Fresh, local and high-quality food and food to go are becoming the key footfall drivers for c-stores, requiring innovation and investment.

The retailers that were the biggest winners in 2017 were successful through a combination of encouraging shoppers to buy more, but also converting more shoppers through the door.

Quality food is the most influential factor when choosing a convenience store, according to a Nielsen Shopper Trends study, followed by premium brands. The growth of food to go will continue to be a big footfall driver for retailers that innovate well.

Engaging shoppers when it comes to the presentation of foodservice and food to go, including branded food-to-go partnerships, high-quality products and sit-in food-to-go services, will be key factors over the next few years.

It’s true that online is growing, and for a small convenience retailer having an online delivery proposition isn’t always an option. But the independent convenience retailer has an advantage that online delivery doesn’t. The quality of online produce, issues with delivery and the frustrations of substitutions are all reasons quoted in a recent Nielsen survey as to why some 
shoppers choose not to do their grocery shopping online.

Independent retailers that recognise these complaints, and focusing on strategies to combat the negative opinions held by some shoppers means retailers can capitalise on this to grow their share of wallet.

Some shoppers in the 45+ demographic, prefer shopping in a bricks and mortar store rather than completing their shop online because of the social interaction – something convenience retailers have a real opportunity to capitalise on.

For independent retailers wanting to compete and drive footfall in different ways, bringing fresh, locally-sourced products into the range will go a long way to meeting more ethical consumer needs. And with the high cost of imports, sourcing local products with low-carbon footprints surely works for all stakeholders.

Whether part of a group or unaffiliated and independent, the key to success in the ever-changing and competitive UK convenience market is to put the shopper’s needs at the heart of the business. Think of convenience as a concept, instead of a channel. Tomorrow’s market place needs to ensure today’s shopper’s needs, regardless of mission, can be met in one place. The ‘shop within a shop’ concept will continue to evolve, with foodservice and ‘click and collect’ provisions likely to be a big factor.

Ensuring your store is in the best possible location, offering ranges and technologies that suit the lifestyle of the UK shopper, while doing all you can to help a shopper in their quest for more time in their day, should all help to drive footfall and top-up shops.

Big brands attract attention


“I’m moving away from a convenience-only offering to a food-to-go concept to increase footfall. Two of my stores are going to have Subway and one already has a Cuisine de France Pierre counter. It’s been running for nine months and food-to-go sales have gone up 55%.

“Having big brands such as Subway in-store definitely increases footfall. With Pierre you don’t have a brand name to get people through the door, but the investment is low and you have freedom to introduce your own ideas.

“Staff know to offer croissants with Costa coffee, or hot food from the deli counter with Seattle Best coffee. We have also found multibuy promotions help to increase spend such as pizza and wine for £9.99.”

Nimal Navaratnarajah

Four Costcutter stores in Plymouth and Cornwall