Convenience store numbers driven by symbol and multiple operators

Date : 22 May 2017

The number of stores in the convenience sector has grown marginally over the last 12 months, increasing by 0.4%, according to the latest data from IGD Retail Analysis and William Reed Business Media.

  Number of
stores 2016
Number of
stores 2017
Share of
 stores 2017
Change in store
numbers 2016 –
April 2017
Unaffiliated independents 19,054 18,841 37.7 -1.1
Symbol groups 15,139 15,491 31.0 2.3
Convenience forecourts[1] 8,478 8,434 16.9 -0.5
Convenience multiples 4,136 4,280 8.6 3.5
Co-operatives 2,850 2,872 5.8 0.8
Total convenience 49,657 49,918 100 0.5
Joint ventures[2] 2,868 2,938   2.4
Total convenience excluding JVs 46,789 46,980   0.4

Source: IGD Retail Analysis and William Reed Business Media, data for year ending 31.03.17

Key findings from the figures include:

  • In recent years, the co-operative and multiple operators were the primary engines of growth in the UK convenience market, but 2016-17 presents more of a mixed picture. Overall the co-operatives saw small but limited growth. Although the multiple segment remained the largest driver of growth over the last 12 months, it still saw a slowdown from the previous year 
  • This latest year has seen the number of stores in the symbol segment back in growth after a step back in 2015-16. Growth in the symbols has led to a decline in the unaffiliated independent segment, with these stores typically providing a key recruiting ground for the symbols, as retailers seek to develop their offer in an increasingly competitive market. However, the segment remains the biggest in terms of store numbers
  • Once again, the forecourt segment returned to modest decline. The structure of the segment continues to change in terms of ownership, with the key national dealership networks still pursuing expansion and acquiring more stores. For the first time in several years, the number of sites operated by the oil companies remained more stable 

Joanne Denney-Finch, Chief Executive, IGD, said: “The increase in convenience store numbers might be small, but it’s nevertheless a sign of the enduring appeal of small stores. However, with other formats such as online and discounters growing in popularity, convenience stores will have to work ever harder to gain growth in the future. However, we believe there are some really clear opportunities for this part of the market. 

“First, convenience store operators have a huge chance to engage the younger generation. One in five (19%) 18-25-year-olds mainly shops in convenience stores, which is more than double the number of those aged 26 and over (7%). There’s also a huge opportunity for food-to-go, with more than eight in 10 (83%) of c-store shoppers saying they could be encouraged to buy more food-to-go at their main convenience store.

“Convenience stores need to offer shoppers convenient and effortless ways to get the products, meals and food-to-go options they want, in the shortest time possible. Those operators who get this combination right have a unique opportunity to build on changing shopper habits.”

Adam Leyland, Editor of The Grocer, said: “The supermarkets haven’t just stopped opening supermarkets. As the Grocery Retail Structure 2017 shows, with the exception of M&S, they’re struggling to grow on the convenience side too. Instead, franchising is increasingly seen as the new route to growth for the big four, particularly if they can convert lucrative sites from smaller rivals. 

“While the number of forecourts fell, the UK’s biggest independent operators – MRH, Motor Fuel Group, Euro Garages and Rontec – have proved a real engine of growth. And this comes at a vulnerable time for smaller symbols. The number of unaffiliated independents again declined, while symbols added stores. On the affiliated multiple side, there is stagnation.” 

Notes to editors:

  1. IGD is a research and training charity. Our in-depth understanding of shoppers, retailing and supply chains is supported by our knowledge of broader topics affecting the industry – health, nutrition, sustainability and economics among them. This endows us with unparalleled insight that can help identify opportunities to improve performance and tackle business challenges. Our reach is global, with experts based in the UK, Singapore and North America. We invest the net income we make from selling our expertise back into our charitable activities
  2. As part of our annual review of methodology, there has been some readjustment of the 2016 figures for convenience forecourts and convenience multiples. Restated figures for 2016 are supplied in the chart
  3.  All shopper data is from IGD ShopperVista
  4. The UK channel forecasts will be published by IGD in early June

For more information, contact:
Laura Roberts on:
[email protected] or 01923 857141