New research confirms that shoppers are staying close to home and turning to their local convenience store for their grocery needs during the current crisis.

The ‘Forging a New Future in Convenience Retailing’ report, commissioned by TWC and conducted by KAM Media, reveals that 75% (39.8m) of the UK adult population have visited a convenience store in the past six weeks, with 52% stating that their local convenience store has become more important to them since lockdown measures were introduced.

The study suggests that c-store retailers will continue to benefit in the months ahead, with almost a third of those surveyed saying they will continue to use their local store more regularly on an ongoing basis, once the current government guidelines are relaxed.  More than 77% of respondents said they feel ‘very safe’ or ‘somewhat safe’ when shopping in their local c-store.

With talk in the media of retailers looking to profiteer from the pandemic by increasing prices, the study found that 51% of respondents were not aware of any price increases. However, 44% of consumers think prices have gone up, but 47% said this increase was acceptable under the current market conditions.

Whilst it is generally believed that fewer products are on promotion than were three months ago, only 44% of shoppers have noticed this decrease, with 13% of consumers saying they have noticed more promotions in their local c-stores since lockdown and 43% saying they have seen no difference.

Retailer David Sands, who trades under the Nisa Local banner in Scotland, said: “We should be very clear that there is a difference between responding to current market conditions and a need for genuine price increases, against ‘predatory pricing’, which has been reported but actually only occurs in very few cases.

“Right now, the cost of deliveries is greater than it was on the 23 March, plus there is no more ‘open food’ so the price of packaging has increased.  Normal SKU’s such as price-marked-packs (PMPs) are no longer available, so retailers have had to switch to non-PMP packs. Whilst products are widely available to the consumer, there are still major supply issues which means the introduction of different lines. Take for example alcohol, where we are presently getting about 50% availability.”

He added: “Understandably, many retailers are probably ignoring promotions currently. Maybe one of the big learnings to come out of the current situation will be that we are probably doing too many promotions and actually our customers are not that interested. If retailers spent their time on customer service rather than setting up promotions, I would question would they fare better?”

Commenting on the scope of the report, TWC’s Tom Fender, said: “Forging a New Future in Convenience Retailing’ gives a new perspective on the value of community stores and explores consumers’ perception of promotions and pricing which is a highly topical and current issue.

“Our aim is to provide valuable information and insight to help retailers and brands prepare for the ‘new normal’ as the UK comes out of lockdown. Shopping behaviours have changed overnight and in this report we are exploring the short to medium term future of the UK convenience channel.”

NAM Implications:
  • Welcome to the new normal of closer, smaller, faster shopping…
  • …with the addition of super savvy consumers to the mix.
  • All capable of optimising the ‘tell-a-friend’ mechanism…
  • And convenience stores appear to be playing straight.
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