The box office wasn’t the only place where High School Musical proved a hit in 2008 - it was also a success for forecourt shop sales.

According to the main promotions companies in the UK, products associated with the popular film and its branding were some of last year’s top sellers - and flew off the shelves.

Asiffa Gadatra, director of Spot Promotions, says: "One of the trends for 2008 was using branded goods, and I’m sure it will be the same for 2009. One of the brands we got involved with last year was High School Musical. We had the mugs which sold at £2.99 and they absolutely flew out. It worked out very well for Spot Promotions. It’s been a fantastic year for us, we’ve now got many new retailers on board from groups we were very interested in, including the Lakeside Group, and a lot of our customers are from the Forecourt Trader Top 50 Indies list.

"With the credit crunch we’ve been trying to stay below the £5.99 price point, but before Christmas we also had digital photo frames at £9.99, and they did really well. Another of our top-selling products was a Rolson-branded keyring light at £1.99. We sold about 40,000 of those in five weeks." Gadatra says Spot Promotions’ products come from a wide range of sources, including China, and the company supplied about 1,200 UK forecourts last year - about 200 more than in 2007. It looks for products which are good quality and volume sellers and it offers a complete service, including visiting sites with new stock, removing unsold stock and producing point-of-sale for products.

She adds: "We’ve got some amazing products coming up for 2009. I can’t say too much because I don’t want our competitors to steal our ideas! One is a multi car phone charger - plug it into the cigarette lighter in the car and it can charge satellite navigation, MP3 players and the latest mobile phones. I expect it to be a mega volume seller.

"There are plenty of opportunities out there - my advice to retailers is that when choosing a promotion company look for different promotions that are not repetitive; as well as great service and most of all, good margins."

DSL Group advises retailers to be competitive with pricing and to go for selling "little but often rather than going for the high-price, high-profit strategy". The company says the latter just doesn’t work and that consumers are more price sensitive than ever.

The company’s extensive distribution infrastructure allows it to deliver goods throughout the UK with a next working day delivery to all retailers.

Linda Horton, DSL’s southern area manager, says: "The retailers working with DSL have realised how important it is to sell the right product at the right price. We have focused on getting cash profit in to our retailers’ tills and as always we have applied our resources to help making things work. We often come across retailers who appear to think that by increasing the retail price they would generate a higher profit margin. With these types of retailers we actually show them why it’s important to sell at competitive prices and end up making more profit. Our motto has always been ’we help our retailers bank cash margin as opposed to percentage margin’ - this has been borne out by the fact that retailers who have in the past left DSL in pursuit of higher margins have actually returned to us, establishing stronger and more prosperous relationships by thinking and working the DSL way."

The company says it had fantastic lines throughout 2008, including zodiac mugs, which offer a description of each star sign. Forecourt operator HKS Retail has been using DSL for about 20 years and says the zodiac mugs were one of its best-selling promotions last year. David Aquilla, manager of HKS Retail’s site at Ibstock, Leicestershire, says: "The volume we put through our tills was just unbelievable and the quality of DSL products is outstanding. Every customer who came in to buy a zodiac mug ended up buying about 12. DSL’s marketing is fantastic and in the current state of the UK economy we have seen a great benefit in running the pump-top promotions."

DSL director Roy Landa adds: "DSL’s philosophy is back to basics. Clearly we understand that there have been some significant changes to the industry and to combat the downturn in business our promotional calendar for 2009 is stronger than ever. The DSL ethos is getting stronger and for those retailers that work with us we will do our utmost to show how successful DSL promotions really are. "

Landa says that many products are supported by easily recognised brands and are extremely good quality. All promotions are on a sale or return basis with free pos material - so there’s no risk for retailers.

A relative newcomer to the sector is Box Company Promotions. The company has been working with general retail for about three years but only started supplying forecourts last year. Again it aims to offer retailers good margins and high volumes. The company says all its promotions are on sale or return and get changed every month to provide variety. Each site gets a bespoke display unit that houses up to three promotions - the company says this not only looks great in store but means they don’t take up any excess space.

Lee Nicholson, the company’s UK and Ireland sales manager, also agrees that the High School Musical Range was a big hit for the company in 2008, along with mini digital cameras, toy fun balls and laptop computers for kids. He adds: "With more people tightening their belts it is essential that we provide the best products at the best prices. Gone are the days when a promotion meant a torch or a set of glasses - people want variety and brand names. Not only does this keep the customer happy but it maintains the high volume of sales. People don’t expect to see a laptop computer for kids in a forecourt but when the rrp of £29.99 is brought down to £12.99 you can’t fail. And with the forecourt making £3.90 per pc then everyone’s happy. Our products range from £1.99 to £19.99 and are all supplied with pump-top and in-store artwork. My advice to anyone looking to generate more retail sales this year is to try us out. We’ve already had a group of less than 10 sites generate £20,000 in their first month of working with us - that works out to an extra £240,000 in retail sales over a year. Not bad for very little work and no money outlay."

For retailers needing to advertise promotions on the forecourt or in-store, sign company Signwaves has many options. The company says: "Effective use of well-designed displays gives added power and impact to promotions, maximising awareness, creating interest and ultimately increasing sales at the till. Promotional displays can take any number of forms - from large poster displays, flags and banners to smaller pavement signs, poster snap frames, open/close signs and basket liners.

"A large range of point-of-purchase display solutions are available, designed specifically to increase sales for forecourt traders."

Meanwhile, the Continuity Company, which has worked with oil companies like BP and Chevron on major promotions, says retailers should look at collector promotions. David Ringer, the company’s general manager UK & Ireland, says: "Formats that lend themselves well to independent forecourt retailers include collectable promotions. They could be collecting football medals to save in an album or collecting characters from a specific movie."

Ringer reckons merchandise-based promotions work well for the petrol market by motivating drivers to visit more regularly and increase their spend. "Collectable product rewards such as dinnerware, cutlery, towels, glassware from brands including Villeroy & Boch, Wedgwood, Royal Doulton and Disney to name a few, are good examples."


=== Case study: Chevron UK ===

Chevron UK used The Continuity Company to develop a point of differentiation, increase fuel volume, footfall, spend and loyalty in its independent forecourts in England for the World Cup in 2006.

According to the Continuity Company, it created, delivered and managed an exclusive 10-week promotion to coincide with the World Cup, with 90% volume participation from its dealer network.

For every £10 spent on fuel, customers received a free official England Squad Medal.

And with 24 medals to collect, customers could also purchase an official collectors’ album for £1.49.

About 17 million medals were issued and more than 220,000 albums sold, with more than 700 forecourts taking part.

Mandy Hodson, Chevron manager brand marketing Europe, says: "The England Football Squad World Cup promotion met our objectives and exceeded our volume expectations by delivering a sustained fuel volume uplift in participating sites, increasing footfall to our network and helping our independent retailers to increase their profitability.

"It was a very successful promotion."