You can’t mention this summer without first mentioning last year’s. That’s because summer 2003 was such a success – summer how it ought to be. The days were sweltering and retailers’ tills were ringing as consumers clambered for cold drinks and ice lollies.

It would be too much to expect a repeat run this year, but whatever the weather the summer means more people out and about enjoying the fresh air.

Many of you will have families of your own so imagine yourself in family mode and make up a checklist for a successful family day out.

Firstly you decide on where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. Most people will opt for the car – cost effective, convenient – and will probably need to fill up on fuel not just for the car but for the family too.

Perhaps you’ve mislaid your map? You’ll need film for the camera. Perhaps you had a heavy night last night so you’ll need some Alka Seltzer or at least some headache tablets. Then there’s sweets for the journey – gum for the adults, fruit chews for the kids. Cold drinks – all with resealable lids. And ice cream – nothing too messy. Tissues and wipes will also be handy because there’s bound to be some mess. And finally, how about a comic for each kid to keep them occupied and to stave off the ‘are we nearly theres?’.

Even if people aren’t out and about, there’s another popular summer pastime forecourt retailers can cash in on and that’s the barbecue. The days of burnt sausages drowned in ketchup have gone, as consumers use the barbecue to show off their culinary skills and be more adventurous. This means that marinated meats, colourful kebabs and exotic salads have joined the bangers and burgers. That said, burgers remain our favourite barbecue food – Birds Eye sold over 195 million burgers last year. And this summer its burger range is extended with the launch of Mexican Chilli Beef Quarter Pounders, made with British beef, kidney beans and chilli. At the same time its100% range is extended with the launch of Birds Eye 4 x 100% Beef Mega Burgers and Birds Eye 8 x 100% Burgers. The burger range is backed by a £500,000 marketing package.

You can’t have a burger without some sauce and Heinz Original BBQ Sauce and Hot ‘n’ Sizzling BBQ Sauce are both available in the ‘top down’ (top at the bottom) format which gives consumers better squeeze control and a stay-clean cap. Apparently households with barbecues are heavier buyers of Heinz Tomato Ketchup than those without. The brand has had a good year, thanks mostly to its launch in ‘top down’ format last summer. Two more ketchup varieties – chilli and curry – are now getting the ‘top down’ treatment.

Another key accompaniment for a burger is a bun or roll, and according to AC Nielsen data, 40 per cent of roll consumption happens during the barbecue season. Kingsmill offers sliced white rolls in packs of 12, and the rolls are hinged to keep the filling in.

As for the barbecue itself, charcoal briquettes and lumpwood charcoal are firm favourites, but are helped along by firelighters. Zip has launched Cleanwrap firelighters which are individually wrapped, one-dose blocks that are placed unwrapped, directly onto the fuel.

The popularity of barbecues looks set to continue. According to the National Barbecue Association, barbecuing is now the number one home leisure activity with nearly one in two households owning a barbecue grill. Last summer the average number of barbecues held was eight per family, which adds up to about 70 million barbecues and is 35 million more than three years ago. About 70 per cent of barbecues are held at weekends but more and more consumers are barbecuing in the week. Seventy per cent of barbecues are pre-planned but that still leaves 30 per cent as spontaneous and these are the sorts that forecourt retailers can cash in on.

This year’s National BBQ Week is May 31 to June 6 when there will be all sorts of high-profile activity to encourage consumers to ‘throw another shrimp on the barbie’.

Finally, another boost for business this summer comes courtesy of Euro 2004. Sales of beer and snacks will go through the roof as the armchair fans gather to support their teams. Many of these fans will be last-minute merchants dropping into their local forecourt to stock up on their way round to their mates.

So rain or shine, whether going out or staying in, it seems forecourts are ideally placed for summer sales.