Convenience retailers can capitalise on summer drinking occasions by offering a range of chilled alcoholic drinks that’s ready to go

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Last year’s record-breaking summer temperatures provided unprecedented opportunities for convenience retailers to drive sales within the alcohol category. Topping the sweltering heat of 2018 is unlikely, but that is not to mean retailers cannot capitalise on the summer drinks market once again.

Michael Haith, owner of Smileys One Stop Shop in Blackpool, expects to see an immediate rise in sales when summer approaches. “All alcohol sales increase when the temperature rises, making summer a little bit hectic at times. When fruity cider and flavoured wines sales start kicking in, you know we’re getting towards the summer,” he jokes.

“People are having BBQs and picking up a few bottles of wine, a pack of beer or some ready to drinks on their way. They’ll come in and grab a 10-pack crate of beers. If there is an event like a World Cup or European Championships, then you can see sales increase even further on the back of that.”

Christian Sarginson, brand controller at Global Brands says that with the big increase in events and social occasions in summer, there’s no denying that the sunny season is full of high-energy drinking occasions. “Retailers should therefore look to stock drinks that work in such environments,” he advises.

Steve Bassett, owner of five stores across Dorset and Hampshire, believes summer drinks are in a league of their own. “Alcoholic drinks in the summer months are always big,” he says. “But if the sun is shining, then customers start to really enjoy themselves.”

Heineken category and shopper marketing director Toby Lancaster says retailers should “not underestimate the importance of the start of summer in boosting their sales”.

“Retailer should look to cater for the new drinking opportunities that the season brings,” he says. “The warmer weather and longer, lighter evenings naturally create more occasions for people to spend time at home in the garden, and with many people taking time off from work over the summer period, there are plenty of opportunities for retailers to capitalise on the increased number of drinking occasions.”

Whatever the alcoholic drink on offer, providing a chilled selection can make all the difference, no more so than for Bay Bashir, owner of five Go Local stores in Middlesbrough.

“The main thing in the summer is to make sure all the alcohol is chilled,” he says. “We see a massive increase in sales of all our drinks, alcoholic and not, that are chilled.

“You have to merchandise correctly to get the most out of the footfall. In the summer months, people are coming in just for that sort of stuff, so a fridge stocked with chilled drinks is a must.”

According to Amy Giacobbi, marketing manager at Continental Wine & Food, the unpredictability of the British weather means the impulse purchasing of alcohol is almost a guarantee, and retailers must be prepared.

“Having a chilled shelf or unit is great for convenience stores as it promotes impulse purchases. It is great to be able to pick up a bottle of pre-chilled wine en route to a dinner party, or simply on your way home after work,” she says. “With the weather so unpredictable, when and if there is a hot spell there will be a big and almost instant demand for products suited to picnics and impromptu BBQs.”

Lancaster agrees. “With consumers twice as likely to purchase for consumption from the chilled range (HIM), ensuring that the fixture is fully stocked with chilled cider and beer in a range of pack sizes will allow shoppers to find exactly whey need, quickly and easily,” he says.

“For the convenience channel particularly, many shoppers will be looking to consume drinks as soon as two hours after purchase, so it’s essential that retailers keep stock sufficiently chilled to avoid losing sales to other stores. Retailers should also keep an eye on weather forecasts to predict the peaks and troughs in demand, allowing them to stock up when a sunny spell is on the horizon.”

Keep your cool

Bargain Booze retailer Lia Rutter, who owns three stores in Macclesfield, has experienced the success of keeping it cold first-hand. “We have a lot of fridges in all our stores and anything chilled sells really well – especially in the summer. People see the cold offering and are drawn to it. The more fridges you have, the more they sell in the summer.

“Chilled everything, especially booze, is so important over those months. Customers don’t want to wait to drink their drinks.”

All the alcohol offering at Michael’s store is chilled. “We even have multipacks on offer in the chillers,” he says. “About seven years ago or so, we made the decision to put in a whole load of new chillers and really make an effort to have a big chilled offering, because we know people are coming in across the summer and want it right away, whatever the drink is.”

Tom Holmes, customer marketing manager at Kopparberg, thinks that the summer months are a vital time for retailers to get the most out of their sales of summer drinks. “The best way to maximise summer sales is to ensure you’re offering customers formats they can drink as soon as possible, and a chilled offering is essential to this. At key trading times, look to merchandise big-hitting, large fridge packs in prominent locations,” he says.

Offer a choice

He believes cider should be a priority. “Summer time is undoubtedly cider time in the UK, as consumer demand for refreshment reaches fever pitch. While the trading climate [last year] was helped by external factors, cider sales will always peak in summer as warmer days and longer nights present plenty more drinking opportunities for consumers and cider becomes the go-to drink.”

Lancaster says that as competition during the summer months is rife among different alcohols, retailers should “carefully consider the amount of space devoted to each category”.

“Getting the basics right is key, so stocking a core range of beers and ciders is vital to ensuring customers have a staple choice. Carefully dividing the chiller space means that each category has a fair share, while maximising sales and offering shoppers the optimum range of choice,” he says. “Key for the summer drinks category is the fact that beer and cider value sales significantly increase over key seasonal periods, with summer being the biggest opportunity for convenience stores.”

Low- and no-alcohol

For Steve Bassett, beer and cider sales are still rife, but he believes the rise in tee-totallers and those wanting to consume only small amounts of alcohol means that there is a growing opportunity for low- and no-alcohol drinks.

“Beer and cider probably doesn’t sell as much as it used to in some stores out there, although we sell a fair chunk across all our stores,” he says. “My son is 19 now and if he goes to a summer BBQ or summer occasion, he might not pick up a crate of beers.

“The millennials are seemingly more health conscious than perhaps we were back in the day, and I think a lot of them are now avoiding alcohol altogether.”

Michael also believes there is a chance to capitalise in this area. “We’ve only just jumped on the low- and no-alcohol stuff really, as I didn’t think it’d work, but since we’ve got in the Heineken Alcohol Free and San Miguel 0.0% beers, they are doing much better sales than I expected,” he says.

“It is very surprising. Someone isn’t going to want to turn up to a summer drinks party with a four-pack of Coca-Cola, though, are they? So it makes sense.”

Paul Cheema, director of Malcolm’s Stores in Coventry, says the category offers more potential for c-store retailers to exploit. “Last year it was the trend of alcohol-free beer, but we’ve recently been asked to get in alcohol-free spirits. I didn’t know much about it all, but we went to Diageo and they sorted some out for us and it worked,” he says.

“You’ve got to give that choice to customers now, as you don’t know who wants what or why they might want low- or no-alcohol products, even if it’s for health reasons.

“A customer came in and told us his wife was pregnant but still wanted some booze and asked if we can get her some alcohol-free gin. I thought he was joking at first, but then I researched it – they leave happy and we are, too. If I can please one customer with it and then they tell somebody else, then I become a destination store.”

Lancaster recommends merchandising beer and cider alcohol-free alternatives next to their alcoholic counterparts to ensure all drinking occasions are catered for in one place. “With many consumers the designated driver at occasions such as BBQs and summer get-togethers, this will ensure retailers can unlock new revenue streams by meeting the increased growth and demand for alcohol-free options.”

With 19.9% year-on-year growth for the low- and no-alcohol category, it represents a growing £17m profit opportunity for retailers to drive purchase on occasions when consumers might be seeking an alternative to alcohol (Nielsen 52 w/e 26 January 2019).

Sarginson adds: “As the warmer weather approaches, preferences often shift to light, fruity and refreshing products, and with 55% of consumers wanting to reduce their sugar consumption (Sustain – the alliance for better food and farming), it is important to stock a variety of low- and no-alcohol and low-sugar options.”

Giacobbi concurs: “We will see more wines being made at lower alcohol levels to meet the need for tasty drinkable products that deliver flavour and interest without being over-alcoholic.”

Smaller pack sizes offer another alternative for those wishing to limit their alcohol intake. Accolade Wines category, shopper and insights director Andrew Nunney explains: “Minis work well in this channel because of shopper missions such as food for tonight and single-person households, all of which provide a good opportunity to sell minis and cans. It is very important to stock the top brands such as Hardy’s and Echo Falls (187ml), to provide the quality reassurance of the traditional 75cl format.”

Giacobbi says that vegan wines are another area of growth. “Vegan and organic wines are set to become more sought after by the fast-growing number of vegans and ecologically mindful consumers,” she says. “Until now such wines have been relatively few, but such is the demand for them that producers all over the world are now including vegan–friendly and organic products in their ranges.”

Spirit success

While some shoppers may be after a low abv, there is certainly still a place in the market for spirits, according to sales manager at Bimber, Mateusz Horoszko, who says the summer spirits category is one that still has a lot to offer.

“I can see that the selection of different spirits is growing. Gin, and potentially whisky, is ahead of the game. Summer sees vodka sales start to pick up, but flavoured gin is making big impact in sales and I think it will continue to grow,” he says.

For Lia, gin is certainly the top seller. “For us, gin is still on top. It is absolutely massive,” she says. “We sell about 260 gins across all our stores now. We were told it was meant to slow down, but we haven’t seen any signs of that happening.

“Flavoured anything nowadays seems to sell through the roof, especially in the summer. With the introduction of Vodka Infusions, Gordons Pink Gin and things like that, anything flavoured or pink does very well and sells in high volumes. We expect the infusions and all gin products to sell pretty well right through this summer.”

What’s hot

Paul accepts that gin may be a front runner for now, but has his own ideas of what is the next big seller in the spirits category. “The gin boom is still happening, but it is all about what is it going to be next. I strongly believe rum is going to be big this year,” he says. “We’ve started to stock more variants of rum, because that is where we think the industry is heading.”

Tine Van Nevel, brand director of Bacardi, says: “When c-store retailers are deciding how to stock their shelves, it’s important to consider why people find themselves shopping in convenience stores. There’s a myriad of reasons why this might be, such as to buy something they forgot while grocery shopping, because they are on the go and need to pick up something en route, or because they’ve ran out of something and can’t travel far from their home to replace it.

“To cater to the needs of these fleeting customers, store owners should focus on stocking classic big-selling spirits, as well as spirits that are trending and versatile. Bacardi rum is one of the most versatile spirits you can offer. By expanding your range of spirits on your shelves to include both premium and more accessible spirits you are catering to a wider range of customers.”

She notes that bottles are a perfect option for those hosting summer parties and get-togethers. “Bottle sales are more so driven by bigger groups looking to economise, or those shopping for a spirit to keep in their home and return to on multiple occasions.”

However, there is a growing market for pre-mixed drinks, she says. “Consumers are focusing more and more on convenience when purchasing and, as a result, ready-to-drink cans are experiencing a big sales boost,” she points out.

“The popularity of ready-to-drink cans is likely down to the fact that they can be purchased individually and are popular among those who want to grab one or two drinks while on the go, or for casual daytime occasions.”

Whether customers are after a rum and Coke or a gin and tonic, the question over can or bottle rages on.

For Lia, bottles continue lead the way. “For me, it is always bottles. Always has been and I can’t see that changing,” she says. “It sounds a bit silly, but I think people are drawn to bottled alcohol in the summer more because they just look colder. They see it all icy and find it more refreshing and buy it.”

However, since Michael made the decision to install a can-specific fridge into his store in Blackpool, there’s been no going back.

“While there is no denying that the large 500ml bottles do well over the summer, we recently got in a new slimline fridge that is solely selling ready-to-drink cans. The ready-to-drink Smirnoff, Jack Daniels & Coke and cocktails in a can-type products are all here,” he says.

“Since we put them in the chiller we have seen a real steep increase in sales as a result. They are ready-to-drink cans, but they are literally ready to drink there and then because they are chilled, which they weren’t before.”

Sarginson says ready-to-drink cans are perfect for summer drinking and are an asset to the category. “They are easy, convenient and more on-trend than ever. Ready-to-drink cans are currently growing 16% in the off-trade (Nielsen).

“The best-selling, must-stock format this summer is cans. Now bigger than bottles in the multiples, in 2018 cans made up 62% of ready-to-drink category volume, a 29% year on year increase in share, which has also seen value grow 27%. This momentum translates through to convenience, with cans catching up with the bottled ready-to-drink format, accounting for 46% of category share, up 35% in volume and 34% in volume year on year (Nielsen).

“Retailers should look to stock mixed packs and larger formats when the weather heats up, as 21% of people change their format preference to multipacks from smaller single bottles during the summertime, with social events such as BBQs and outdoor parties driving the change (Marston’s Beer Report 2018).”

Richard Benjamin, director at Manchester Drinks, says: “When it comes to the summer months, consumers like to try new drinks that are easy to enjoy quickly at home or at parties with friends in the sunshine. Sharing good times is a really important part of summer.”

Van Nevel also believes that the one thing to keep in mind when merchandising your summer drinks category is that convenience stores are often very small spaces with little surface space, but still a lot of skus. “For that reason, the classic tools of grocery merchandising don’t work here. Instead, you should consider forms of merchandising that won’t take up much space, but which can still maximise impact.”

Sarginson adds that on top of planned purchases, retailers need to ensure they make the most of the summer opportunity by looking at the options for impulse spend.

“Merchandising is key when it comes to increasing sales. At Global Brands, we offer a range of POS items, from shelf strips to barker cards, posters and even social media support. POS is vital to showcase new products and ongoing offers, increase brand visibility and encourage purchases.”

He says that cross-merchandising and ranging linked products is also a great way of spurring on sales of summer drinks. “For example, Global Brands’ tequila flavoured beer Amigos is inspired by the vibrancy of Mexico and enhanced by the added burst of refreshing South American limes. Amigos pairs well with Mexican Food, which has seen a resurgence in recent times due to food markets and festivals. Available in a pricemarked 500ml bottle as well as a 330ml four-pack, retailers should look to feature Amigos with Mexican-style food and spicy BBQ cuisine.”

Lancaster also advocates cross-merchandising to make the most of summer drinks sales. “With many BBQs and food-led occasions taking place during the summer season, retailers mustn’t underestimate the importance of cross-merchandising,” he says. “Implementing cross-category merchandising for beers and ciders that are great with food is guaranteed to see an uplift in sales as consumers make the natural link between the two categories.

“Positioning everyday favourite beers such as Foster’s alongside fixtures that feature BBQ food, or cider such as Strongbow Cloudy Apple alongside picnic merchandise are just two examples of how to achieve this,” he adds.

Carlsberg UK overhauls core Pilsner lager

Carlsberg Pilsner

Carlsberg UK has reformulated its flagship Danish Pilsner in an attempt to revitalise sales of beer in the UK market.

Carlsberg claims the new Danish Pilsner (3.8% abv) retains the qualities of its predecessor, but has been ‘rebrewed from head to hop’ to deliver a smoother taste and balance of bitterness and sweetness.

The product is being supported by new-look packaging and an integrated consumer marketing campaign.

The activity, which includes TV, digital and out-of-home advertising, will run throughout 2019.

Carlsberg UK vice-president of marketing Liam Newton said: “In launching our new, perfectly balanced Carlsberg Danish Pilsner, we’re toasting the brewing passion of our founder JC Jacobsen and his legacy of pursuing better, which started over 170 years ago.”

Carlsberg UK master brewer Bhavya Mandanna added: “Our new Pilsner has a fuller body and a perfect balance of bitterness and sweetness made possible through modifications to our brewing process and the addition of bittering hops in the brewhouse.

“Aroma hops with citrus and floral top notes give a greater depth of flavour while maintaining the light and refreshing qualities of Carlsberg.

“The result is a smooth, perfectly balanced Danish Pilsner.”

Echo Falls releases gin-infused rosé

Echo Falls

Accolade Wines has announced the launch of a new rosé wine and gin fusion under the umbrella of Echo Falls.

Echo Falls Rosé Wine & Gin Fusion (9% abv) is made by blending the brand’s rosé wine with a gin infusion and summer fruit flavours.

Accolade Wines marketing director David White says: “Echo Falls is once again bringing a new and innovative flavour experience to market. This spirit-infused wine combines all of Echo Falls’ much-loved qualities with the latest drinks trends, creating an exciting new sales opportunity for the trade with a product that both existing and loyal consumers will love.

“Our sweeter-styled fruit fusion appeals to those who like the idea of wine, but can find the taste challenging. We are confident that the new spirit fusion enhances the Echo Falls portfolio and also offers a new drinking occasion to those who enjoy gin.”

The Echo Falls Rosé Wine & Gin Fusion is available to Nisa-supplied and Co-op retailers for an rrp of £5.

Smirnoff unwraps fruity infusions spirit drink

Smirnoff Infusions

Smirnoff has unveiled two new fruit-flavoured spirit drinks.

Smirnoff Infusions (23% abv) – made from Smirnoff Vodka and infused with real fruit essence and natural ingredients – is available in two variants: orange, grapefruit & bitters; and raspberry, rhubarb & vanilla.

Smirnoff marketing manager, Sarah Shimmons says: “Smirnoff Infusions is an exciting new addition to our portfolio in Great Britain, and looks to tap into the growing demand from consumers for great tasting drinks with a real depth of flavour.

“The process sees real fruits infused and distilled individually for the perfect amount of time to allow their natural flavours to be extracted. The resulting spirit drink is blended with Smirnoff No. 21 Vodka and crafted at 23% abv, to ensure the perfect balance of natural and fruity flavours at the heart of the liquid, with good spirit cut-through.”

Smirnoff Infusions (50cl) is available to retailers now with an rrp of £14.

Glen’s Vodka debuts two new fruity variants

Glens Vodka

Glen’s Vodka has released two new spirits flavoured with four different fruits.

The Glen’s Flavours are created using a mix of Glen’s Vodka and fruit extract. They come in peach & passionfruit (20% abv); and strawberry & apple (20% abv).

The first 24,000 bottles to hit the retail sector will also be sold with limited-edition neck-collars that detail the different ways to enjoy the drink.

Glen’s Vodka brand manager Alisha Goodwin says: “Glen’s Vodka has been the number one take-home vodka brand in Scotland for many years, and has performed particularly well for independent retailers.

“The growing interest in flavoured spirits and increasing demand for lower-alcohol products presented an opportunity for us to expand the range. The flavoured spirits will sit alongside our Glen’s Vodka and the more premium Glen’s Platinum.”

Goodwin adds: “As we enter the spring months, we are confident Glen’s Flavours will become the brand of choice for consumers looking for a refreshing spirit. By combining quality vodka with zesty, fruity flavours we are eliminating the need to have dozens of ingredients and instead offer a simple solution for a delicious summer drink. With Glen’s Flavours you are guaranteed a great spirit, without the fuss.”

The Glen’s Flavours product range is available to independent retailers now, with an rrp of £13.99 per 70cl bottle.