs are perfect for sharing. 4-packs perform well and are currently a popular format in convenience. That said, retailers can drive incremental sales by encouraging people to trade up from a Guinness 440ml can to the 538ml format.”
She adds: “When it comes to merchandising, if space permits, we suggest placing bottles, cans and multipacks in the cooler, ready for immediate consumption. Clear signage and POS will also help guide customers to their drink of choice.”
7. Half of shoppers say ‘big nights in’ aren’t big without snacks
Don’t forget the snacks. A 2021 Mintel study revealed that snacks are a must have for an evening in for 49% of UK shoppers. And with more people likely to be staying in to watch the games rather than visiting the pub this year, having the right range is key.
“To capitalise on the World Cup, retailers should offer promotions and themed fixtures in store, paying particular attention to the sharing segment,” says Matt Collins, trading director at KP Snacks, which owns the Tyrrells, KP Nuts, Butterkist and Pop Chips brands among others.
“At £1.4bn, sharing is the largest segment in crisps, snacks and nuts. It’s growing strongly at +8.3% [Nielsen]. As trends towards more cautious spending prevail, consumers are expected to continue to spend more time at home. At KP Snacks we’re tapping into the rising consumer demand for sharing with a diverse portfolio that will drive sharing product sales and provide shoppers with tasty snacks for all occasions.”
8. Planning will be paramount if you want to score
Still, there’s no getting away from the fact: the 2022 World Cup falls at the busiest time of year, clashing with the build-up to Christmas. To ensure that retailers make the most of both opportunities planning will be paramount.
“We’d urge retailers to plan early and prepare fixtures and aisles to cater for both occasions,” says Taylorson at Kingsland Drinks. “Sales uplifts for alcohol are likely to begin early as shoppers will be stocking up, anticipating mixed events in the home both for football viewings and festive drinks.”
It seems a safe bet that the coming festivities will be livelier than the past two years, which were subdued by the pandemic. “More than ever, consumers are also looking for fun and experimentation from brand innovators who create high quality drinks with appealing packaging,” adds Taylorson.
“They want brands to grab their attention in store. They are willing to try new things and different flavour combinations and want their drinks to be fun and a reflection of their personality. We’re expecting very different spending patterns this year but consumers will still want good value and quality, plenty of choice, and wines at a range of price points.”