It may not seem like the most important shopping mission for a store but don’t be fooled - the newsagent mission accounts for almost a third of footfall in the convenience sector and is more frequent than any other mission.

Top 5

Mission Products

1. Newspapers

2. Cigarettes & tobacco

3. Lottery

4. Confectionery

5. Milk

HIM’s Katie Littler says that as well as high customer volumes, it’s also financially lucrative. “The newsagent mission attracts a higher proportion of shoppers to the UK convenience channel than any other shopping mission, contributing to 31% of convenience footfall,” she explains. “The newsagent shopper has the highest visit frequency, visiting over four times a week, driven primarily by the tobacco and news categories. But they are also a valuable shopper 56% will buy more than one item while in-store, driving up their spend.”

She urges convenience store owners to ensure they win the newsagent mission by focusing on the quick win and look at which categories do better at each time of the day. “Speed of service is important to these shoppers, they are not in-store to browse,” says Littler. “The newsagent mission is highest at the start of the day but still accounts for 20% of footfall after midday with newspapers driving the am footfall and tobacco driving the pm footfall.

“Make sure staff are ready at these times to deal with the volume. Newsagent shoppers also visit very regularly so staff friendliness is high on their list of importance and is important in driving loyalty. It also means that staff have the opportunity to ‘up sell’.”

Gayatri Barua-Howe, Imperial Tobacco’s UK communications manager, says retailers need to make sure their tobacco offering is up to scratch to increase spending during the newsagent mission. “Tobacco shoppers are important to the sales of many other categories and brands,” she says. “They also visit more often and spend more each time, contributing twice the spend of the average shopper over a year 76% of convenience retailers rate tobacco as ‘very important’ to the overall success of their store and currently the average trip spend of a tobacco convenience shopper is £9.55 against £6.09 of an average convenience shopper.”

She advises retailers to ensure that their gantries are topped up to avoid disappointment as shoppers aren’t picky about where they buy their products. “Availability has been identified as the number one shopper need,” says Barua-Howe. “Imperial Tobacco research has also shown that every lost tobacco shopper costs retailers £2,051 in annual basket spend. If a shopper’s preferred product is not available then nearby competitors could acquire their future custom.”

Barua-Howe adds that now is the time for retailers to consolidate shoppers on a newsagent mission that are buying tobacco as the legislation is set to change. “It is imperative that retailers maintain good availability and for stores under 3,000sq ft, unaffected by the display restrictions until April 2015, to ensure their tobacco range is in a prominent and visible position for customers to see,” she says. “To support the visibility of tobacco products on the gantry retailers should also take advantage of point of sale materials, such as shelf barkers, and use these to help direct adult smokers to particular lines or pricemarked packs on offer.”

Retailer’s view

“News is a continuing challenge as a category with so many papers going online. We maintain our news sales by offering a delivery service to customers. When I first took over the shop I was worried that it might have led to customers not buying other products in the store because they don’t have to come in, but they still have to settle their bill every week and that’s when they’re likely to spend some extra money.

“Tobacco is a different category altogether, it’s a demand item as nobody browses the store and then decides they want a pack of cigarettes. A full range and well-merchandised display is key. Our customers are increasingly looking for value so we’ve had to tailor our range to suit this.

“Upselling is where there is opportunity - our staff ask every customer if they want to purchase a National Lottery ticket and we have £1 impluse lines at the counter that we offer to all shoppers.”

Lionel Cashin, The News Shop, Market Weighton, Yorkshire