Suppliers should develop a clear promotional strategy to seize the opportunity offered by impulse, says David Norbury

Walk into a c-store now and you'll see branded dumpbins and till displays overflowing with filled mini eggs, chocolate rabbits and other Easter confectionery.

Last year more shoppers than ever bought Easter confectionery, and the convenience channel accounted for an important part of the extra sales. IRI total market data for January to 11 April 2009 reveals that Easter sales were up 9.7% overall, with sales through c-stores up 11%, partly due to the increasing efforts of field marketers on the channel.

Major brands can no longer focus solely on the supermarkets and are starting to understand the power field marketing plays in the c-store. I expect strong growth in c-store promotions to help drive the field marketing industry this year.

With the expansion of major grocery brands in this sector, such as The Co-operative Group's takeover of Somerfield, brands cannot afford to ignore this lucrative channel. The UK convenience market comprises 50,000 stores. And it is growing up 6.1% in 2009 to £29.1bn and accounting for 20% of the total food and grocery market, according to IGD.

But it is not simply a case of rolling out existing programmes across the convenience sector, as brands should develop a clear point-of-purchase strategy and vision for each type of outlet. For instance, we have worked with Red Bull and convenience retailers, recruiting, training and motivating a field marketing force in a programme that has seen Red Bull increase its share of the energy drinks category.

Brands and field marketing agencies should take a holistic view of the convenience outlet market and develop a contact strategy looking at the size of prize, channel and outlet attractiveness. Questions should be asked: Where does the brand fit? What is the cost of penetration?

PoP promotions in the convenience sector are a good bet as these outlets fulfil both impulse and top-up shopping requirements.

Convenience outlets offer more and better opportunities for field marketing than ever. Those brands and agencies that invest and unlock the promotional potential of c-stores will surely benefit.

David Norbury is chief executive officer of REL Field Marketing

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