Convenience stores have successfully won back the lucrative top-up shopper this year, according to the 2015 Convenience Tracking Programme (CTP) from HIM Research & Consulting.

Four in 10 shoppers at c-stores now say they are on a mission to top up, a significant rise from the 30% in 2013 and 31% in 2014. And what is even better news is that the growth in top-up is coming from planned missions - 26% in 2015 compared with 16% in 2014 - rather than less valuable distress visits.

According to HIM, average basket size in c-stores has increased to more than three items for the first time since the recession, and top-up now drives 45p in every £1 spent in stores. Fresh fruit and veg is identified as a main driver for planned top-up shoppers, with 10% of shoppers buying into the category in c-stores today compared with 6% in 2005.

HIM insights director Katie Littler said: “Convenience has always been first choice for the distress shopper, but gaining credibility for the planned top-up shop is what is driving larger basket shops to c-stores,” she told C-Store. “Retailers investing in fresh, chilled, complete meal solutions and around-the-clock availability are all contributing to this growth. Shoppers are now trusting the convenience industry to have what they need, which they would traditionally only have trusted the supermarkets to deliver.”

As many as 85% of UK adults now do a top-up every week (up 5% year on year) while as many as 30% of UK adults say they no longer do a ‘main shop’. However, shoppers use four different retailers a month on average to complete their total grocery shop.

Littler added: “The ‘little and often’ trend has been growing for a few years, but we’re also seeing shoppers spread these smaller shopping trips over a larger number of retailers.”

Promotions at an all-time high

As many as 20% of c-store shoppers are now buying something on promotion - up from 17% last year and the highest level recorded in the 15 years of CTP.

HIM insights director Katie Littler said that half of these purchases were for items shoppers had already intended to buy. “Although price and promotions are the key drivers of store choice for convenience shoppers, they can help with overall trust that stores are providing sensible, acceptable pricing. Retailers have focused on relevant products and clear communication of promotions in-store.”

Retailers’ Views

Little and often

“We have definitely seen more people using the store for top-up shopping. I think that people doing their shopping online has helped. People do one big online shop once a week and then use c-stores to top-up.”

Dan Cock, Whitstone Stores, Holsworthy, Devon

“Our sales are up 10% on last year. People are starting to see the benefit of shopping little and often as it reduces a lot of wastage.”

Donna Morgan, Brownlies of Biggar, South Lanarkshire