Today's shoppers expect a modern c-store to offer a number of in-store services. Whether it's something as commonplace as an ATM or the National Lottery, or a service that goes the extra mile such as home delivery or dry-cleaning, retailers are switching on to the fact that providing a multitude of services under one roof creates appreciative and loyal customers.
And the world of in-store services is developing quickly. If Camelot wins the third licence for the National Lottery, it has promised to roll out a further 1,300 terminals. And with the likes of PayPoint generating additional income for retailers with new products, and manufacturers offering digital photo printing systems ideal for c-stores, there is a huge number of opportunities out there.
PayPoint retail director Mike Igoe believes services should rank highly on retailers' agendas. "People increasingly want to be able to find a number of services in one place and in-store services continue to offer excellent opportunities for c-store retailers," he says.
"Retailers who install PayPoint and other in-store services are very likely to see an increase in customer spend and in their overall turnover, as services are proven footfall drivers. The reason behind our success is the variety of services we can offer, a large number of which are exclusive contracts.
"There are now 17,250 agents in our network and we're rolling out machines all the time. We're keen to sign up good retailers and want to hear from any retailers who have a good level of electronic top-up that they want to take to the next level."
PayPoint can also offer cash machines, a service some 68% of shoppers expect to find in a c-store according to research carried out by HIM. Igoe adds: "Our cash machines work on a self-fill basis. The machine is a compact all-in-one purpose-built box which operates very smoothly. We can set everything up free of charge."
ATM operator Cashbox recently announced it has been appointed a recommended supplier to members of the RedOrange buying group. The ATMs also operate on a self-fill basis where a convenience-fee ATM is placed with a retailer for free and replenished by them, eliminating the need for third-party cash-handling costs.
Each ATM is treated as an individual entity, with Cashbox monitoring performance and ensuring that retailers are fully trained and supported in its use. RedOrange managing director Chris Futter explains: "Cashbox offers a good level of marketing and technical support and there is no financial risk to our members."
ATM manufacturer NCR is also quick to emphasise the value of cash machines for c-store retailers. Rachel Nash, head of its financial solutions division for the UK and NI, points to the fact that 70% of cash in circulation has been accessed through an ATM.
"There's been massive growth in the number of machines in the convenience sector in the past couple of years," says Nash. "ATMs offer obvious advantages for shoppers and in turn have a positive impact on a store's footfall. There's certainly evidence to support the fact that when a c-store offers an ATM, spend increases."
Nash believes the number of additional services available through ATMs is set to increase. "Things such as mobile phone top-ups have been available for a while, but extra services such as ringtone downloads, tickets for sporting events and cinema tickets for films shown locally are a possibility. The USA is slightly ahead of the UK in term of the services offered - 7-11 offers its customers a 'bank in a box' format which provides a complete banking solution. There's no reason why this shouldn't be available here in the UK soon.
"Retailers could also consider offering promotions on the back of cash machine receipts which shoppers can spend in-store."
It could be you
The success of the National Lottery from a retailer's perspective was emphasised recently with the announcement from Camelot that retailer commission has now broken through the £3bn mark.
Camelot points out, however, that the value of the lottery extends beyond the commission earned on each ticket. HIM research reveals that lottery shoppers visit their local store more frequently and spend on average 67% more than non-lottery shoppers, rising to 80% between 5pm and 7pm on draw nights.
The research also found that one in five shoppers visit the store to play the lottery and it was the second most mentioned category when shoppers were asked for their main reason for visiting the store.
Camelot sales director Steve Lucas explains: "As well as generating sales in itself, the lottery is a massive footfall driver into stores in the first place. We work with our retailers to make sure we are constantly refreshing the products they have to sell, making sure they have new, engaging and up-to-the-minute point of sale and that our training is second to none. Accessibility for players is key and as we enter our bid for the next lottery licence, retailers can be assured that they and the service they offer players are at the heart of our plans."
Another area experiencing growth in c-stores is digital media screens. The Big Media Group has installed a number of its systems in c-stores across the country. While the screens' main objective is to advertise in-store promotions, they can also interact with customers informing them of local events, news headlines, traffic information and the weather.
Budgens retailer Dee Patel, who owns three stores in Essex, recently chose to install the screens at his Woodbridge store. He explains: "I've been really impressed with the package. The installation was carried out in December last year with minimal disruption at one of my busiest times. I'm looking forward to utilising this medium as an effective marketing tool to increase sales, gain advertising revenue and retain the loyalty of my community."
Big Media sales director Keith Guppy adds: "We're delighted with the installation at Woodbridge. The feedback from customers and staff has been very encouraging. The screens are seen as informative and not intrusive."
The popularity of digital cameras may have seen manual film sales plummet, but the digital era has created opportunities for c-store retailers to cash in on the revolution.
CeWe Color offers retailers a range of in-store photo solutions, including its standalone Photo Centre. Another recent product development is its Photo Book, which is produced using digital images, bound and delivered back to consumers via the store. CeWe bosses say the Photo Book provides a value-added service and creates additional in-store footfall. CeWe plans to produce more than one million Photo Books this year. The books contain 20 pages and retails at £5.99.
Elsewhere, Fujifilm's Digital Photo Zone kiosk offers customers instant thermal printing. A 15-inch flat- screen monitor incorporates the latest SmartPix technology to offer photo printing in four screen touches. An onboard Chip and PIN payment facility is available and the kiosk is compatible with both infrared and Bluetooth technology. The Photo Zone is available with a range of services including a telephone helpline and dedicated engineers.
Also available for c-stores is Sony's SnapLab, which is small enough to fit on a narrow counter. Company bosses says that with no computer connection required, it is especially simple to set up and maintain. Marketing manager Carl Pring explains: "The SnapLab uses the latest technology to provide a fast and efficient photography service that will be a hit with customers while being in keeping with the integrity of a local community business."
While there are a wide variety of in-store services that retailers can buy into, some simple footfall drivers cost very little, if anything, to set up. Good communication with other businesses in your area such as dry-cleaners or cobblers could earn you both brownie points with your shoppers and a small cut from the businesses themselves.
Add in services including home delivery or cash back and you're bound to generate increased customer loyalty and, in turn, increased profits.
87% of shoppers pay by cash, with 18% of shoppers using an ATM when in store
Services shoppers spend £8.60 per trip compared with £5.60 for the average shopper
68% of shoppers expect their local c-store to have a cash machine
Three-quarters of shoppers have no safety concerns about using an ATM in a c-store
A quarter of all shoppers at stores which have an ATM have used it in the past month
1 in 10 customers use the post office, utility payment or e-top up.
Going the extra mile
Simon Biddle, Biddle's Convenience Store, Webheath, Redditch: "We've offered dry-cleaning for about three years now. We act as an agent for a local company which collects items and then delivers them back to the store. As well as being a good service to offer customers, we also make a profit because the company gives us 25% commission.
"Top-up cards also help drive footfall. They provide pretty steady sales but are a service customers expect to find. Another service is home delivery which we offer to a lot of our elderly customers every Thursday. Some will only spend about £3 but it's not always about making money, it's about offering that little bit extra."
Mark Bamforth, Bamforth Food and Wine, Lytham St Annes, Lancashire: "We offer an outside catering service for occasions like weddings and birthdays. We cook our own roast hams and have an in-store bakery so we are able to use a lot of our own products.
"Our shoe repair service is also very popular. I take the shoes to a local cobbler who has been in business for 30 years. I get commission and it makes life easier for customers.
"Through the post office we are able to offer Euros on demand - before we had to order them in. We also offer mobile top-ups and cash back. By offering little extras, we can get one over on the multiples."
Geraldine Heather, manager Abbotts Ann village store and post office, Hampshire: "We offer a number of in-store services including photo development, dry-cleaning and home delivery. A lot of our older customers take up the offer of home delivery as it makes life a lot easier for them.
"We also run a book club, where customers can pick up hardbacks for £1 and paperbacks for 50p. We have a coffee area so the book club was a natural progression. People like the fact that we offer that little bit extra. All the extra services have helped the store enjoy an exceptional year."