The latest results from HIM research & consulting's Convenience Tracking Programme (CTP) are out.

We've spoken to 25,000 convenience store shoppers across the UK to find out what is important to them. Unsurprisingly, the role of the c-store in shoppers' lives is: convenience! A quarter say they shop in c-stores because then they don't have to travel to the supermarket, and one in five shoppers are visiting their local store every day.

When we think about what's important to them, it's not necessarily new stuff. Newspapers, milk, bread and cigarettes continue to be the main driver to stores (topping-up remains the number one mission). So we need to ensure excellent availability, a good range, and to make it easy for shoppers to find products in these key categories in order to keep them coming back.

Product availability is the most important issue, scoring with 52% of shoppers compared with 46% in the spring 2009 study. Shoppers are becoming less tolerant of out of stocks and now tell us that they will give a store only two chances before going elsewhere to buy.

Shoppers say the best way that their local store could improve availability is by ensuring that staple products such as milk and bread are always in stock 66% say that the availability of milk, and whether it is in stock when you need it, affects their overall opinion of a store.

Some 5% of shoppers are still failing to buy any items at all. Ask yourself, are the core staples available at 6am in the morning and at 6pm in the evening when shoppers need them?

The second most important factor to shoppers is staff friendliness, which is now as important as value for money. It costs nothing, but can go a very long way. A lot of supermarkets have realised this and now have policy of acknowledging the customer as they come in and speaking to shoppers at the checkout. In WH Smiths you are now asked if you would like any of the special offers of the day. This is a brilliant way to upsell end-of-line products.

For the full list of shopper importances, go to www.thegrocer.co.uk/independents.

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