A report; , by data and digital experts, TWC, has found that 35% of consumers would ‘probably’ or ‘definitely’ use a convenience store that was a cross between a convenience and another type of outlet.

Whilst many of us will relate the term ‘hybrid’ to a plant, or bulb, that has been created from two species, the term has expanded to relate to stores where the ‘power of two’ can be bigger than ‘one’.  For example, many convenience stores already play host to Post Office services, which has proven a valuable draw for the retailer in terms of increased footfall into the store, whilst driving further value-add to the consumer giving them convenience and community service.  The same can be said for convenience stores partnering with coffee or foodservice brands.

TWC’s study showed that eating food (restaurant/coffee shop/eat in tables) on the premises is a new format that could drive further traffic, and upsell to retailers with 35% of UK adults saying they would embrace this European-style approach when visiting a retail store, and 29% said they would probably use the store if they could consume alcohol on premise (a c-store/ontrade hybrid outlet).

The figure increased significantly to 42% if the convenience store could include a proper pharmacy in it, with pharmacists working in it.  

According to Tom Fender, Development Director for TWC, the traditional C-store from twenty years’ ago would be under 3,000 square feet.  It would sell a wide range of products and services, and open from early until late, usually seven days a week… and shoppers would typically travel from a radius of half a mile, or less.

Shoppers would buy everyday needs (newspapers, tobacco, magazines) and ‘top up’ shop between less frequent, larger, supermarket purchases. 

But things have changed since then.

“There is far greater competition for ‘top up’ shopping today than there was 20 years ago.  A huge percentage of visits to supermarkets are ‘top up’ trips (10 items or less, contents of a held basket only) as well as discounters taking a chunk out of c-stores’ top-up market.

Therefore, c-store operators have had to go fishing in ponds other than the ones they are used to (top up).  This has predominantly involved services, food-to-go and coffee …. although it is still a constant surprise that industry data shows that still a majority of UK C-stores still do not have a coffee offer’.

This is all about fishing in other ponds – to build growth and traffic through the door, as well as recognising trends evolve and businesses need to adapt to embrace changes in shopping behaviours”, he says.  It also helps retailers to differentiate their business from the competition and focus on higher margin products/services.  

“Take stores across Asia, which are small but always packed with an eating in area.  Who knows what changes in on-premise consumption will occur once we get through this pandemic …but all the signs were indicating that consumers were keen to use c-stores for a bit of dwell-time.

“And it’s not just about food, although food and coffee are powerful draws.  For example, as yet we have to see the emergence of pharmacy aligning to C-stores, which feels a symbiotic partnership and one that would have great appeal to residents in local communities.  Almost half of 7-11 stores in Japan have a pharmacy within it.

“When we say Pharmacy, we don’t mean putting some deodorant or body spray on shelf, but having an actual Pharmacy offer in store with the right expertise (i.e. an on-site pharmacist).  What is often forgotten in our channel is that if you look at the most common types of retail business consumers visit, pharmacy is usually one of the highest.  So it makes sense for retailer to consider introducing business concepts which are clearly successful in their own right and attract high levels of footfall too.

“I come back to the fact that why go into two shops when you could do it all in one”.  We’ve seen how c-stores have linked up with specialists like local butchers….maybe we should look at pharmacy too?