Supermarkets across the country are preparing a carnivores' feast in preparation for this year's barbecue season. Somerfield has streamlined its range of chicken products into a core range of popular lines ­ namely chicken and chinese flavours ­ and Safeway will be increasing its Sizzler range of meat products from its all year round range of four products to more than 30. Jim Wheel, fresh meat buyer at Safeway, says: "The season is exceptionally important for meat sales so we have to be on the ball to take advantage of the opportunity it presents. "Flexibility is important so we need to have the right products on offer." As well as Sizzler lines, Safeway is introducing a range of meat packs containing a mix of unflavoured burgers and sausages and is extending its range of fresh burgers. There will be minimal cross-merchandising, however, mainly due to logistical problems. Instead, condiments and related sauces will be available in bins next to the meat products. Non food products will be merchandised together in the reserved seasonal fixture. Safeway will be paying particular attention to signposting aimed at attracting a different type of shopper. Wheel says: "In the barbecue season we are catering for a different type of shopper ­ the male. So we have to have a lot of signposting to draw attention to the barbecue fixtures." Peter Lee, senior product group manager (for meat, fish and poultry) at Somerfield, says that the success of the season is often dependent on the amount of advertising in the store. "We clearly went wrong last year by not having enough signposting, but that won't happen this year." Somerfield will house its non food range of barbecue products in the summer events section of stores, while all related food products, including sauces, condiments, meats and fresh produce, will bear the barbecue merchandising with shelf edge labelling and hanging signposts. Retailers judge the market each year mid season and plan the following year's product range accordingly. Assessing popular lines at an early stage is seen as paramount to a successful season. Lee says: "Last year supermarkets downsized their range of barbecue products due to poor weather the previous year ­ this year we are building it up again." Weather is the overwhelming factor in determining the length and success of the season. As soon as the sun comes out, demand hots up. Hoping for a heatwave will be Budgens, which says it will be placing extra emphasise on the barbecue season this year with more promotions and an increased range of related products. These will even include a summer toys range available in stores scattered along the Norfolk coast. Delivered wholesaler Palmer & Harvey McLane also has big plans this year and has organised a major promotional campaign centred around the barbecue season, open to all symbol and Your Stores members. Denis Scott, trading manager at symbol group Mace, for which P&H owns the licence in England and Wales, says: "The season is becoming increasingly important and since barbecue buys are impulsive, convenience stores are ideally placed." He believes barbecues have become part of our "social scene" and that c-stores should not miss out. Up until now P&H has placed minimal focus on barbecues, but this year the wholesaler is kickstarting its campaign with a consumer mailout in June followed by a rollout of instore promotions a week later. Merchandising will include themed point of sale with gondola ends dedicated to barbecue related products, and point of sale advertising to draw attention to meat, drink and impulse products. There will also be promotions on a wide range of products, which will be in stores for six weeks. Scott adds: "The campaign will make a statement to c-store customers which says we are here when you want us'." And he says this is just the beginning. "I expect the season to grow progressively year on year from now on, and we will be here to help our retailers make the most of it." {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}