If you’re lucky enough to have an off licence in your forecourt store, you need to make the most of it. That means stocking the big brands that your customers will immediately recognise the ones that are advertised. You may not be able to compete with the grocery mults on ’pile it high, sell it cheap’ beer promotions but you can offer the names that your customers know, and it will be convenient for them to pick up a nicely chilled four-pack from your store.

There is certainly a lot of brand activity around at the moment.

Molson Coors will next month launch the new Carling Taste Lock can. Designed to deliver added value to consumers, it is said to lock in the ’great taste of Carling’ and also includes a new padlock thermo device which turns blue when it’s cold and ready to drink.

Sticking with the cold theme, Coors Light’s new ’Cold Activated’ can is being be advertised on TV from this month. It joins the existing ’Cold Activated’ bottle which will be supported by advertising, glassware deals, and ’Free Rewards’.

Grolsch is taking a more continental tack and is this month launching a ’Home Experience’ pack. It features an on-pack promotion where consumers have the chance to order glassware, skimmers and everything they need to deliver the Grolsch ’Continental Serve’ experience at home.

Molson Coors says it will also be investing significantly in creating new occasions for beer and food with a series of initiatives designed to get more shoppers putting beer in their baskets and increasing overall basket spend. According to MCBC Insight estimates, beer and food occasions are worth £2.5bn to the beer category and Alcovision research shows that off trade occasions that feature food have increased by more than 20% in the past five years.

Molson Coors wants to stimulate the beer category and attract one million more shoppers down beer aisles. As such it is spending 16% more on brand support in 2010.

In wines, premium Australian brand Wolf Blass is investing over £2m in its largest ever sporting-themed campaign.

Encompassing national television advertising, national print, outdoor posters, on-line and in-store activity, the campaign is expected to reach over three million consumers.

The campaign is rugby-themed to take advantage of the brand’s on-going sponsorship of the Rugby Football Union.

Wolf Blass will also be offering consumers the chance to win ’Ultimate Sporting Prizes’ via a neck collar promotion. Running across the entire Yellow Label portfolio, prizes will include VIP packages to major sporting events including the Ashes in Australia, premiership football matches, the Ryder Cup, Queens and Royal Ascot.

Neil Barker, commercial director UK & Ireland, for Wolf Blass brand owner Foster’s EMEA, says a neck collar promotion during the Ashes tournament last summer saw volumes typically rise by 35%. "We are expecting an even greater sales uplift this year as the promotion runs throughout the whole of 2010 and the sporting prizes on offer will appeal to a wider consumer base."

Meanwhile, Clare Griffiths, vice president European consumer marketing for Constellation Europe, says that despite the tough economic climate, shoppers are continuing to buy wine. And when they buy it, they want well-known brands which offer quality, reliability, and good value for money.

"The top 10 UK wine brands make up 35.8% of all convenience wine sales (Nielsen MAT to w/e Dec 26, 2009), so it really pays to stock the best sellers, such as Hardys, Echo Falls, Stowells and Kumala. Wine value sales are up 4.8% in the convenience sector overall, but Echo Falls and Kumala are performing well ahead of the market at 22% and 40% respectively."

She advises retailers to make sure they have ample stock available for the increase in demand around special times of the year such as Mother’s Day, Easter and big sporting occasions. "Not only do people buy more wine at these times but they also tend to trade up to more expensive bottles. And remember that 90% of wine purchased in convenience stores is consumed on the same day, therefore white, rosé and sparkling wines should be kept chilled. If you only have space to chill a small selection of wines, do not chill the cheapest."

Finally, this year Beverage Brands will be spending £30m supporting its WKD brand portfolio.

Marketing director Debs Carter says: "WKD consumers aren’t ones to plan their shopping in advance which is why they appreciate the convenience offered by forecourt retailers.

"Shopping efficiently and locally is important to them. When they are on the way to visit their mates or have people coming round, they want to pick up the essential items they need quickly. They are looking for products at the right temperature so a prominent chiller stocked with WKD will always pay dividends for forecourt retailers."

GETTING A Licence to sell

Robert Botkai heads the licensing and commercial property team at law firm Winckworth Sherwood. He estimates that there are more than 2,000 forecourt stores licensed to sell alcohol. Some of these will also be licensed to provide late-night refreshment (the sale of hot food and drink between 11pm and 5am). On getting a licence he says: "Under the Licensing Act 2003, applications are granted if no-one submits an objection. So some of our applications, even for 24-hour licences, go through without any difficulty.

"The application is served on a number of local officers such as the Police, the Environmental Health Officer and Trading Standards. They do sometimes object but will generally back down during negotiations on licence conditions.

"It is more difficult when local residents object and in those cases we do sometimes have to represent the applicant at a hearing before the Licensing Sub Committee. Again, the concerns of residents can normally be addressed and the licence granted at a hearing.

"The actual process of a forecourt applying for a licence is no different to any other convenience store. Some licensing officers still work under the misapprehension that the applicant has to prove that the primary use of the premises is not a garage. This is incorrect and our legal argument has now been accepted by many licensing officers around the country. We have yet to fail. We know that some applicants are still being advised that they need to prove primary use so choose your legal advisor carefully. Late night licences and applications for late night refreshment seem to attract the most opposition. We have, though, successfully applied for 24-hour licences for forecourt stores so often it’s worth a try.

"The drafting of the application is key to its success and, in particular, the steps that the applicant intends to take when operating the licence. It is also important that the applicant is properly represented during negotiations with the authorities. I have seen lots of examples of onerous conditions being attached to licences which should never have been accepted. Applicants should seek early advice from a licensing solicitor."

Winckworth Sherwood Solicitors has been making applications for forecourt store licences since 1994 and has achieved well over 1,000 licences. Contact partner, Robert Botkai on 020 7593 5004 for a free consultation and assessment on your prospects of obtaining a licence.