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Three tips to help your company benefit from convenience channel growth

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The convenience channel is going from strength to strength. Our latest forecasts show that the channel will continue to outperform the wider UK grocery market, and will be worth £46.2bn by 2018, up nearly £11bn from 2013.

So, how can retailers and suppliers best meet the needs of convenience store shoppers, as they look to improve the shopping experience and drive sales? I’ve accompanied convenience store shoppers in store as part of our latest ShopperVista research, which has helped me put together three tips that could help you share in this success story. You can read the full research with a subscription to our ShopperVista service

1. Understand what’s really behind convenience channel growth

Collage of convenience multiples

There’s more competition than ever in the convenience channel. This is good news for shoppers as convenience stores adapt to what shoppers want and become increasingly innovative.

From our research, convenience multiples were the fastest growing segment in the 12 months to April 2013, with sales up 8.4%. Given the opportunities in the channel, big supermarket chains are expanding their convenience store estates and using their scale to provide shoppers with attractive product ranges and consistent in-store service. Some key recent developments include:

  • Sainsbury’s announced it will operate more convenience stores than supermarkets next year and is planning to open around 100 new convenience stores per year
  • Tesco’s key trading priority is to reach the shopper by becoming the best multi-channel retailer and to tailor ranges accordingly. Tesco recently announced that One Stop, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tesco, is to begin trialling a franchise model with independent retailers
  • Morrisons is opening its first M Local stores (see our recent store visit) and is planning to have 100 M local convenience stores open by January 2014, primarily in London
  • Asda is committed to building a world class multi-channel business. Since its acquisition of Netto's UK business, Asda has been learning how to get the most out of its expanding portfolio of small format stores - stores are now organised to meet the needs of convenience, 'top-up' and 'stock-up' shoppers

Symbol operators currently account for over 40% of convenience sales, significantly more than other segments. The steady stream of independent retailers joining symbol groups combined with development of the product range and more consistent format has fuelled sales growth of 8.4% for symbol stores.

Key drivers for convenience store growth

Key drivers for convenience store growth

There are a number of reasons why shoppers’ changing habits are contributing to convenience channel growth. Our ShopperVista research shows that they are shopping little and often, visiting smaller, local grocery stores more than 11 times a month. Convenience stores are helping the increasing number of smaller households, who do not need to plan their meals.

Many time pressed shoppers, particularly the increasing number of part-time workers, are using convenience stores to top-up on products they may have run out of or had forgotten to buy during a main shop.

The economic environment has had an impact too - for a number of shoppers, shopping at local grocery stores helps to offset any rises in fuel prices and is an aid to budgeting.

Convenience stores and food manufacturers can appeal to these shoppers by better communicating how their products represent value for money. That could be through enhancing private label ranges, innovative in-store design or merchandising and targeted promotions to broaden the customer base.

For the longer term, many convenience store operators could reap benefits from a clear strategy for online and digital development and local community engagement.

2. Tailor product ranges to the profile of local shoppers

Tailor product ranges to the profile of local shoppers

Improvements to the quality of the stores and the shopping experience are helping to broaden the convenience sector’s appeal. Rather than offering the same thing to everybody, convenience operators are increasingly tailoring their stores and products depending on local demographics and shopper missions.

For example, Costcutter’s new KwikSave fascia was reintroduced last year into lower income catchment areas. The symbol group operator also targets more affluent areas with the more premium myCostcutter format. Nisa also has its new Loco format to provide quality convenience stores that play an active role within the local community.

It is becoming increasingly important to adapt category and product solutions to meet the needs of shopper profiles; our latest ShopperVista research shows that there are pronounced differences in the demographic profile by convenience store segment.

Shoppers at multiple-format and forecourt retailers are more likely to be younger and from higher social groups. In contrast, independent and co-operative shoppers are more likely to be older, not working and from a less affluent socio-demographic group.

3. Cater for a wider range of shopper ‘missions’

The top 10 shopping missions at convenience

In the future, it will become even more important for retailers to differentiate themselves by developing a range of solutions to meet different shopper ‘missions’.

Topping-up on staple products such as bread, milk and eggs remains the main shopping mission for convenience shoppers. However, at least 17 missions were identified overall. Shoppers we spoke to had been encouraged to visit convenience stores for follow-up trips to buy more groceries by merchandising that stood out and promotions that offered good value for money.

Our research found that there’s an opportunity for retailers to encourage shoppers to come to their convenience stores more frequently by catering for more shopper missions - that could be picking up something for breakfast on the way to work, grabbing a self-service coffee or popping in on the way home to buy an evening meal, for example.

Amazon lockers

Convenience stores also benefit from keeping a close eye on emerging trends. Some convenience stores are making the most of their convenient locations by offering Amazon lockers for online shoppers’ deliveries, for example, while others are providing pick-up locations for parcel deliveries. This provides busy shoppers the chance to use the large convenience store network to make their everyday tasks easier to manage.

Our research has shown half of convenience store shoppers are interested in parcel pick-up like this one at the Spar store in Coventry.
It’s going to become increasingly important to build loyalty by helping to broaden the number of shopper missions and encouraging impulse shopping alongside Amazon lockers like this.

Seizing the opportunity

The convenience sector is becoming more complex, with more differentiation, innovation and new store formats. To share in the growth, your business will need to be fully aware of the strengths and direction of each of the convenience segments – such as multiple-format retailers, symbol groups and co-operatives - and the profile and needs of their local shoppers.

By planning and allocating more resources to understanding convenience shoppers, retailers and manufacturers can benefit from the opportunity to tap into a growing channel and target new shopper groups.

ShopperVista subscribers can find out more about shopper behaviour by channel and the latest trends.

IGD’s Academy also offers a range of open workshops, such as ‘Introducing the world of convenience retailing’ and customised training that can help you and your team turn insight into action and develop your capabilities to make the most of retail and shopper trends. Contact Adrian.williams@igd.com for more information.

Get the latest research on convenience store shoppers

Convenience shoppers researchFor the latest insight, articles and tracking data on convenience store shoppers visit the Convenience channel hub on IGD ShopperVista.

Latest convenience shopper research

Related information on IGD.com

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IGD's Convenience Retailing 2014 conference is your opportunity to find out about the very latest retail and shopper trends affecting the channel with an unrivalled blend of top notch retailers and suppliers from across the diverse world of c-stores. 

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Hear from four of the UK’s most successful and progressive operators, Nisa, Costcutter Supermarkets Group, SPAR UK and Premier at IGD's Symbol Groups 2014 on 22 May. Discover the opportunities and challenges facing symbols and their suppliers, with detailed sessions from senior speakers from each business and some key retailers.