Is Convenience the forgotten front line of the pandemic?

21MAY Is Convenience the forgotten front line of the pandemic?


Queues outside supermarkets. One way systems. Shields across checkouts. The changes made in supermarkets have become synonymous with the current pandemic. It is, however, easy to purely focus on the big four grocers and discounters.

But it’s not just the grocery channel. The whole retail industry has been transformed in just a matter of weeks – no less so than the UK’s vast network of convenience and impulse stores. The stores in this channel have faced their own significant challenges – changing the way they operate; adapting to new buying habits of their customers and reclaiming their importance within local communities.

Shopper Habits
We know that the more traditional ‘weekly shop’ that has been in steady decline in recent years appears to have made a comeback. This follows earlier Government guidance for the public to keep shopping trips to a minimum. Interestingly, this trend extends into the Convenience channel as well.

The number of transactions in convenience are down 21% versus pre-lockdown levels, however, basket spend is currently 40% higher with an average basket spend of £7.30 (Talysis, 15th May 2020). As public confidence begins to recover, transactions are gradually increasing, however, basket spend is staying steady.

The interesting thing to see will be whether this sticks as a long term trend.. Regardless, there is wider confidence in the long term that the opportunity for brands, within an already growing Convenience channel, is clear to see.

Stock Availability
According to HIM & MCA, stock availability is still a big challenge for independent retailers. Without the vast supply chains of the major grocers, it is easy to understand why.

With Cash and Carry being the main route of supply, many retailers are now having to visit multiple depots to maintain their stock levels. This leads to all sorts of potential problems for the Convenience sector as price fluctuations may alienate shoppers in the channel.

We have seen some brands stopping the production of Price Marked Packs, which are a key element of any convenience store portfolio. They provide a visible trust indicator for shoppers and help drive sales across all categories.

This is clearly a big issue for owners at the moment and they are looking for greater support, from both brands and wholesalers. There is now an opportunity to build new brand loyalty through availability and support – for both retailers and consumers alike.

Continuing Importance
The Convenience channel has been growing for quite some time and is estimated to be worth £48.2bn by 2024 (IGD, August 2019). The last couple of months have been a trying time but with sales generally maintaining and habits changing, it is hard to see how this sector is not going to grow in size or influence.

Traditionally being used for top-up shops and impulse purchases, what this pandemic has shown is the importance of convenience stores to local communities. People are spending more money in these outlets and despite the challenges, convenience stores are not only surviving, they are finding new ways to thrive.

Did you know that we recently launched a partnership with Talysis? Find out more about the Convenience Insight Partnership today.