One of the key trends that we at HIM predict to be big in 2014 is the diversification in meal solutions.

We know that one in five shoppers is already buying items for quick and easy meals in convenience stores. Therefore, meal solution opportunities should be maximised - this could be for those shoppers buying items mid-week, treats for the weekend, or for the family tea time. There should also be a focus on ingredients and components for those who cook from scratch.

Another area to watch this year is the rise of the smartphone in convenience. As many as 50% of convenience shoppers have a smartphone, and yet this technology is still to be fully embraced by the convenience channel. But this is all set to change. A quarter of shoppers said they would like to be able to use their smartphone in convenience stores. We are already seeing a number of coffee shops where payment can be made using smartphones, and we also know that one in two UK adults are open to receiving texts, emails or alerts from a retailer when in the vicinity of a store. Retailers could capitalise on this by informing customers of the latest offers in store.

So what are the challenges going to be over the coming months? One key consideration is that one in four consumers are shopping around for the best deals and are less willing to expect to have to pay a price premium in convenience stores. Two-thirds of shoppers say that price-matching with supermarkets on key essentials shows that convenience stores offer good value for money. Perhaps this is something we could see more of in c-stores.

Convenience store retailers have the advantage of being able to offer a more personal service, allowing them to get to know who their shopper is and in doing so offer a more tailored service. Most shoppers (71%) want their local convenience store to be part of the community, so why not champion local businesses as a whole? Make an effort to understand the local area and find out what businesses exist and how these can perhaps be incorporated into your store’s offer.

It looks like we’ve got a challenging and exciting year ahead of us. Happy New Year from all at HIM!”