Now that the nights are drawing in, it’s the perfect time of year for forecourt traders to push their sales with ’big night in’ type products. So says Bep Dhaliwal, trade relations manager at Mars.

And Mars is doing its bit to promote these occasions via its ’Bag a Free Film’ activity in conjunction with Blockbuster. The on-pack offer which is running across the Mars bite-size range has more than one million DVD rentals available. The promotion is backed by a £5m media spend. To take part, consumers have to buy one large pouch, two standard pouches or three single packs to redeem one free film rental.

Mars recently extended its bitesize range to include relaunched Galaxy Counters and Milky Way Magic Stars.

Dhaliwal reckons forecourt retailers should implement secondary confectionery sites or themed areas to drive impulse sales for Big Nights In.

"Think about other categories in store that complement confectionery purchases and implement appropriate secondary sites, next to these sales-driving categories," she says. "For example, forecourt traders can play exceptionally well to the Big Night In trend by siting confectionery and savoury sharing snacks together in a themed area."

Susan Nash, trade communications manager at Cadbury UK, reckons a Big Night In can be anything from family DVD nights, girls’ nights in, boys’ nights watching sports to playing games with the family or simply couples enjoying time together while relaxing at home.

"Whatever the night entails it often focuses on sharing food, entertainment and time, so there is a real opportunity for retailers to develop their own Big Night In section of the store and make the most of sharing food and drink formats on offer. Evenings are the crucial consumption time, with 53% of confectionery consumption taking place at home in the evening (Incite data) and 67% of shared evening treats are consumed with a partner (Incite). Evening consumption is mostly unplanned so it is important to prompt shoppers to stock up.

"In many instances retailers are not maximising the sales opportunity that surrounds Big Night In," says Nash. "Retailers should make shopping for the Big Night In a convenient experience. By positioning sharing products from different categories in a dedicated Big Night In bay, retailers can encourage consumers to buy all the products they need from their shop.

"Chocolate, crisps and drinks account for a large percentage of the products intended to be enjoyed ’soon after’ purchase and are all popular choices with shoppers when planning to stay at home that evening. We recommend making the most of this sales opportunity by displaying category-leading products from within each of these areas in sharing bays." Nash says that based on sales data, retailers should dedicate 52% of the fixture to confectionery, 26% to savoury snacks and 22% to soft drinks.

Meanwhile, Richard Brown, forecourt and travel controller at Pepsico, says the fastest-growing format in the crisps and snacks category is sharing bags, sales of which are up 45% (Walkers internal stats). He adds that 20% of impulse crisps and snack shopping missions are for take-home consumption. Brown reports that Walkers Extra Crunchy sharing bags are selling incredibly well just a matter of weeks after their launch.

Nick Stuart, commercial manager, UBUK, says that as the Big Night In occasion has grown in popularity, more people are choosing to host special occasions offering drinks and nibbles in the comfort of their own home.

"If it’s for watching a big football match, men might want some McCoy’s, whereas the new Phileas Fogg range offers consumers authentic flavours that make the perfect premium snacks for a dinner party," he suggests. "And nuts have long been a staple of the Big Night In. The sharing and premium formats that we have developed for some of our most popular ranges such as Phileas Fogg, McCoy’s, Mini Cheddars and Twiglets are relevant for this occasion. Retailers should view crisps, nuts and other bagged snacks as must-stock items to capitalise on the Big Night In opportunity.

"The premium bagged-snacks segment is proving extremely popular with sales figures showing an increase of almost 25% (Nielsen data), bringing the total premium market value to £573m. Snacks are seen as a relatively inexpensive treat, so consumers are more likely to trade up if they are not going to spend the money on going out. Retailers should look to take advantage of the increasing adult trend and make sure they are well stocked up on premium lines such as Phileas Fogg to generate incremental sales."

Stuart adds that to ensure retailers reach their full profit potential with the Big Night In opportunity, it is critical that they have a well-stocked display of the top-selling crisp and snack variants, as well as a range of new products that have good on-shelf stand out to attract interest from their customers.

"We’ve developed certain products that tap into this market, particularly the sharing formats of some of our most popular ranges, such as Phileas Fogg and McCoy’s Tortillas.

"Retailers should view both crisps and other bagged snacks as staples of the Big Night In market. They are convenient and seen as inexpensive treats by consumers, which is great news for retailers."

Earlier this year, UB launched a range of £1 price-marked packs. This includes the top-selling variants of McCoy’s (flame grilled steak), Hula Hoops (BBQ beef), Mini Cheddars (original) and Phileas Fogg Crisps (sea salt & Indonesian black peppercorn). UB expects them to be a success as research conducted by Him reveals that half of shoppers feel that price-marked packs encourage them to purchase a product. The research also highlights that the number of consumers buying items on promotion has increased by 58% over the last year.

Top tips for a big night in

l Ensure visibility consumers who cannot find the product they want for their Big Night In are less likely to make a purchase, rather than taking time to find an alternative.

l Make sure your stock is well displayed to enjoy maximum sales

l Merchandise simply and effectively don’t over-complicate the layout of your stock. Whatever products you decide to promote, use appropriate POS materials to maximise the message to your customers

l Stock best sellers best sellers from the big brands will generate the best profit and are a safe bet for customers worried about which products they should have for their Big Night In

l Maintain consistent stock levels limited availability of stock is likely to result in a decrease in sales. Consumers want choice and flexibility

l Use promotions when crisps and snacks are sold on promotion, they offer significantly more incremental sales. Stock products that tie in with a reason to stay in such as a sports event, a film, or TV programme, to maximise the profit potential of a Big Night In

l Dual display display sharing bags alongside wines, beers and spirits to encourage further sales

Source: UB

Top 5 sharing bags in forecourts

1. Sensations Thai sweet chilli 95g

2. Doritos lightly salted 125g

3. Monster Munch roast beef 85g

4. Doritos tangy cheese 130g

5. Walkers cheese & onion 120g

Source: Nielsen Scantrack 12 weeks ending

August 7, 2010