Who can forget last summer? It was grim enough for most of us, but even more so for the thousands of people who suffered as a result of the floods. According to the Met Office, the main feature of summer 2007 was the "high rainfall experienced in many regions especially during June and July". You can say that again, as it was the wettest summer for the whole of the UK since the Office’s rainfall series data began in 1914.
Unfortunately none of us can predict what this summer will bring except we all know that it won’t include England winning the Euro 2008 finals! According to Institute of Grocery Distribution senior analyst, Stewart Samuel, the lack of a home nation team in the football tournament (which takes place in Austria and Switzerland throughout June) means that retailers will have to work harder to gain sales. "Many people will still be interested in the football, but it won’t be as many as it would have been if England were in it," he says. However he adds that there will be interest in the Olympics (which are being held in Beijing in August) and he expects there to be marketing and theatre to boost sales and also on-pack promotions. He adds: "Thankfully people will take summer holidays irrespective of the weather so there will be people on the move and going to forecourts."
Another summer ritual - often come rain or shine - is the barbecue, and Brian George, president of the National BBQ Association reckons forecourts can really cash in on the growing popularity of after-work barbies. "Last year there were 95 million barbecues held in the UK, despite the bad weather. The fastest-growing barbecue occasion is the impromptu after-work one. People are stuck indoors all day at work so plan to have a barbecue when they get home. Many will visit a shop on the way home to get the ingredients, so this could be a really big opportunity for forecourts.
"They are the ideal place to stock up as many offer charcoal for the barbecue, gas for the patio heater plus the essential food and drink."
George adds that it’s not just barbecues that are popular but the whole idea of al fresco eating and entertaining. "We’d all like to live somewhere warmer but we don’t so we make the most of what we have and that means extending our living area outdoors." He says the grocery multiples are putting huge effort into summer sales and believes forecourts should too. "There’s a big opportunity for booze sales with summer wines like rosés and lighter reds, and forecourts with off licences could be benefiting from this."
George adds that consumers are becoming more sophisticated with their food choices for barbecues, however burgers and sausages are still a mainstay for many.
Matt Richards, Birds Eye brand manager for red meat, comments: "Barbecuing is getting bigger each year, with the average family in the UK predicted to have seven or eight barbecues this summer."
He says 77% of British barbecues feature burgers, and they remain popular among all consumer groups.
Like George, he points to the growth in after-work barbies: "In the past consumers planned barbecues some time in advance, but the more unpredictable British weather and changing social trends mean they are often more spontaneous, with 85% of barbecues decided upon on the day. And after-work barbecues now account for 36% of all occasions." He reckons this is great news for the frozen food market as consumers can stock up on frozen burgers, for example, and use them whenever they want. "Retailers should ensure that they are stocked up with best sellers for the more organised shoppers and that they’re also prepared for any good weather and the impulse shoppers that brings," he says.
In time for summer 2008, Birds Eye has just launched two new products: the Simply burger and the Big Bite burger. As the name suggests, the Simply burger builds on the success of the Birds Eye Simply sub-range, which is currently worth £55m and is growing by 36%. There are two Simply burgers: Aberdeen Angus and lamb, both of which are lightly seasoned to deliver a superior taste. They come in packs of four with a rrp of £2.99.
Meanwhile, Richards says a common complaint from consumers about burgers is specifically about ’shrinkage’ when they’re cooked, so Birds Eye has developed a burger designed for maximum fulfilment - the aptly-named Big Bite burger. This is aimed primarily at men who are having a ’lads’ barbecue, typically based around watching sports. The idea is to bring the out-of-home ’sports burger’ experience in-home. The Big Bite comes in a pack of four, with a rrp of £2.99.
The launch will be backed by activity in men’s magazines.
Finally Dave McNulty, convenience sales director at Kraft Foods, says forecourt retailers should stock a range of toppings and accompaniments as well as burgers and buns.
"Kraft Singles are a popular choice thanks to the individually-wrapped slices and convenient size. Retailers should concentrate on stocking Singles in fives which come in special 79p price-marked packs. By selling at the marked price, retailers can benefit from significant volume uplifts, meaning they can increase the cash going through their tills."
=== Green car care ===
Despite the availability of high-tech car washes and the hordes of hand-wash merchants in supermarket car parks up and down the land, many drivers still like to wash their cars themselves. And when the sun comes out they seem to go into overdrive, with washing the car becoming a weekend ritual.
However, even the most devoted petrol-head might be worried about what they are washing down the drain but CarPlan has the answer in its new range of EcoCar products. These are made from cleaning agents derived from vegetable and plant extracts.
The ingredients come from carefully selected renewable and sustainable resources to have a minimal impact on the environment.
They have an "optimum level of biodegradability" and come in fully recyclable packaging.
The range comprises a shampoo, polish, odour eliminator, screenwash, as well as wheel, glass and dash cleaners.
The packaging features the CarPlan logo in green to communicate the eco-friendly message further.
Also available from CarPlan is Triplewax Dri-wash which allows drivers to wash their cars without the use of water - great for when there are water restrictions.
=== A close shave ===
When the weather gets warmer people shed their clothes which in turn means that personal grooming comes more to the fore. For women that often means shaving underarms, legs and bikini lines. Wilkinson Sword aims to help them get the job done more easily with its new Quattro disposables for women, which it describes as the world’s first performance four-bladed disposable razor brand for women. Apparently it combines "stylish good looks with state-of-the-art technology to effortlessly glide over legs, under arms and bikini lines for the closest shave ever".
The razor’s lubricating and conditioning strip with aloe vera and vitamin E, conditions the skin for a smoother shaving experience with less irritation, while the ultra-thin blades are meant to stay sharper for longer.
Rrp is £4.99 for a pack of three.
A men’s version is also available and Simon Spicer, category development controller at Wilkinson Sword, reckons it’s important to stock both razors, as he says women are unlikely to buy products that look too masculine. "It’s also important to note that the women’s disposables market is in very strong growth - according to AC Nielsen data (52 weeks ending December 29, 2007), it’s worth £19.7m and up 6.2%."
He expects men to buy into the new product because he says they are tempted by new technology and are prepared to trade up if they believe the product offers real benefits.