When spring comes, the weather gets warmer and the days get longer. Consumers become more relaxed, and more inclined to grab the opportunity to relax with friends and family, including having ‘Big Nights In’ outside. It’s much the same every year. But the big bonus this April is the ‘double bubble’ of the Easter weekend and the Royal Wedding. With millions taking the period off as holiday, it effectively creates a second festive fortnight, hopefully with a good dollop of sunshine to add to the feel good factor and push the purchasing. And you can be sure those who can’t get the whole time off will be enjoying a Big Night In or three as well.

Royalists or republicans, we should all be grateful Will and Kate are tying the knot and giving Brits an excuse to celebrate at this point. The timing couldn’t be better. The latest Office for National Statistics figures show UK workers’ take-home pay down for the first time since 1981, after last year saw prices rise faster than incomes.

The economy’s still in the sick bay: property isn’t shifting, although mortgage providers expect to make more loans in the next three months, according to a new Bank of England survey, offering an olive branch to the floundering housing market. Meanwhile real household disposable income fell 0.8%, with the news announced on the heels of George Osborne revising 2011 UK growth forecasts downwards in his budget.

The figures forecast the decline speeding up 2.0% this year, putting even more pressure on the celebrations around the Olympics to jumpstart consumer discretionary spending like the World Cup did last year. Meanwhile, looking at the products we enjoy on a Big Night In, the numbers show we still enjoy a Big Night In with family and friends, even if it’s shandy rather than champagne these days.

According to Mintel the growth of the crisps and salty snacks market only slowed slightly in 2010 versus 2008 and 2009, with slightly slower rates in 2010. Like other ‘Big Night In’ product categories, underlying growth has benefited from consumers cutting back on going out in favour of evenings in during the recession. The role of crisps and snacks as an affordable luxury has helped to sustain demand, together with more relaxed attitudes towards less healthy treats.

In Soft Drinks, another ‘Big Night In’ bastion, AG Barr has benefited from a second year of general improvement in UK soft drink sales as consumers look for low-cost cheap treats in the ongoing uncertainty. Irn Bru sales grew 4 per cent overall, and 10 per cent in northern England. Barr-branded traditional carbonated drinks grew 22 per cent.

So the message this spring is clear: consumers might be choosing more carefully, but they’re still treating themselves and their friends and family. Stay stocked up through April into May with treats for sharing, at attractive prices, and the consumers will keep coming back for more.

The Grocery Trader

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