Summer Entertaining – a wealth of offpremise opportunities

Topics: Channel / Retail, Home Previews, Liquor

Summer is not just about Christmas, New Year and Australia Day. You have myriad entertaining occasions to sell shoppers the right thing, argues ShopAbility, for National Liquor News Magazine.

Summer in this country is the busiest time of year for the onpremise. Not just pubs for Christmas drinks, but throughout the January school holidays as people catch up in restaurants and cafes for lunchtime or sunset meals in the sun.

But it’s also the biggest time of year for entertaining at home as people take advantage of the sunshine and use their patios, balconies and backyards to get together with family and friends.

Entertaining is one of the largest shopper trip types in offpremise (after ‘stock up’ for beer and ‘replace my regular’ for spirits).  So here we will have look at some of the multitude of types of entertaining occasions and how you can tap into them.

There are a number of variables within entertaining occasions that have a bearing on how much shoppers buy, of what (categories, brands, pack formats/sizes) and how much they spend:

  • How many people are invited/attending
  • Level of formality, which is impacted by relationships
  • Relationship of the participants to the host (distance/closeness in intimacy terms, not geographical) – ie close family, distant family, close friends, acquaintances
  • Whether the event is a meal based (eg bbq) or drinks based (with a few snacks)
  • Energy level of event eg ‘go off’ vs relaxed
  • Day or night time
  • Theming (including themed drinks).

Some of the more obvious summer entertaining occasions include:

  • Christmas Day lunch/dinner
  • Pre-Christmas drinks
  • Pre-Xmas get together
  • Australia Day bbq
  • Extended family get together (family that may only see around Xmas time)
  • Blokes/mates on the couch watching the Boxing Day Test and other cricket
  • ‘Orphans’ events over Xmas and January for those (temporarily) without family

General entertaining occasions that also happen to take place during the summer include:

  • Event related party eg New Year’s Eve party, Halloween
  • Other event related parties eg birthday milestones (30, 40, 50 years young)
  • Casual meal eg bbq
  • Family get together (regular event for close family eg some families have a regular Sunday meal together)
  • Girlie brunch (likely to be weekend)
  • Chicken and champagne breakfast (likely to be girls)
  • Casual ‘pot luck’ lunch or dinner where everyone ‘brings a plate’
  • Formal meal eg served ‘dinner party’ (although big in the 80s and 90s, these are going out of fashion and being replaced by more casual events and pot luck style meals).

Also, the shopper may be the guest (‘what do I bring?’) or the host (‘what do I give them?’). Both require solutions.

There are some interesting informal (unwritten and unspoken, but generally acknowledged) rules around the various types of occasions that inform what hosts serve and guests bring. Sydney Morning Herald columnist Richard Glover wrote a very funny article published in the Spectrum on Oct 1 dealing with barbecue etiquette

(Link: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/hits-and-near-misses-your-essential-summer-barbecue-survival-guide-20110929-1kxu3.html).

Two premises in this article relate to guests’ alcohol behaviour: “Don’t bring a bottle of cheap red wine when your intention is to drink the host’s beer”, and “Don’t try to hide the half-decent red you’ve brought for yourself”.

These talk to two different occasions from the guests’ point of view: a) gatherings with people you know, where it’s assumed everything gets shared because everyone knows what everybody else drinks (eg you bring the slab of VB in); and b) gatherings with people you don’t know (where you’re more likely to keep your better wine for yourself, or use it to impress, or bring your 6pack of special imported beer in and keep the rest of the case in the boot of the car).

Similar idea from the host’s point of view, with regard to who they’re hosting. If it’s an event with a lot of lesser-knowns then safe and likely well known brand choices at low-mid price points that are likely to appeal to the masses will apply (unless they’re trying to impress). If it’s an event with well known friends and family it’s a combination of forgiveness for pulling out what’s already in the fridge, and having some better stuff on hand because you’re happy to share it with them and you know their taste.

If it’s a smaller gathering the host is likely to spend more per head. For larger groups the host is likely to spend less per head and just stock the basics for the thronging hordes.

What all this means is that you have a number of opportunities to uptrade shoppers on their chosen categories based on the type of event they are attending or throwing (and who is attending), and to sell them more depending on the size of the gathering they are having.

Some of the key opportunities around occasions are thus to:

  • Probe customers on their reasons for store visit, if for entertaining ask the how many, who are they, what do they like questions
  • Provide cross category bundles of basics for different event types, including add-ons such as glassware
  • Vary the bundles by level of formality eg casual bbq = VB and quaffing shiraz, upmarket bbq + Corona and a good NZ Sauvignon Blanc (or possibly Gin & Tonic/Martini)
  • Create an event/party specific area of the store
  • Communicate occasions eg ‘perfect gift for host’ (eg if someone taking a bottle of wine to a dinner party)
  • Make your store an expert in social events and occasions. This is something the big boys can’t do (Dans and First Choice are more about pragmatic stocking up than expertise in events)
  • Provide some drinks/food matching information and education eg best beers/wines for seafood bbqs vs steak bbqs.

These are all activities that will help you give your store a point of difference.