For Hickson’s Forecourt in Lincoln, sports events such as big football matches bring extra sales from people buying beer and snacks to consume while they watch the game at home. Assistant manager Alex Flodman says crates of beer containing 10 or 15 cans as well as sharing bags of crisps go down well with armchair fans.

"With Spar, we get promotions on a three-week rotation and there’s always one crate or another on offer. We recently had Carlsberg 10s for £8 and we now have 15s for £10; whatever’s on offer sells best. These are displayed at the bottom of our alcohol promotional bay. With snacks, Kettle Chips go well and Spar do a good range of own-label snacks, but the ones that really fly out are Doritos when they are on promotion, together with the Doritos dips."

Alpesh Mistry, UK customer marketing director at Molson Coors, says that with alcohol sales in the off-trade recently surpassing sales in the on-trade for the first time, now is the time for forecourt retailers to "truly harness the opportunities nights in present and generate a sense of occasion".

"Occasions are one of the three pillars of Molson Coors’ 60 Second Shop campaign. 60 Second Shop, a convenience programme based on the results of over two years’ research, is designed to make shoppers lives easier, giving them more ideas, choice and reasons to pop in store," he explains. "Shopper insights from the initiative have shown that occasions like Big Nights In present a brilliant opportunity for the convenience sector to maximise on sales and make the most of their product range."

He suggests generating a sense of occasion through the use of promotions and food and beer pairing suggestions. "One-third of shoppers say they are likely to match beer with the food they are intending to eat, and with Christmas and New Year just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about the occasion-led shopping experience."

Meanwhile, Heineken is running an on-pack promotion in a bid to drive mid-week beer sales. The activity highlights the beer brand’s partnership with UEFA Champions League (UCL) and is running through to March. Thousands of limited- edition Heineken packs give shoppers the chance to win prizes, including money-can’t-buy access to the exclusive Heineken and BT Sport Champions Lounge which features a live link up to the BT Sport studio to chat live with the pundits. There are also weekly draws between now and March 3, 2017, with 4,500 people also able to win half-price BT Sport subscriptions.

Craig Clarkson, off-trade and category director at Heineken, says the UCL packaging will drive awareness of the sponsorship and give retailers the chance to bring the excitement of the tournament to their shoppers. Furthermore, as beer and cider occasions now account for 19.9% of Quiet Nights In, with an average trip spend of £6.40 (Kantar Worldpanel data), he says it’s crucial for retailers to make sure their offering includes eye-catching packs that appeal to shoppers who are planning to stay in and watch a game.

"This is a fantastic opportunity to drive mid-week sales, with Tuesday and Wednesday match nights offering retailers the chance to bring the Quiet Night In occasion to life. Retailers need to ensure their chiller is stocked up with plenty of Heineken limited-edition packs for shoppers, who are buying for later that day, to make the most of this UEFA Champions League season."

But Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), says that with one in five adults now choosing not to consume alcohol (ONS data), soft drinks are important for nights at home too. "Retailers should monitor for occasions such as popular TV events, such as X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing or Premier League football, and keep stocks high in order to meet demand. Sharing formats like 1.75ltr PET bottles of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar and multipack cans of Fanta and Sprite are popular choices for consumers for these occasions, so ensuring shelves are stocked up can help retailers make the most of the opportunity."

Burgess adds that designating a space in-store for the Big Night In occasion can add convenience for consumers, while also encouraging impulse purchases that can lead to incremental growth.

"These displays could see soft drinks displayed alongside other products that are popular for nights at home with friends and family, such as sharing packs of crisps or chocolate, as well as non-food and drink items such as DVDs, and it could also be effective to introduce promotions that offer discounts when these products are bought together.

"Another way to effectively cross-promote soft drinks alongside other products is an evening meal deal. This sees a soft drink offered alongside starters, mains and desserts for a discounted set price, helping to improve the perception of value for people.

"To make the most of these displays, retailers should proactively look ahead and see which notable sport, TV moments or events are coming up, and it may be worth putting together displays themed around these events in order to leverage the high level of interest that can be generated ahead of these occasions."

Burgess adds that while Big Nights In are often focused around weekend events, there are weeknights that may see get-togethers, such as to watch the aforementioned European football matches. She says soft drinks can play an even greater role for these occasions as many people don’t want to consume alcohol when they have work the following day.

Once the drinks are sorted, it’s on to the snacks, with crisps a firm favourite.

The sharing snacks sector has become increasingly important thanks to the popularity of Big Nights In, and within convenience sharing is the only growth sector in snacking up 12% in value sales over the past year (Nielsen data).

The Kettle brand is key to driving consumer trade-up and delivering category growth and this is backed up by sales data which shows that Kettle is outperforming crisps and snacks in convenience with sales up by 15.5% year-on-year (versus category +0.1% Nielsen). As the UK’s leading premium crisp, with 64% branded market share in impulse, Kettle Chips is therefore a must-stock premium brand for forecourts keen to target the Big Night In occasion.

An ice night in

According to research carried out by Mars Ice Cream, 66% of UK consumers say they now entertain at home as much as, or more than, they did 10 years ago. And 20% plan to host weekly gatherings at home over the next six months, with 68% planning to entertain at home at least once a month. The most prolific home entertainers are the 18-24 age group, with one in three in this group planning to host a meal every week for friends or family.
Nearly two in three people (58%) stated that they would consider offering an ice cream bar or ice cream on a stick as a dessert choice rising to 73% for those aged 18-34.
Within the forecourt sector, wrapped handheld ices remain the most popular choice and now account for 92% of total value ice cream sales (Nielsen data). For this reason ice cream multipacks are a must-stock for retailers looking to capitalise on the Big Night In occasion.
Mars ice cream bars remain the most popular ice cream bar in the UK and are now worth more than £2.9m in value sales.
Bep Dhaliwal, trade communications manager for Mars Ice Cream, says: "Prominently stocking Mars Ice Cream’s full range is an opportunity for retailers to boost sales all year round."