Retailers need to champion the 2015 Rugby World Cup in the absence of any major football tournaments this summer, according to a leading supplier.

BWS sales shot up during the football World Cup last summer and brewers credited this with causing off-trade beer sales to overtake on-trade sales for the first time ever.

But with no major football tournament in 2015, Heineken is urging retailers to make the most of the rugby World Cup, which is hosted in the UK this September for the first time since 1999.

Trade marketing director Craig Clarkson said: “The rugby World Cup is going to be a huge event in the UK this year. There will be 48 matches in 13 stadia in 11 cities.

“There will be 20,000 hours of broadcast coverage. There will be a trophy tour starting in Edinburgh and heading down the UK in different cities during the build-up.

“It is predicted to add £2.2 billion to the UK economy. From the beginning of June we will be building up how to help stores make an event of the World Cup.”

Heineken is encouraged to see BWS up 1.8% in value in the off-trade (Nielsen, year to January 2015) and noted that it is up 5% in convenience, with the grocery convenience stores – such as Tesco Express and Sainsbury’s Local – driving growth, up 11.8%.

In a bid to help smaller stores improve their beer and cider ranges, Heienken is extending its Star Retailer programme.

A member of the Heineken team will visit a store every six weeks and check if it is adhering to a planogram designed to help boost sales.

Previously retailers earned stock under the programme, but now they can earn cash: £5 for having the “correct range”, £10 for supporting beer and cider and £25 for giving space to what Heineken deems to be the “right brands”.

Heineken claims a store will increase BWS sales by 12% if it adopts the scheme, adding £5,500 a year to the average shop’s takings.

Spar franchisee Susan Connolly said: “Being a Star Retailer has increased our cider and beer sales and we now have a range that suits everyone. It’s something all retailers should be doing.”

Heineken hopes the rugby tournament will help the upward sales trend continue, but it brought in analysts from Nielsen and Kantar to help predict long-term category trends it can exploit.

The analysts believe sweet drinks will continue to grow in importance, so Heineken launched Bulmers Zesty Blood Orange and Desperados Red (see page 18), but they warned that older drinkers will abandon beer in favour of rival categories.

Clarkson told OLN: “The analysts think over-50s will drink less beer. That’s something we need to be aware of. When people get older they don’t drink as much beer. They drink wine and spirits instead.

“The over-50 community is looking for heritage and provenance. Our Foster’s 1880 campaign was designed to give them the realisation that Foster’s is a brand that has been around for a long time. It has credibility, it has roots. The older market places a lot of value on that.

“We are also building up links between Herefordshire orchards and Strongbow.”