HIM think tank

Trust leads to loyalty

Posted by: HIM Wed, 5 Apr 2017

For both grocery retailers and suppliers, securing the trust of shoppers must be a priority. The convenience sector is no exception, as almost two-thirds of shoppers in c-stores agree that trust in a retailer brand is very important, writes HIM’s Alice Dolling. Without trust, shoppers are unlikely to visit a store or purchase a product unless they are in a distress situation. And at a time of growing competition, securing shopper loyalty in convenience is vital.

Primarily, retailers need to get the basics right to gain shoppers’ trust, drive them into store and retain their custom. One element is making sure their store delivers on key shopper importances such as product availability and store cleanliness. For example, a ‘clean and tidy store’ actually ranks as more important than range and locally-sourced produce when it comes to a shopper’s opinion on what represents a credible fresh food offer.

Excluding convenience, friendly and helpful staff is the main driver to store for almost one-third of shoppers. If staff members are fully trained about the store and product knowledge, while also offering a smile, it will build the store’s credibility and shoppers’ trust in it to a greater extent.

Transparency and trust go hand in hand, and so it will be essential that retailers and suppliers are entirely transparent about supply chains and product ingredients. Clear labelling is an obvious starting point; suppliers must ensure their products are labelled with the correct information, informing shoppers about ingredients and product origins, as well as Free-from information, as 16% of consumers now identify as having a food intolerance.

Food origin is becoming increasingly important to shoppers, with one in five now looking to buy more locally-grown products. Independent retailers are in a strong position to build relationships with local suppliers, and retailers should clearly signpost when a product is local, not just because shoppers want transparency, but also because it can act as a point of difference in a competitive market.
A combination of achieving the basics, being open and honest with customers and driving provenance will build trust and secure loyalty.

Tobacco challenges

Posted by: HIM Fri, 10 Mar 2017

Tobacco products have long been a main driver to convenience stores for shoppers. Indeed, one in seven symbol shoppers at any given time say their main reason for being in store is to buy cigarettes and tobacco. Not only does tobacco pull a wide range of shoppers in store, but it’s a category that also drives frequent repeat visits.

However, the industry is facing challenges from all sides, what with declining usage and waves of incoming legislation, writes HIM’s Louise McWhirter.

On average, a cigarette and tobacco shopper will buy from the category 14 times a month from the same convenience store. But with smoking rates on the decrease overall, there is risk to this regular footfall so it’s important to understand which other categories see similar levels of loyalty.
Interestingly, beer & cider, energy drinks, milk and hot drinks-to-go are the next most frequently bought products. Getting the range in these categories right is imperative to maintaining loyal footfall.
Now we are just a few months away from TPD2’s plain packaging and pack size legislation coming into full effect and, with May’s sell-through deadline looming near, the difficulties that come with plain packaging also pose a risk to service levels at stores.

Some retailers installed automated gantries following the tobacco display ban in 2015 and, after an initial upfront investment, retailers have reaped the rewards of a more efficient system. Automated gantries also offer the benefit of using the space behind the till more effectively. This area of the store is extremely valuable – after all, 100% of customers visit the till area. There is opportunity to use this space for advertising, or the siting of big-margin categories.

As we say goodbye to pricemarked packs, there will be a temptation to up the price of cigarette packets in order to gain margin. However, shoppers are like elephants: they never forget. Price increases risk annoying loyal customers and could push shoppers into the hands of the multiples, especially those who are relatively light smokers and can afford to wait between trips to larger supermarkets.

Get the basics right

Posted by: HIM Fri, 10 Feb 2017

With the modern shopper having more choice than ever before as to where to do their grocery shopping, it is increasingly important to ensure that convenience stores are providing the best possible shopping experience so shoppers continue to choose this channel as often as they are doing so now, writes HIM’s Gary Shaw.

In terms of what shoppers are looking for from their c-store, it is very much a case of getting the basics right. Looking at our research, carried out across almost all types of stores and all groups of shoppers, cleanliness of store is cited consistently as one of the most important areas that stores need to deliver on if shoppers are to choose them over a competitor.

Ease of shop is another key element that shoppers say is important when they are making the decision about which store to shop in. So making sure the store is easily navigable with wide, uncluttered aisles will encourage shoppers to spend more time in the store and potentially shop more categories as they’re able to move through the store more easily.

Investing in keeping the store clean and tidy and making the shopping experience more pleasant with modern, attractive fittings goes a long way to reassuring shoppers that they can trust the store standards generally. This in turn means shoppers are more likely to buy into margin-building categories such as fresh and chilled products where shoppers need to be confident that the food is handled well.

When they have these basics in place, retailers can also think about how they can invest to take advantage of growing trends such as food to go and the increasing desire for shoppers to eat out. Beyond just investment in cooking and serving equipment, there also opportunities to drive spend by investing in a seating area for shoppers to eat if space allows, for example.

Shoppers who take a seat in-store spend on average 40% more than those who don’t. Look to supplement this with charging stations for mobile phones to encourage shoppers to stay in store even longer.

How to gain from Free from

Posted by: HIM Wed, 11 Jan 2017

As we see each and every January, those laden with Christmas guilt vow to be the healthiest versions of themselves, writes HIM’s Ruth Cousins. However, as health trends continue to widen we may see shoppers straying away from the traditional fresh fruit and veg options. At HIM we’ve been taking a look at the rise of the Free-from trend and the rapidly increasing number of shoppers that consider themselves to have food intolerances.

In a recent study we found that 30% of 18- to 34- year-olds consider themselves to have some sort of food intolerance, half of these were self-diagnosed. The proportion significantly drops for older age groups. There is little to suggest that younger generations are more susceptible to food intolerances, therefore this is likely to be due to the increased availability of information sources such as the internet.

So how can convenience store retailers maximise the opportunity that comes with the rise of Free from? With a great influx of products entering the market it is not feasible for you to stock them all. Our research has shown that the biggest opportunity in Free from comes from milk products as one in 10 shoppers told us that they have a dairy intolerance.

Retailers should be looking to stock soya and nut milks as a minimum. Stock fresh options, but also consider long-life as often fewer people in a household will be drinking dairy-free milks compared with dairy.

So far, convenience retailers aren’t doing badly at catering for the Free-from shopper. One-third of shoppers said that they’d noticed a designated Free-from section in their local c-store. If there is space available, a designated Free-from area will attract those with food intolerances into a store (over a store without).

Such an initiative means shoppers will be able to find items quicker, and it will build their trust that the shop provides products they can tolerate. The best-designated sections will be clearly signed in store so shoppers can find them easily.

So if you’re not doing so already, why not try something new for 2017 and see if you can’t gain something from the Free-from craze

Leaflets still have a role to play

Posted by: HIM Fri, 2 Dec 2016

An age-old debate among convenience retailers is how effective leaflets can be to a store. While the majority of stores don’t send out leaflets, the retailers who do believe they have a positive effect on attracting customers, writes HIM’s Cameron Thorp. To make the most out of them, it is important for retailers to target the right types of shoppers while including the information shoppers want to hear about to ultimately help drive footfall.

Our latest research shows that, despite all of the technology at their fingertips, surprisingly it’s younger shoppers who respond most positively to leaflets and, while couples with young children are less likely to receive leaflets than other life stage groups, they are the most likely to be encouraged to visit a store (61%) once receiving them. Retailers who are aware of a high concentration of young shoppers and couples with young children in their area should be focusing on utilising leaflets to target these groups effectively.

However, simply distributing leaflets for the sake of it will not drive sales; getting the content of the leaflet right is crucial. Our research tells us that while most shoppers want to hear about promotions (66%), there is also demand to find out about loyalty schemes and news or events.
That said, leaflets won’t be the best form of communication for every retailer. Raaj Chandarana, a member of the HIM retail panel, explained: “Retailers are split on [the] success of leaflets. We deliver 1,000 [leaflets per month] and still get people coming in circling products and asking for them. A balance of social media and traditional leaflets ensures a greater hit success.”

In a world where shoppers are using social media to get inspiration for meals and find out about brand innovations, it is important for retailers to increase their online presence. Why not communicate with shoppers who would otherwise miss out on leaflets by experimenting with these mediums?
While leaflets clearly have a positive impact on shoppers, it is important to consider whether they have a future in the physical form. As retailers seek to reduce costs and improve their green credentials, digital leaflets and emails could eventually replace their paper counterparts.

The magic of Christmas planning

Posted by: HIM Fri, 4 Nov 2016

While convenience stores may not usually be the most popular choice of channel when it comes to shopping for Christmas, the biggest national event on the calendar, there is still plenty of cheer to be spread around for 2016. So here’s some quick wins to ensure you’re making the most out of the festive footfall driving occasion, writes HIM’s Ruth Cousins.

Our research tells us that the percentage of shoppers heading to convenience stores for their gifting mission doubles from 3% in November to 6% in December. Stock merchandise that makes for attractive displays and shout loudly about your gifting options among shoppers. A quarter of convenience shoppers visit the same store every day so they need surprising when it comes to turning them off autopilot – if they don’t see it, they won’t buy it!

Focusing on local initiatives and community involvement is a fantastic USP for convenience stores to tap into. The main competition (supermarkets and discounters) will find it harder to offer the same level of community interaction that local retailers can. Running promotions that will see a share of the profits going to a local charity and simple events such as a raffles will not only help the less fortunate during a time of giving, but will also encourage your local shoppers to keep visiting your store.

And, finally, the best gift you can offer your customers this Christmas is the gift of convenience. Christmas is notoriously a time for last-minute shopping and shoppers will be looking to their trusty local convenience store in times of need. One-fifth of shoppers we spoke to said that they started their Christmas Day food and drink shopping between 21 and 24 December. Therefore, highlighting that you can cater for this last-minute Christmas mentality can act as yet another USP for your store. Make sure there is clear signage about your opening hours and promotions so that shoppers think of your store when they need to grab something.

So for a holiday that is all about tradition, 
why not try warming things up by experimenting with something different in your store this year?

Ready, steady, food to go

Posted by: HIM Fri, 7 Oct 2016

With the food-to-go market set to increase by an average of 4.4% over the next three years, this is the time for retailers to cement their offering to their shoppers.

As the demand for this mission increases, so does the competition - and it’s coming from not just traditional food-to-go outlets, but also some new players, writes HIM’s Belle Nairac.

Shoppers don’t even have to leave their desk to get their favourite lunch these days; it is now a mere two taps away through the innovative Deliveroo and Uber Eats apps. This trend is being spearheaded by millennials who continue to demand easy access and quick service from any outlet.

So how can convenience stores compete with this? It’s about finding your USP and from our 2016 Food to Go study we know that soft drinks and sandwiches are just that. These categories are the ones driving shoppers to convenience stores, so ensure there is enough space to hold a suitable selection to suit your shoppers.

We know for sandwich shoppers that taste, price and range are most important, so think about this when delivering both in-store and, essentially, out-of-store communications. It’s safe to assume that if a shopper doesn’t know you offer food-to-go products then they will go somewhere that they know does. This is linked to the increase in branded concessions such as Greggs and Subway located in convenience stores to encourage first-time shoppers away from traditional food-to-go outlets.

The most valuable of the food-to-go shoppers are those buying both food and drink, with three items being the most common basket size. The two most commonly-purchased items are soft drinks and sandwiches, but what about the third item? Shoppers are demanding more variety, with 41% of shoppers wanting yogurt to be offered as part of a meal deal.

But don’t forget, outside of the shopper’s spend on food to go this mission will drive additional shop spend, too. In fact, only 57% of shoppers’ spend is on food to go so a whopping 43% is coming from other additional purchases.

The value of trust

Posted by: HIM Thu, 8 Sep 2016

Shopper trust is not something that is gained easily. In fact, it has been a shopper need that convenience stores have struggled to champion over the years, writes HIM’s Ruth Cousins.

Keeping consumers happy is now that bit trickier as c-store shoppers have come to expect wider ranges of fresh produce and own-label brands to mimic the offerings found in supermarkets. But trust can be gained in a number of ways and, once achieved, you’ll find loyal customers coming back time and again.

Our research shows that a significant proportion of shoppers are not confident in their local c-store’s ability to stock basic meal solution provisions. More than half (53%) of shoppers did not believe they would be able buy all the ingredients to make a roast dinner in their local store. More basic meals such as spaghetti bolognese, stir fries and curries instilled more faith, but still near to a third of shoppers didn’t believe they would be able to find ingredients needed.

The key for convenience here is to be known for selling solutions and not all the products needed for these meals. Rather than stocking all of the herbs, spices, veg and meat needed to cook a curry from scratch, why not simply stock the key ingredients that busy shoppers will often opt for when looking for quick meal-time solutions – chicken, microwavable rice and a pre-made sauce.

When it comes to building trust with your shoppers, it is integral to understand who they are and what they find important when shopping in your store. There is no such thing as the ‘average’ shopper, so understanding your local demographic is key to keeping them happy and to getting them revisiting your store.

One particular group we’ve been putting a 
focus on is the ‘last of the millennials’ (16- to 24-year-olds). The areas that are most important to these shoppers are availability, cleanliness of store and ease of shop. We spoke to a focus group from this age group and it appears they have high standards when it comes to c-stores. “If it’s dark and dingy I won’t buy fresh from there. I’d maybe go in and buy branded products,” was a common comment.

So, make your store a place that people want to be, and the rest will follow.

Trust is the key for success in fresh

Posted by: HIM Tue, 9 Aug 2016

When it comes to fresh food, gaining a shopper’s trust is essential to secure their custom, writes HIM’s Alice Dolling. HIM data shows a significant and direct relationship between trust in a retailer brand and the quality of their fresh produce, meats and bakery. With one-quarter of c-store shoppers saying they would go elsewhere to buy fresh produce and meats, it is clear many shoppers lack confidence in c-stores’ fresh offerings.

In order to gain shoppers’ trust, retailers must first get the basics right, making sure their store is clean, tidy and brightly lit. In a recent millennial focus group, participants said that if a store was “dark and dingy” they wouldn’t buy fresh from it.

When it comes sales, though, retired greys is the group to be focusing on. This group is buying more fresh food than any other group and places the most importance on the quality of fresh produce, meats, baked goods and dairy. Therefore, retailers must ensure this group trusts the quality of their fresh range.

Locally sourcing items provides transparency to customers about where their produce has come from, in turn building confidence in the retailer’s range and increasing their fresh food penetration. Fresh produce, meat and dairy are the top three categories in which shoppers want to see a larger amount of local items. More than half believe locally-sourced products are better than branded and this is where independents, whose fresh food ratings are particularly struggling, could outshine super c-stores.

We know 52% of retailers consider fresh fruit and veg very important for the success of their store, and similarly 39% believe fresh meat and fish to be very important. Data shows an obvious correlation between shoppers’ rating of fresh and their likelihood to recommend the store to their family and friends, supporting the importance retailers place on the category.

Recently, we have seen increased competition from trustworthy retailers providing fresh food, such as Amazon Fresh and Sainsbury’s one-hour delivery. Shoppers now have more options to receive fresh food fast from other retailers they have confidence in - if there was ever a reason to step up your game on fresh, this is it!

A quick smile goes a long way

Posted by: HIM Tue, 14 Jun 2016

Customer and store owner/staff relationships have always been at the very heart of what makes the convenience industry unique and special. And things certainly haven’t changed, writes HIM’s Ruth Cousins.

According to our very latest research, 74% of shoppers are satisfied with the staff friendliness and helpfulness at their local convenience store, and almost a third say it is a main driver to store.

As we see competition for c-stores continuing to grow with the spread of not only supermarkets but now discounters, approachable and comprehensible employees should act as a unique selling point for local retailers for drawing in customers. So how can you encourage this sort of attitude among your staff where it may not have already been inherently adopted?

Ensuring that your staff members feel valued and trusted is an important tool that can have a mutual benefit for any c-store. Throwing a Christmas staff party or celebrating team members’ birthdays can create a great team spirit and ultimately make staff members feel as though they are appreciated. It may seem simple, but a happy atmosphere among staff will flow into a happy atmosphere for shoppers.
While friendly and helpful staff ranks top in shopper importance’s in HIM data, it is crucial to note that we are living in the era of the busy shopper. Not all will want to stand around and have a chat at their local store, although most retailers will know some that certainly do!

As many as 46% of shoppers we spoke to said that speed of service was very important to them, therefore equal emphasis should be placed on having well-trained and efficient staff to serve customers. This will become ever more important as tobacco legislation continues to change and grow in complexity. Ensuring that your staff are well versed in the new laws and are aware of the tobacco products stocked will prevent queues 
and add to the perception of a well-run and efficient store.

As the sun finally begins to show its face for the summer months ahead, what better time to get staff smiling as your store benefits from a rush of customers.

Think solutions, not products

Posted by: HIM Wed, 18 May 2016

Convenience shoppers are time poor and habitual, visiting the same store more than 190 times a year and looking to spend less than five minutes on each trip. They also have unique demands from convenience, being more likely to be shopping for immediate needs and occasions, writes HIM’s Blake Gladman.

Two in three shoppers are more likely to be looking for quick and simple evening meal solutions, with more shoppers also looking for meals for one while also shopping for impulsive events (such as on the way to parties or for that impromptu BBQ) compared with when supermarket shopping. This behaviour and different need state are driving an increasing need for solution-based shopping. Shoppers are looking for convenience stores to offer them solutions and not just products as the culmination of the need for speed and increasing convenience-led decision-making is influencing where they shop for their groceries. Convenience needs to meet this demand or risk losing shoppers to emerging channels.

Picture this scenario. Someone is on their way home from work, they know they are going to be home alone that evening, they’ve had a long day and they pop into their local c-store to pick up something quick and easy for their evening meal. They’re in the mood for a curry and they’ve found a large bag of rice, a large jar of curry sauce and a pack of 4 chicken breasts… these products are all acceptable, but you’re asking this shopper to do a lot of thinking and a lot of work.

Imagine, instead, that there was microwaveable rice, a small jar of sauce for one and a pack of diced chicken breast – we now have a solution that meets the need of the shopper; simple, quick and you’ve taken all the thought and work away from them. In other words, you’ve offered them a convenient answer to their occasion question.

Shoppers want to be in and out of store as quickly as possible, and providing them simple solutions that meet their needs is the quick way to establish shopper satisfaction, drive basket size and ultimately create loyalty that will provide regular footfall across all days of the week and times of day.

How to satisfy summer shoppers

Posted by: HIM Fri, 22 Apr 2016

As days become longer and temperatures across the UK start rising there are plenty of reasons for shoppers to begin emerging and enjoying the sun, writes HIM’s Ruth Cousins. The long-awaited summer months are finally in sight and it’s time for retailers to get ready for the chaos that could be just around the corner!

More than half of all retailers that we spoke to earlier this year said they usually see more than a 10% uplift on sales during summer and, as the Met Office last year predicted that 2016 will be hottest on record, it is imperative that convenience store shelves are fully stocked with all the summer essentials.

One central category to this particular time of year is soft drinks. As many as 90% of retailers we spoke to said that soft drinks are most important when driving sales during the summertime. 
So how do you keep these shoppers happy? 
Those who we spoke to who buy soft drinks 
for instant consumption said that the most important factors to them when buying were 
pack size, brand and having ‘my usual product’. Therefore, ensuring that your top-selling brands are in stock is crucial to driving shopper satisfaction and loyalty.

Next up flying off the shelves over the summer months is ice cream. With more than half of retailers saying it is an important sales driver, ice creams could be a great opportunity for making up for any losses that may have occurred throughout the year due to poor weather.

Again, the success of your summer sales within this category will depend on availability. Keeping your freezers well stocked with a wide variety of leading ice cream brands will have shoppers visiting time and again.

The barbecue is one summer ritual that most Brits find hard to resist. With the weather here so temperamental, convenience stores can become heavily relied on for last-minute essentials as shoppers head straight to small stores the minute the sun makes an appearance.

Nearly 40% of shoppers HIM spoke to plan on hosting a BBQ this summer. A good weather forecast will be the deciding factor for more than half – so let’s all keep our fingers crossed for sun, sun, sun!

How powerful are pmps?

Posted by: HIM Wed, 23 Mar 2016

Pricemarked packs have been popular among shoppers and retailers alike for some time, writes HIM’s Ruth Cousins. They are as relevant to shoppers today as they were five years ago and have become even more so for retailers. Why? The 20,000 shoppers we spoke told us they like to feel that they can trust their local convenience store and bag a bargain while they’re at it. Customers feel reassured that they are not being over-charged when shopping in c-stores, with half saying ‘It reassures me that I am not being overcharged’ and ‘They make me aware of the true price of the product’.

A third of UK adults say that knowing a convenience store sells pricemarked packs positively influences their decision to visit that particular store. Nearly half of shoppers we spoke to believed that pricemarked packs are on promotion and only slightly less were under the impression that they are cheaper than the standard price, contributing to positive price perception overall.

Due to the longstanding success of pricemarked packs, we’ve seen retailers continuing to open their ears to the voices of their customers. In particular, new products have become increasingly popular for retailers to stock, as 76% told us they are more likely to stock a new product if it is pricemarked, up more than 10% from 2013.

But not all categories benefit equally from being stamped with a pricemark. Shoppers are most receptive to pricemarked products such as biscuits, snacks and soft drinks, whereas premium products such as wine and spirits are less likely to have shoppers reaching for the shelves if they see that bright price flash. Shoppers we spoke to in recent years told us they feel that pricemarked packs cheapen the product’s image, and this statement is likely to be more relevant for items shoppers may buy as gifts.

While retailers have upped the ante with pricemarked packs in recent years, we’re still seeing it to be more of an importance for shoppers than to retailers. The profit margin may not be as healthy as one may hope for, but the shopper demand is there.

Making the most out of Easter

Posted by: HIM Mon, 29 Feb 2016

Seasonal events can be a powerful way of inspiring shoppers. Easter is a great excuse for people to forget about their busy day-to-day lives and instead think about treating themselves to something a little bit special and indulgent, writes HIM’s Val Kirillovs.

If you take a look at other stores out there on the high street, you’ll notice a lot of retail chains from different sectors getting behind holidays such as Easter and investing in making the outside of stores enticing for shoppers. This should be an important mechanism for convenience retailers, too. Our research shows that 36% of shoppers were just passing by when they decided to come in-store. This is a perfect example of how outside communication can be effective and important to convenience shoppers.

There is a challenge for the convenience sector to overcome this Easter, however. Our research shows that 31% of shoppers said they were spending less on food and drink during Easter compared with last year. This number is slightly higher when compared with other channels 
in the grocery market.
This year it is up to the convenience sector to show that they are capable of catering to shopper needs during the Easter period.

When preparing for Easter, it is imperative to keep in mind that more than half of all c-store shoppers will be cooking a meal at home over the Easter bank holiday weekend. In fact, 72% of those shoppers cooking a meal will be doing so from scratch. Therefore, there is a huge opportunity
to inspire shoppers while they are browsing 
your shelves.

Aside from meal ingredients there are lots of other products that are well worth highlighting in-store in the run-up to and throughout Easter. Categories such as alcohol, premium boxes of chocolates, cards and, of course, Easter eggs should all have clear and eye-catching signage.

But beware! With Mother’s Day taking place 
not long before Easter, shop floor space may be tight and it can be tough to focus your efforts 
on either one or the other. Pre-built stands could be a necessity for stores that can afford to part with the space.

Healthy eating cannot be ignored

Posted by: HIM Fri, 29 Jan 2016

With January over and shoppers’ willpower to maintain their resolutions potentially waning, there is one trend which sees no sign of diminishing and that’s the demand for healthier options, writes HIM’s Belle Nairac. Gone are the days when shoppers would rely on health food specialists alone to find these products; they are now demanding and expecting it in all of their shopping outlets including c-stores.

Despite this, a massive 78% of shoppers don’t see c-stores as credible places to buy fresh and healthy products and one in six shoppers would like to see more healthy products in their local c-store.
We have seen great initiatives in c-stores to help educate and support shoppers on this quest for a healthier lifestyle, such as fresh fruit included in meal deals, clear signage to healthier products and even exclusion of confectionery from queuing areas in place of these new items.

We know the shoppers of 2016 are more complex than ever; they are demanding more and more from c-stores. And it’s not just functional factors such as price, brand and pack size which are driving shoppers, but also emotional factors and the only one outside of quality that features is health. In fact, when we ask shoppers what’s the most important option available when selecting a product 49% say ‘healthy options’. This scores much higher than ‘recognisable brands’, ‘pack sizes’ and ‘premium options’.

Although we have seen the demand for fresh fruit and veg in c-stores increase since 2013, it’s important to cater to this shopper demand within multiple categories and, of course, missions. 
Not only are shoppers looking to top up on fresh products for the week, but there is also a need for healthier options within meal for tonight and the food-to-go mission.

Some 40% of shoppers are willing to pay more for healthier products so not only is this a trend to support better choices, but it also could boost their average spend.

This trend will only continue so it is essential to address this need and challenge the perception barriers to gain the trust of shoppers and in turn hopefully create a ‘healthier’ basket spend.

Snowball your sales this Christmas

Posted by: HIM Wed, 16 Dec 2015

Customers are shopping for their Christmas Day food and drink right up until the last minute, with 60% still shopping between 22-24 December last year, writes HIM’s Elyse Charvin. Busy lifestyles drive this eleventh-hour shopping; it is also what makes it difficult to influence these time-strapped shoppers’ purchases in store.

On a typical day, almost three-quarters of convenience store shoppers would like to get in and out of a store as quickly as possible, never mind their need for speed in the lead up to Christmas! Many shoppers manage to do so as they are experts in switching to autopilot on entry. In fact, shoppers visit their local c-store so regularly (200 times per year!) that they have a good idea of what to expect in terms of products available, merchandising and store layout.

So, how can we interrupt c-store shoppers during this notoriously busy and inevitably stressful time?
Promotions are the most effective mechanism. Almost half of those who bought on impulse did so because the items were on offer. But signage can also be influential, particularly to those on gifting/entertaining missions. Gifting options, eye-catching displays and signage should be located at the front of store for maximum shopper inspiration. This will drive impulse purchases, currently at a five-year high.

Magnetic categories can also be used to pull shoppers into more aisles and thus open up more hot spots of influence. Over the Christmas period in 2014, shoppers relied on the convenience sector for festive staples, 5% bought alcohol for gifts and 4% bought food for gifts. Use signage related 
to these items to direct the shopper’s path once 
in store.

Finally, don’t forget to maximise outdoor space! As many as 36% of shopping visits are not planned – they are “just passing by” – therefore offering an incentive to step in is key for generating sales this holiday. C-store shoppers have told us that they feel it is important to support their local store, they expect to find the products they want in stock, and promotions are key for them. Therefore, the ‘must-haves’ of effective communication this Christmas should include local signage, core top-up range and strong adverts for the best deals.

Fast and friendly service matters

Posted by: HIM Wed, 18 Nov 2015

With the average c-store shopper visiting the same outlet three times per week, it’s no wonder that good customer service is a high priority for shoppers, writes HIM’s Louise Howarth. So the question must be asked, what exactly does good customer service mean within the convenience channel?

A good person to ask would be Jennifer Kerr, from Spar Saintfield Road in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, who won Convenience Store’s prestigious Sales Assistant of the Year Award last week. Her skills have set her apart from the rest and HIM sends her our congratulations.

HIM data suggests that increasingly busy lives mean three in four shoppers want to get in and out of store as quickly as possible. This means time is of the essence when it comes to service, and staff training should duly reflect this in order to keep the modern shopper happy.

Staff knowledge is another vital tool in ensuring our busy shopper has a seamless in store experience, as a good understanding of the store’s layout and merchandising selection is important to those hurried shoppers in search of a particular product.

Since 2014 we’ve seen a huge leap in the proportion of shoppers who said they chose a particular store based on the friendliness and helpfulness of staff, rising from 26% in 2014 up to 39% this year. In a world where shopping is becoming less of an experience and more of a transactional process, convenience continues to stand out as a place where shoppers get a sense of being known, of being an individual.

Getting the basics right is most important for meeting shopper needs in terms of ‘excellent customer service’. In general, c-store shoppers agree that staff members being “friendly and polite” is most important while in store. Of course, a tailored approach must be taken as preferences differ by store location. For example, c-store shoppers in the north of the country tend to rate “having a chat” with staff members as higher in the excellence scale, while those in the south prefer fast service.

Without doubt, providing great service and a personable shopping experience is a fantastic USP which c-stores should strive to maintain in the UK’s competitive grocery environment.

Make the fright decisions

Posted by: HIM Mon, 26 Oct 2015

As the nights close in and the temperature falls, shoppers young and old are preparing to celebrate Halloween. This seasonal event continues to grow and the opportunity for retailers to take advantage is clearer than ever, writes HIM's Matt Smith. With one in two adults expected to purchase Halloween-related products, it is not surprising the event has transformed into a monumental occasion where consumer spend is expected to reach £280m on Halloween-related products alone. And so the opportunity for c-stores to increase footfall and drive sales is vast!

We spoke to 1,000 convenience shoppers about their Halloween shopping habits and how they may be enticed to purchase certain products. Their response was think big and bold! Entice and disrupt the shopper with signage and eye-catching displays. Use colourful visuals, themed products and promotions to encourage purchases.

More shoppers believe that their local convenience store should be getting behind and supporting seasonal events such as Halloween even more than sporting events, BBQs and parties. However, only one in 10 consumers consider their local shop to be a good source of Halloween items. This is a clear opportunity to maximise sales, so make sure you have leaflets and brochures to make your local shoppers aware of your product offering.

Through speaking to shoppers, we know that they want more from their convenience stores at Halloween, therefore if you’re not seeing a demand it may be because you’re not creating one. Capitalise on the occasion with fancy dress, new product development and products such as trick or treat items and Halloween party packs. Be sure to stock up and drive sales on Halloween essentials (18% of UK adults are likely to purchase a pumpkin, 13% will buy a costume, 12% purchase decorations and 29% buy confectionery) and introduce events such as face-painting to create a buzz for children and ensure a bond with families and the community that will last through the winter.

This year Halloween falls on a Saturday so celebrations are likely to be bigger than ever. Think big and bold and capture your share of this season’s sales occasion.

Don't ignore the food to go mission

Posted by: HIM Mon, 28 Sep 2015

With a current value to the convenience sector of £4.8bn and growth forecast to hit 10% over the next five years, the food-to-go mission is one not be ignored. Recent research from HIM shows one in four UK adults bought food to go from c-stores within the past seven days, writes Katherine Dixon.

Busy lives and limited time mean that providing a relevant offer to the food-to-go shopper while they are already in your store could be key to unlocking this growth potential. So how do you become the one-stop shop for your customers?

Convenience stores have always played their part in providing a great range of soft drinks, chilled and ready to drink on the move; a third of convenience shoppers purchase a drink to go at least once a week from their chosen store. One of the main reasons for this purchase is to hydrate, so make sure you are offering the appropriate items, communicate this well, and ensure your store is top of mind for when this need arises.

Once in store, meeting the needs of shoppers in quality, price, freshness and range to satisfy their needs at various times is important. Tailor offers depending on the time of day and day of week. With breakfast to go peaking on Sundays, satisfying shoppers looking for a weekend treat can drive revenue at those times. Understanding that the same shoppers may be on a different mission and expecting a different range of items on a Saturday than Thursday lunchtime is key.

Beat the competition by providing great meal deal offers. Just under half of those buying food as well as drinks are buying a meal deal in food-to-go outlets, compared with just 12% in symbol stores. HIM’s research found that three-quarters think that meal deals should consist of three items and that branded items are important.

We know that shoppers like and need variety. Some 63% of shoppers switch between fresh and pre-made sandwiches; if you can provide both options this makes your store an easy choice for customers. One in five shoppers would like to see healthier options, an increasing aspiration today. Thinking about your range and planning for a variety of needs will go a long way to making your store the only choice for them.

Impact of display ban on shoppers

Posted by: HIM Wed, 26 Aug 2015

With the tobacco display ban in place in small stores for nearly six months, now is a great time to consider what impact it has actually had on shoppers and the trade, writes HIM's Katie Littler.

On the eve of the ban, one in two convenience retailers told us they were opposed to it. Time has passed and retailers have had varying experiences dealing with the implications, but has the ban really made a difference to UK convenience in shoppers’ eyes?

From a shoppers’ perspective there are mixed reviews. Most don’t think their overall smoking habits have changed since the ban (or not yet) - 63% of convenience shoppers who smoke say that their tobacco purchasing habits have not changed at all since the ban, compared with 25% who say they definitely have.

A real focus area is the impact the ban seems to have had on shoppers’ views on price, service levels and availability - whether this is perception or reality. Shoppers had concerns over potential price increases pre-ban - one in two convenience shoppers who smoke expected tobacco prices to increase more frequently after the ban. This perception continued after the ban - more than one in two shoppers who smoke believe that tobacco prices have increased in c-stores.

Most convenience retailers (79%), however, say that tobacco prices have mainly remained the same. But, again, perception is reality and a significant proportion of smokers are price-driven.

Pre-ban, shoppers also had concerns over queue times in-store, and one in two do think that speed of service in general has slowed post-ban. One in three shoppers who smoke believe it is now harder to find out which tobacco products are sold in-store since the ban was implemented, and they point out that it’s harder to find prices of tobacco in store.

While most shoppers believe their tobacco purchasing habits have not changed at all, in order to help maintain customer loyalty the focus must now be on ensuring outstanding availability and addressing concerns over pricing and service levels at all times.

As always, communication is key - if we can change the perception, we can often change the reality.

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