Let’s make a night of it!

Big Night In products

With many cash-strapped shoppers still preferring a big night in with friends and family to a night at the pub or restaurant, there’s some great opportunities for retailers to cash in.


The Big Night In is now firmly established as more than just the passing trend it was once thought to be and there’s plenty of data to support the notion that many consumers are still strapped for cash and prefer a night in with friends and family to a night out at the pub, cinema or restaurant.

That’s great news for local retailers and presents a brilliant opportunity for big basket spends. Amy Burgess, Trade Communications Manager at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), says: “For many consumers, nights in with friends and family are being treated as more of an occasion and as such, people socialising at home is a growing opportunity for retailers. These nights are often planned at the last minute, and this can make local retailers a go-to stop for shoppers making impulse buys for their evening ahead.

“The reason for a night at home can vary, and occasions range from a ‘date night’ for couples to a dinner party with friends, or simply relaxing in front of the TV on a Saturday night.

No soft option

“Whatever the occasion, it’s likely that most consumers will be looking for an accompanying drink. With 21% of adults now choosing not to consume alcohol at all [ONS, Feb 2015], it’s clear that soft drinks provide a major opportunity for independent retailers to increase their sales when catering for those enjoying nights at home.

“Retailers should monitor for occasions such as popular TV events and keep stocks high in order to meet demand. Sharing formats like 1.75L 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.”

According to CCEP, it’s often couples and weekday opportunities with friends that are driving the big night in these days.

Burgess says: “For many couples, spending a night in together is being treated as more of an occasion, and, as such, these ‘date nights’ are a growing opportunity for retailers.

“Similarly, while the concept of ‘The Big Night in’ is usually focused around weekend events, there is no shortage of opportunities on weeknights that may see groups of friends and families get together. These can range from TV events to occasions like birthdays or anniversaries that fall on a weeknight.

“Soft drinks can play an even greater role for nights in during midweek, as many people will choose not to consume alcohol when they have work the following day. Therefore, it’s important for retailers to consider any night an opportunity. Keeping good stocks of sharing formats as well as adult soft drinks like Appletiser or Schweppes Sparkling Juice Drinks can help meet this demand, especially those looking for a premium option.”

This trends towards healthier options is also reflected in the continued growth of low- and no-sugar soft drink options.

Burgess again: “With the increased focus on health leading some consumers to change their usual drink choice to reduce their sugar intake, retailers should look to display lower or no-sugar variants of well-known brands as part of their ‘Big Night In’ displays.

“Schweppes offers a selection of Slimline products that will appeal to those looking to enjoy a lighter option as part of their cocktail recipes, potentially leading to incremental sales growth.

“Since its launch in July 2016, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar has become the fastest-growing cola brand in Great Britain [Nielsen, May 2017] worth £148m, thanks to its sugar-free credentials and great taste.”

Harder choices

But it’s not just soft drinks that make a Big Night In go with a swing. Beers, wines, spirits and ciders remain a fundamental element of a gathering, big or small.

Cider, in particular, is a category that continues to deliver. Toby Lancaster, Category and Shopper Marketing Director at Heineken, says: “The Cider category has recently passed the £1bn mark for the first time in the UK off-trade. Worth almost £350m in the impulse channel, there’s a definite opportunity for convenience stores. It’s crucial to stock big brands such as Strongbow, which is primarily available in can packs, as Mainstream Cider accounts for 69% of the total Cider category [Nielsen, Aug 2017]. Canned Cider now makes up more than half the category value (51.9%), with continued growth of 12% compared to last year, according to the same data. It’s important that your range includes cans across mainstream and premium for both Apple and Flavoured Cider brands so you can take advantage of this format.”

Heineken’s top tips to make the most of your Cider category around the Big Night In:

Choose the correct range:

  • Group by flavour to save shoppers from having to search for their favourites
  • Ensure the right packs are available – stock a mix of can packs and single bottles
  • Ensure the correct range in-store to reflect your customer profile

Ensure placement of these products is correct:

  • Stock enough facings of fast-selling products, to ensure good availability
  • Keep your chiller tidy by organising by format and keeping brands together
  • Ensure price flow moves from Mainstream into Premium from left to right

Lancaster advises retailers to stock a range of ciders to include a variety brands and formats, including core brands which are popular all year round as well as more premium options.

Discussing the trend towards trading-up, he adds: “We’ve seen a growing trend to purchase cider as a treat at home, whether after a busy day at work or to enjoy in the company of friends and family, which means that there is a huge opportunity for retailers to inspire their shoppers to trade up and explore more premium ciders, such as Old Mout Cider. Buying for a treat is more likely to be an unplanned purchase, so remember to place POS in store in order to grab your customers’ attention and drive those incremental sales. “

In terms of merchandising, Lancaster urges retailers to follow Heineken’s Star Retailer advice: stock Cider in a variety of formats including cans and bottles across all key Cider segments: mainstream, mainstream flavoured and premium flavoured; giving fastest sellers more space to make restocking quicker and it’s easier for your customers to find what they’re looking for; capitalise on the Big Night In opportunity by creating visually attractive displays and offers with beer and cider merchandised as near to categories such as crisps and snacks as licensing law permits to disrupt shopper attention and drive additional sales.

Star Retailer also advises retailers to arrange their chiller by flavour, as that’s how shoppers buy the category. Grouping Apple, Pear and other flavours will save customers from having to search for their favourites which will in turn maximise sales.

Spirited approach

Similarly, spirits will play a key role in many Big Night In occasions and will help drive up cash margins and basket spends.

Faith Holland, Head of Category and Insights at Diageo, says: “The concept of ‘Big Night In’ is growing in popularity amongst young adult couples and older couples [Kantar, Mar 2017], with a heavy importance being placed on making ‘staying in at home’ more event-worthy and special.

“Consequently, consumers are seeking richer value and experience from what they consume and are placing a greater importance on the stories behind the products, ingredients used, and the provenance of products. This is a trend emerging across both food and drink and is having a massive influence on consumer purchase decisions.”

Within the spirits category, Diageo recommends retailers follow these simple steps to make spirits easy to shop:

Range – Stock the best-sellers and up-weight your premium product offering, highlighting new and growing product areas to ensure customers can pick up new trends in store. Display premium products above value products.

Layout – Ensure customers can easily find their must stock items. Blocking vertically by category first, then brand and finally size will help to do this. Ideally shoppers would like to see all bottle sizes by brand together.

Eye-catching point of sale (POS) – Use POS materials to draw attention to new, growing, seasonal or promoted products.

Category insight – Ensure that you are communicating a compelling reason to buy products on promotions.

Price-led communication – Ensure the profit on return (POR), recommended retail price (RRP) and the actual vs promotional price is clearly communicated to shoppers across all products.

Cross merchandising – Use certain products to uplift sales of accompanying items by displaying together as an ‘add-on’.

Diageo’s fast facts in the spirits category
  • The ‘Big Night In’ is becoming an increasingly desirable lead for retailers
  • 1% of off-trade spirit sales are on ‘Big Night In’ [Kantar, Mar 2017]
  • 18% of spirits shoppers in convenience say that premium options are most important when selecting a product in store for ‘Big Night In’ [CTP, 2015]
  • 43% of consumers agree that they would pay more for high quality and premium spirits [Nielsen, 2015]
  • Younger couples of both genders over-index heavily on ‘Big Night In’
  • Older couples over-index the concept of ‘staying in as a couple’
  • Vodka is the most highly consumed spirit in ‘Big Night In’, but Whisky is the main player in the ‘staying in as a couple’ occasion
  • However, Gin is predicted to become a main player for ‘Big Night In’, with huge growth potential

Cocktails at home are a huge trend, says Diageo and advises retailers to make it easy for shoppers by grouping cocktail ingredients together and suggesting simple serve ideas. Stores can be personalised using ‘Manager’s Choice’ or ‘Cocktail of the Day’ labels, or creating an in-store bar, which provides visibility of finished drink solutions on display together.

Maximise spirits purchase in your store by stocking the right range, in an ‘easy to shop’ layout, and offering price-marked packs to reassure shoppers they are getting a fair value.

“To further maximise profits, retailers should position appropriate mixers and accompaniments nearby, or as part of a promotional area,” says Holland. “Consider positioning tonic water or limes nearby to spark interest from your shoppers, by taking a lot of the leg-work out for shoppers retailers can encourage cross-category purchases.”

To maximise the ‘Big Night In’ opportunity, Diageo says retailers should stock new Gordon’s Premium Pink, a prime opportunity that will offer retailers a recruitment opportunity for younger adult consumers, bringing them into the category for the first time.

Holland says: “As it stands, the majority of off-trade ‘Big Night In’ serves come from Vodka (44%), but given its recent growth strength, with a YoY growth rate of 10.2% [Nielsen, Oct 2017], the Gin sector holds the biggest potential for the ‘Big Night In’ sales, currently at 9.8% [Kantar, Mar 2017]. What’s more, with 14.4% of off-trade serves on ‘staying in as a couple’ coming from Gin, Gordon’s Premium Pink, with its romantic blush liquid, is perfectly positioned as the go-to choice for couples to indulge with.”

Holland also urges retailers to give Baileys Iced Coffee a go. Launched in March this year, the two new flavour variants – Latte and Mocha – from the world’s number one selling liqueur brand are set to help retailers capitalise on the Iced Coffee category which grew by 44% in the last two years [Nielsen, Aug 2016].

Snack attack

No Big Night In is complete without a full complement of sharing snacks and confectionery, as Susan Nash, Trade Communications Manager at Mondelēz International, is quick to point out: “Evening snacking is worth over £6.5bn and is growing [Kantar, Sep 2016]. Chocolate is still the number one choice for those settling down for a night in with friends and loved ones, followed by candy, biscuits and crisps – so there are plenty of opportunities for cross category selling to create the perfect night in [Kantar, Sep 2016]. What’s more, 52% of all confectionery occasions take place with other people present, so having a range of sharing formats is key to maximising this opportunity.

“The savoury category also has an important role to play in the Big Night In mission. It gives consumers contrasting choices and offers great scope to create cross-category displays.”

To make the most of the snacking opportunity at Big Night In time, Nash advises retailers to focus on tablets, sharing bags and biscuits when it comes to chocolate, and sharing bags when it comes to candy.

She says: “In February we launched two new Cadbury Dairy Milk Oreo tablets – Mint and Peanut Butter – which aim to recruit new young adults to the tablets category. What’s more, Cadbury Dairy Milk brought back an old favourite by popular demand – Cadbury Dairy Milk Tiffin – as a permanent addition to the range in August, to help drive excitement and growth within the tablets category.

“Chocolate bags is driving the growth for standard chocolate and this year we brought even more of our hero brands to the bitesize category, with the launch of Cadbury Fudge Minis, Cadbury Curly Wurly Squirlies and Cadbury Picnic Bites. All three brands are consumer favourites to recruit pre-family and younger families to drive penetration for the category. They follow the likes of Cadbury Dinky Deckers, which was successfully extended into the medium bitesize category last year, and Cadbury Dairy Milk Mixed Buttons, both of which are already worth over £19m [Nielsen, Aug 2017] in value sales since launch.”

Top tips from Mondelez
  • The biggest Big Nights In are usually at the weekend, so make sure your displays are prominent and well stocked towards the end of the week.
  • In the evening, beer, wine and carbonated drinks are complementary categories to chocolate, savoury snacks and biscuits. Position cross-category products on the same display or within easy reach of each other.
  • Create a Big Night In feature in-store by stocking a range of the top evening snacking categories: chocolate, sweet biscuits, crisps and candy – accommodating both sweet and savoury sharing options.
  • Customers waiting in line are the most likely to select products on impulse for their night in, so arrange your display to unlock this opportunity. Bestsellers should always be 1m to 1.4m high, and Cadbury bitesize and candy confectionery ranges can be displayed in hanging bags to catch the eye.
  • Use secondary sitings in high traffic areas to make sure that consumers see the products as only 13% of people visit all the aisles in convenience stores [CTP 2014].

Nash also highlights Cadbury Crunchy Melts. Therse are crunchy chocolate chip cookies with a soft melting centre – the ideal rewarding treat or sign off to a meal. The new cookies come in 156g multipacks in three variants – Chocolate Centre, Double Indulgence and Soft Cookie Centre.

When it comes to candy, Nash says it’s been a great year for NPD: “We launched two new products to the Maynards Bassetts range. Maynards Bassetts Wine Gums Tangy, introduced in February, is the brand’s first sour adult candy. Our research shows that although 74% of adults are open to sour sweets, only 26% currently buy into the £22m sour segment [Nielsen, Jul 16] – so the product offers a real opportunity to inspire purchases and help retailers drive incremental sales.

“Maynards Bassetts Jelly Babies Tropical, introduced in July, brings a taste of the tropics to the UK and features iconic Jelly Babies characters in the flavours of mango, banana and pineapple. Maynards Bassetts Jelly Babies Tropical aims to attract new adults and families to the category.”

Dan Newell, Confections Marketing Manager at Wrigley, also focuses on the growth of sharing bags and the opportunities they present for retailers: “The Big Night In trend is showing no signs of slowing. The popularity of confectionery share bags continues as consumers continue to keep a tight hold on their purse strings, spending less money on evenings out and instead staying at home to enjoy a Big Night In. With 47% of consumers spending less money on out-of-home entertainment and 50% eating out less, the Big Night In remains a key sales opportunity, as consumers are more conscious of their spending. Wrigley’s Skittles are a vital offering for Big Night In with 60% of Skittles being consumed as an evening snack, over indexing against Total Sugar Confectionery [Kantar, 2016].

“Creating a clear display that communicates the ‘Big Night In’ occasion draws shoppers into the fixture and cross category promotions will certainly encourage incremental purchases. Remember to focus the display on products that are ideal for sharing such as Starburst ‘Tear and Share’ Pouches, which are great as they are individually wrapped and offer a variety of flavours for everyone to enjoy.”

Merchandising advice from Wrigley

Jon Eatly, Wrigley Customer Excellence Director, gives his six simple steps to help retailers successfully maximise confectionery sales:

  • Visibility is key in such an impulsive category so popular confectionery items should be located just below eye level, at ‘buy level’, to take advantage of incremental sales.
  • Availability is crucial – remember to re-stock each morning and prior to peak traffic times. A fully stocked display will help maximise your profit potential and guarantee repeat visits from customers.
  • Ensure shoppers are aware of the choice and range on offer by keeping a clear and tidy confectionery display and merchandising by format and sub-category e.g. single serving fruit confectionery, share bag fruit confectionery, single serving chocolate confectionery, chocolate blocks, sharing bags chocolate etc.
  • Rotate stock regularly so that older stock is sold through first.
  • Champion new products in store to raise sales and capitalise on early consumer demand.
  • Use eye-catching POS materials to draw attention to your confectionery display encouraging customers to buy on impulse.

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