What’s in store for summer 2018?

What’s in store for summer 2018?

By the time this column goes to print, we’ll be heading for the longest days of the year and I hope this means the sun is shining.  We’ve had a mixed bag of weather so far this year and we know all too well that this can either boost or play havoc with alcohol sales. Let’s take a look at how the weather has impacted alcohol sales so far what we can expect for the rest of the summer.

April 2018 was unseasonably hot with temperatures peaking at over 28°C in many areas of the country, and this was good news for alcohol sales. The week ending 21st April was the hottest week of the year so far with beer sales reaching £86.6m, over £1.2m more than in the week of Easter, previously beer’s biggest week.  We saw the same thing in cider. Cider sales reached £24.1m during the hottest week, compared with £19.1m over Easter week.  Interestingly, neither spirits as a whole nor wine showed a spike in sales.

The heat wave continued into May with the early bank holiday being the hottest on record. Over the two weeks surrounding that bank holiday, total off-trade alcohol sales hit £627.0m, up by 5.5% compared with the same period last year, putting it ahead of year-to-date growth of 4.8%.  Again, we saw that sales of beer and cider were boosted to a much higher degree than spirits and wine. So it’s clear: when the sun shines, British shoppers reach for long, chilled drinks.

But not all beers are equal. Sales of lager have been growing steadily, with nearly every week in 2018 performing ahead of last year, and the biggest driver of this is down to the weather. The beers which show the biggest sales response to warm weather are those you might turn to when you’re on holiday in a hot country, it’s not ales or stouts.  With the 2018 football World Cup rapidly approaching, beer, especially lager, will continue to be important over the summer.

While beer and cider are the forerunners, some spirits do see a sales boosts when the sun’s out. Gin has seen relentless growth over the last two years and the warm April week and the early May bank holiday registered some of the highest weekly sales figures of the year, outside of Mother’s Day and Easter.  Unsurprisingly, tonic water shows a similar pattern, as do pre-mixed cans of spirits and mixers. The is  true for some of the lower-alcohol spirits categories, such as speciality drinks, whereas dark spirits, such as rum, brandy and whisky don’t see any benefit.

So, what do shops selling alcohol need to do to maximise sales during this key time of year?  Keep an on the weather forecast. Long alcoholic drinks are clearly really important over the summer, especially when the sun shines. Ensure shelves are well-stocked, particularly with beers, ciders and pre-mixed drinks, selling from chiller cabinets wherever possible to optimise sales for consumption in the near future.  In spirits, it’s the lighter products which are likely to sell well: gin (don’t forget the tonic water and ice!) as well as vodka and some of the lower-alcohol speciality drinks.  Remember those who don’t want to drink alcohol, and offer plenty of chilled soft drinks to complement the alcohol offering

Originally published in Drinks Retailing News, June