Convenience stores will need to work hard to grow sales ahead of inflation over the next few years by focusing on ease of shop, making the shopping experience more pleasurable, and surprising and exciting their shoppers.
That was one of the key messages emerging from speakers at this year’s IGD Live conference, which is taking place in London from 6 to 7 November. Guy Ousey, head of event content at the IGD, said that while the UK convenience sector was set to grow by £6.9bn to £48.2bn over the next five years, most of that growth would be driven by inflation and c-stores needed to invest to stay ahead of the curve.
Michael Freedman, senior shopper insight manager at the IGD, said the think-tank’s own research showed that while consumers shopped in a c-store twice a week on average, they did not really enjoy the experience. While in 2019, 92% of shoppers were planning to use convenience outlets, that falls to just 53% in 2021 to 2022. The figure was unlikely to reflect actual behaviour in two to three years’ time, he conceded, but it did indicate their dissatisfaction.
Freedman said convenience stores had to make greater use of marketing and advertising to reassure customers they were getting good value for money. They also needed to ensure their range was tailored to the local demographic, and to capitalise on shoppers’ need to make the most efficient use of their time, making use of technology to do this.
At the same time, the experience of shopping in convenience had to become more exciting and enjoyable. “Many shoppers I interview in c-stores appear to be in tunnel vision. They just want to get from A to B and be out of the shop again,” he said. “But shoppers are definitely up for more disruption and more of an experience.”
Sean Russell, director of marketing at Costcutter Supermarkets Group, said focusing on shoppers through the use of data and insights was going to be key to success. He said Costcutter’s own “Shopper First” data programme had been key to the group’s turnaround over the past two years.