It’s a mixed picture for independent convenience retailers in the 2016 Grocery Retail Structure, the annual project to count and classify grocery retailers in the UK.
In most years, the really interesting numbers are those that have gone up or down, but there is a fair bit of side-to-side to address in this year’s figures as well. Let me explain what I mean by this: the total number of c-stores is virtually identical year on year, but this hides a huge amount of change within the channel. After years of growth, a lot of stores have fallen out of the symbol sector, while the unaffiliated independent numbers have gone in the opposite direction.
While this is encouraging for the c-store industry – as it shows that there are new, viable independent stores being opened – it also reveals how symbol group bosses have in many cases moved away from the full-on pursuit of numbers and instead worked with retailers to find a more mutually beneficial solution, such as being in a retail club instead.
Outside of the independents, there are more of most other things: more multiple c-stores, supermarkets (mainly because of the discounters), specialist bakers, specialists full stop. And this doesn’t even take into account the growth in online shopping. So, in short, the figures confirm what we already believe; that there is more competition than ever, and a huge amount of dynamic change in the sector.