At the start of 2013 we predicted that the year would remain a challenging one as the post-recession trend of control remained, and traditional shopping channels became more blurred.
What we didn’t predict, however, was an erosion in trust with the horsegate scandal, but cue convenience stores who were and are well placed to reassure shoppers with their locally-sourced offer. Encouragingly, we now see trust restoring, with the notion of confidence coming particularly from younger shoppers.
Shoppers continue to be very controlled with their spending habits, displaying a little and often behaviour, which convenience stores have benefitted from and maximised. We have seen real developments in credible own label ranges from symbol operators, and customer satisfaction with these has improved year on year. In fact, we know that more than one in four shoppers have been buying more own label products this year compared with last, and that demand for well-known brands comes after quality, price and promotions.
But the biggest threat facing c-stores remains competition - shoppers are faced with an explosion of choices to where to do their top-up shop. And the category that shoppers want to see improved in order to drive top-up shopping is fresh. Stores that see ratings hit 10/10 for their fruit and veg will see shoppers spend 12% more. Investing in fresh ranges and equipment is risky, but we hear it is worth it in attracting bigger baskets, more frequent trips and new customers.
Another example of how we have seen retailers take the lead is by ensuring they make their presence known as the number one choice among local stores, such as introducing coffee to go, supporting local community with events, advertising meal solutions in the local paper and highlighting their stores as the ‘go to’ destination.
Why is this working? The meal-for-tonight mission is very valuable, with shoppers spending on average 44% more than usual, illustrating how it is certainly a category to focus on.
So confidence is improving, and shoppers say they want their local stores to succeed, but what will 2014 look like? We will tell you next year.