As cost-of-living crisis continues to force Britons to look for cheaper avenues, industry players and experts believe that local convenience stores- with the right mix of offerings- stand a good chance to gain more customers in these tough times.

As grocery inflation touches 13.9 per cent and shoppers face a £643 jump in their annual grocery bill, consumers are looking for all the possible ways to manage budgets- from switching to own label products to buying more canned food and wonky vegetables.

Apart from these practices, a large chunk of shoppers is seen ditching their usual shopping destination in search for better venues- places that can give them better value for their money. According to Kantar September data, Asda saw additional 417,000 customers through its doors over the 12-week period.

What is making shoppers switch? What are they looking for? According to new research from American Express, 77 per cent of Britons are increasingly focused on value for money, with almost seven in 10 (68 per cent) believing that retailers could do more to help counter rising prices. The research adds that 23 per cent of shoppers are seeking out best deals rather than sticking with their usual retailers.

Sarah Coleman, Director of Communications at TWC, claims that value is the number one priority right now among shoppers.

“Consumers are adopting many tactics to manage their grocery spend and this will include trading down, whether that’s across the board or in certain categories where the perception is that quality is less important,” Coleman told Asian Trader.

Shoppers are indeed increasingly seeking better value for money, quality, and convenience during the current economic climate.

According to Dael Links, head of Snappy Shopper, the top priorities for shoppers are price point, convenience with home delivery and sustainability.

“Now more than ever, customers are looking for value when they shop, so it is important that prices are competitive,” Links told Asian Trader, adding that Snappy Shopper allows retailers to offer delivery without the need for higher retail prices, thus keeping online prices the same as instore.

Or maybe, the shoppers are becoming savvier and want way more than just cheaper prices!

Greg Deacon from Jisp points out that the exact experience that shoppers want is quick checkout, “help me save” and rewards, a combination of these which continue to drive them to their local stores.

Shine your USP

In these turbulent times, how local stores can not only make their customers stick but also gain new ones?

Food and Convenience retail industry expert Scott Annan vouches on quality proprietary products (lower price) and genuine ‘yes we can’ customer service for the success of local stores in the present times.

“A robust quality proprietary assortment, local fresh food and value on (lets’ say) the 10 top food and household staples, all this communicated through consistent and planned social media, are some of the things that symbol groups can offer to attract more shoppers to the stores,” Annan told Asian Trader.

Senior retail executive Dev Dhillon seems to agree with Annan here, adding that independent C-stores have to play to their core strengths to retain customers.

“Specifically, focus on high availability, great service and meeting local needs. Offer value but be realistic on how much you can compete on price,” he told Asian Trader.

Dhillon tells retailers to focus on initiatives that are adding real value, not just ticking boxes with suppliers. Own label ranges will be really valuable to retailers right now.

The highlights of local C-stores are quick access and convenience. In the current environment, it becomes more important for retailers to offer discounts and cashbacks to earn shoppers’ loyalty.

Coleman from TWC points out how around one in three shoppers are a member of a grocer’s loyalty scheme. However, uptake is highest amongst older shoppers only while younger shoppers, who are most likely to feel the inflation pinch, are still left out.

“Loyalty schemes provide retailers with an asset- data, which allows them to better understand their customers’ behaviour and therefore better target them with relevant offers to stretch their spend and ensure they return. This benefit, of course, must be off set against the cost of running the scheme,” she said.

To continue to succeed, Coleman feels that convenience store retailers need to understand what their customer base wants, and it will have to be about “more than just lower prices” if there is a discounter nearby.

“Whilst consumers generally accept a price differential in convenience, the current pressure on household budgets will undoubtedly be putting this under greater scrutiny. This means that price marked packs play an important role in providing value reassurance,” she said.

Loyalty schemes are becoming a key differentiator for consumers. The research by American Express too talks about loyalty schemes, claiming that 52 per cent of consumers say they are more likely to shop with a retailer that has a loyalty scheme, and 61 per cent believe retailers can do more when it comes to rewards.

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