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Sun and heat may be the normal keys to booming summer business for licensees, but as TIM HAMPSON points out, football, in the shape of Euro 2004,...

Sun and heat may be the normal keys to booming summer business for licensees, but as TIM HAMPSON points out, football, in the shape of Euro 2004, will be a major driver this year Last year's hot summer proved a real hit for pubs, especially those with gardens. And this year, the merest hint of a summer's day, together with the long, light evenings, is expected to be a big turn on for customers. Already, smart retailers are doing everythingto add to the theatre of the smallest patio or the biggest garden ­ mood lighting, stylish furniture, patio heaters, and sizzling barbecues ­ all adding value to customers' experiences. And though the weather will be the biggest factor influencing beer and other sales during the summer of 2004, it is important to look for sales-building opportunities for duller, damper days. "The weather has the biggest impact on the nature of summer beer drinking because a hot spell has an immediate impact on business, encouraging people to go out and socialise in pubs and bars," says Interbrew UK on-trade sales managing director Colin Pedrick. "2003 was a fantastic summer and that was reflected in increased beer consumption during the season, providing welcome growth for pubs. "However, the unpredictable nature of the British weather means that retailers cannot rely on this year being as good a summer as 2003. "That means they will have to focus on maximising the sales potential of major events such as Euro 2004 in June. Football is a proven driver of pub traffic so this event presents an important sales opportunity for retailers. "The beauty of the tournament is that it will be shown in a European time zone, unlike the 2002 World Cup, with the majority of games being broadcast in the evening, which suits the needs of the licensed trade." Liz Guilmant, marketing manager for Waverly TBS (formerly the Beer Seller), says: "Football is obviously going to be key this summer, though probably for the lager market, although a few cask beers are trying to cash in, for example Bateman's Portugoal and Titanic's They Think It's Ale Over." John Holberry, on-trade sales director for Coors Brewers ­ owner of Carling ­ also hopes to build sales in the summer on the back of football. He says: "There's a fantastic opportunity for outlets to build sales during Euro 2004 ­ and it makes business sense to stock the beer brandthat consumers most associate with football." Pedrick adds: "It is also important to put the display focus on big brands, because people tend to trade up to these brands during such major consumption occasions." And trading up over the summer is what John Harley of Budvar hopes drinkers and retailers will do. The gathering governmental threat of promotions being outlawed is likely to increase demand for speciality beers, he believes. Drinkers will focuson the value-for-money option as opposed to purely the cheapest. He sticks by the sun-equals-sales theory, especially since sales of Budvar in 2003 in the on-trade shot up some 60% year-on-year during the summer months. He is also mindful, however, that the sun may not shine. "One thing that is going to bring the drinkers to the pub for a couple of months this summer, whatever the weather, is the Euro 2004 event,"he says. "With the Czech team being one of the ones to watch, Budvar feels that this could be an opportunity for our stockists and various promotions are planned." It's wine time Wine is becoming an increasingly important element in boosting summer sales. "Wine festivals are becoming more popular, similar to supermarket activities, promoting wines amongst selected food and entertainment activities," says Waverly TSB marketing manager Liz Guilmant. "If licensees want to sell more white wine, then ice buckets or chillers should be compulsory for the beer garden. "White wine spritzers are popular at the moment in the ready-to-drink market, but pubs could always make up their own jugs to increase margin during summer afternoons and help people stay for longer at the venue. "Mini bottles are also great for the summer, where promotions can help sell a mix of bottles to a variety of tastes ­ for example six bottles, mixed white, red and rosé, served in an ice bucket. "And cocktails, particularly refresher cocktails, seem to be the order of the day, as more and more spirits owners are producing their own range of cocktail recipes to help promote them." Licensed to chill Keeping cool is important if the tills are going to get hot over the summer months. Fuller's brands marketing manager David Spencer explains: "In order to sell great beer in the summer, and offer a more flavoursome alternative to lager, pubs must first get the basics right. It's vital to have proper cellar cooling if you are serving ales that are designed to be chilled. Paul Nunny of Cask Marque supports this view. He has seen S&N research that shows that if all beers, be they ale or lager, are kept within the correct temperature specification range, sales will start to sizzle and show a 3% increase. He says: "Research by Cask Marque shows that 80% of ales are served too warm. "Summer ales are light and refreshing and need to be served cellar cool." And to stop the customers overheating in the garden, getting the beer to them in double quick time makes sense. Instead of having to carry (and often spill) drinks on trays, consumers can use a Carling six-pint carrier to hold half-a-dozen pints at a time. This ensures they don't need to return to the bar, which in turn avoids congestion and speeds up service times. The Gatekeeper in Cardiff has already tried them out. "They have worked really well for us," says James Ace, manager at the JD Wetherspoon pub. "Anything that can be done to speed up service times ­ and avoid customers walking backwards and forwards to the bar ­ is beneficial for us." And Hook Norton managing director James Clarke hopes that more pubs will follow the example of the Gate Hangs High, which is about a mile from the family-run brewery in North Oxfordshire. Anticipating a rush in its garden over the summer months, the pub plans to serve beer in two-pint jugs to tables of customers who want to drink al fresco. "We see it as a way of getting more people to try our beer," says Clarke.

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