It looks like we’re in for another hot one as the latest seasonal forecast from the Met Office reveals that this summer is likely to be warmer than normal. Indeed seasonal forecasters say the chances of temperatures similar to those experienced in 2003 and 2006 are around one in eight. Sounds great but retailers need to be ready for it so keeping an eye on the weather forecasts is vital. The BBC website can give you a five-day forecast for your local area - handy for consumers planning picnics and for retailers planning stock levels.
Some things obviously sell much better in hot weather than others such as ice cream and soft drinks. According to Mintel last July - during those really hot days - weekly sales of soft drinks towards the end of the month were almost twice the volume of sales in October.
Steve Flanagan, category strategy manager at Danone Waters, comments: "A change in the temperature can trigger a noticeable effect on water sales. In terms of immediate consumption, if the temperature rises from 14°c to 25°c, retailers will see a 75% increase in sales, and if the temperature rises to 30°C, water sales will increase by 125%, making it imperative for retailers to be fully prepared with their water chiller correctly merchandised."
Chilling is key when it comes to soft drinks. Indeed Julian Mears, media manager for Britvic, says that 53% of consumers questioned by his company said they’d pay more for a cold soft drink. But of course summer isn’t all cold drinks and ice lollies - there’s the great British barbecue to cater for and forecourts are well placed to offer both the fuel and the food.
According to the National BBQ Association (NBA), UK consumers now enjoy more than 110 million barbecue occasions a year, with £3bn-plus being spent on barbie food and drink.
Brian George, president of the NBA, comments: "Barbecue occasions were up in 2006 by some 10%, strengthening the UK’s position as the biggest barbecue nation in Europe. Now around half of households are proud owners of their own barbecues, while 14% claim to have at least two useable grills and 4.4% of households invested in a new barbecue in the past 12 months." George adds that charcoal still has the largest share of the barbecue market at 32% versus 17% for gas. He says that one of the fastest-growing occasions is the mid-week or after-work barbie. "With this in mind, forecourt retailers should be focusing a lot of their efforts on selling barbecue-related products to commuters on their way home from work to really maximise sales."
The NBA will again be running a barbecue awareness campaign throughout the summer. This year’s theme is ’Gastro Alfresco’, tapping into the consumers’ desire to be more adventurous and aspirational when it comes to barbecuing. A highlight of the campaign is National BBQ Week - from May 28 to June 3.
George says forecourt retailers can take advantage of a range of specially developed point-of-sale material to help create eye-catching and informative displays during the crucial summer sales period. The NBA campaign will also be supported by activity in the consumer food and lifestyle press, in local newspapers and on local radio. (For more information log on to [http://www.nationalbbq.co.uk])
Consumers may be getting more adventurous with their barbecue food but sausages, burgers and chicken are still the most popular lines.
According to Birds Eye, burgers feature in nearly half of all barbecues and a quarter of those burgers are Birds Eye’s frozen ones. However the company is cashing in on consumer demand to branch out with the launch of a five-strong Just BBQ From Frozen range. The products are pork rack of ribs, lamb & mint kofta kebabs, chicken & vegetable kebabs, sticky chicken drumsticks and Chinese chicken wings.
Meanwhile for the vegetarian, the Linda McCartney range has been the subject of a £1m relaunch with new products, ingredients and packaging. Of particular note is the fact that the quarter pounders and vegetarian sausages have increased in size and improved recipes deliver reductions in both salt and fat levels.
== On the side ==
Summer is also a key sales time for sauces and condiments. Research by Heinz shows that households with barbecues are heavier buyers of Heinz Tomato Ketchup than other households. The range has recently been strengthened with the launch of Heinz Tomato Ketchup With a Twist. There are three varieties: With a Twist of chilli, garlic or sweet onion.
Heinz research also reveals that 10% per cent of households buy into the barbecue sauce market, and 80% of Heinz BBQ sauce sales are between May and August.
Caroline Clarke, marketing manager, Heinz Tomato Ketchup, believes multiple siting of ambient barbecue products, such as sauces, is essential for making the most of the season.
Onto salad cream where the Heinz brand has an 80% share of the £52.3m salad cream market. Sixty per cent of its salad cream sales are between April and September. Fifty per cent of households purchase salad cream, with 30% of them choosing to buy Heinz. Heinz Salad Cream also has significantly higher penetration amongst barbecue owners than households in general.
Mike Docherty, marketing manager, Heinz Salad Cream, says consumers are extending their usage of salad cream from having it with salads to using it at barbecues as a dip for sausages and chicken.
Meanwhile Hellmann’s is the number one mayonnaise in the UK. The range is being relaunched in time for summer with a fresh new look. At the same time, the Extra Light variety has been redeveloped to improve texture and taste while still maintaining its 5% fat credentials. To make the fixture easier to shop Hellman’s Light remains blue but Extra Light has changed from purple packaging to green.
Finally, marinades are an important part of the barbecue offer and Nando’s has just added lemon & herb marinade to its retail range. Already popular in Nando’s restaurants, the marinade is a blend of sun-ripened lemons, parsley, coriander and Peri-Peri.
=== Sun shine sales ===
? Recent good summers have boosted sales of suncare products by 33% since 2001, to reach £233m in 2006.
? The sunglasses market reached sales of £257m in 2006, an increase of 24% since 2001.
? In 2006, an estimated 9.7 million pairs of sunglasses were sold in the UK.
? Fashion and branding are key market drivers.
? Driving is a key motivator for buying sunglasses.
=== Travelling right ===
Unipart Automotive is expanding its range of car care and accessory products for the summer season.
Retailers are advised to check out the new range of booster seats which comply with the latest child safety legislation.
The Inmotion auto cleaning range has also been added, together with shampoos and polishes from Simoniz.
The Unipart summer range also features an expanded travel and accessories section including European travel kits, magnetic GB stickers and a variety of window shades.
To help forecourt retailers, Unipart has also launched a range of shelving solutions. Available in three different sizes, the displays can hold a full range of car care accessories.
Tony Sackett, sales director for Unipart Automotive, says: "Our expanded summer car care range particularly focuses on cleaning and travel product categories because they allow retailers to maximise sales of high-margin impulse car care products in the summer months when motorists are traditionally thinking about driving longer distances - be it a family holiday or a weekend break."