Summer Entertaining – a wealth of opportunities

Topics: Convenience, Home Previews

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

Summer in this country is the most social time of year for both the onpremise (people going out) and the offpremise (people entertaining at home). Not just pubs for pre-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 core shopper trip types in specific Convenience channel segments, particularly Locals and Minimarts (and to a lesser extent Arterials). 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 more than 100 individual types of entertaining occasions, so you have opportunities to activate against lots of different kinds before you bore your regular local shoppers with ‘wallpaper’!

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/holidays get together (often for friends, as Xmas itself is traditionally spent with family)
  • 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
  • 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).

The shopper may be the guest (‘what do I bring?’) or the host (‘what do I give them?’). Both require solutions, albeit convenience stores are more likely to see the hosts (more on this below) where bottleshops will tend to see the guests.

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 not so long ago dealing with barbecue etiquette


Two premises in this article relating to guests’ alcohol behaviour illustrate the difference between hosts, guests and levels of formality: “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 familiar 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. But typically what we see with entertaining occasions is people using brands (not private label).

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 talk to 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 (you’ll get an idea of this if you see them shopping multiserve softdrinks in the fridge)
  • Provide cross category bundles of basics – softdrinks, snacks – for different event types, including add-ons such as ice. Bundle items together for a price point eg ‘2 dips & 2 cheeses for $14.99’, or AWOP specials on multiserve (large) cold drink sizes eg ‘2 x 1L drinks for $7’. (Price points are examples, not RRP). You could even go all out and offer a ‘bbq in a box’ that contains a selection of the above key entertaining needs for a set price (eg your ‘bbq in a box for $49.99’).
  • Vary the bundles by level of formality eg casual bbq = softdrinks and chips, upmarket BBQ = dips and vintage cheese. Or bundle add-ons such as gas bottle refills and ice
  • Create an event/party specific area of the store. Range all your chilled party foods together and all ambient shelf party items together to provide an occasion based solution. Signpost it clearly
  • Communicate occasions eg ‘perfect gift for host’ (eg box chocolates such as Favourites, Roses, Ferrero Rocher)
  • Make your store the go-to backup for social events and occasions – think about services you can provide such as hiring out glassware, bbqs, eskies for the ice (so they can carry the ice home easily!). Could you hire out emergency furniture (plastic chairs) or sell cheap deck chairs?
  • Think about ranging add-on categories such as sauces and mustards for the bbq. You could go as far as setting up a bbq needs area of the store
  • It’s not just about softdrinks, salty snacks, dips, cheese and crackers (although bundling those is a good start). You could put together an entire occasion solution based around those plus things like Aeroguard and insect repellents, plateware, crockery, cutlery and napkins. Maybe balloons and candles (if you’re having a true ‘party’ as opposed to a casual bbq). Even sunscreen.

It’s not enough to just do these things though, although that’s a great start. You need to shout about them to your shoppers that you are offering them, and communicate prestore as well as instore.  Local area marketing using smartphones would be great here, as would communicating direct via your regular shopper database (if you have one, and if you don’t you need to build one or at the very least be telling your regulars about your summer entertaining solutions when they come in – ‘Got a BBQ coming up? We can help’). At-store communications should include forecourt communications and signage, particularly around the bundle offers, add-on products/services, and that you range ‘BBQ essentials’ for instance.

These are all activities that will help you not only give your store a point of difference, but drive traffic and spend via relevance.

Happy entertaining!