Convenience stores have successfully arrested the decline in top-up shoppers and started to win them back again during 2014, according to the latest data from HIM Research & Consulting.

The percentage of shoppers on a top-up mission in the convenience sector had been in decline in recent years but between spring 2013 and spring 2014 the proportion increased from 30% to 31%, and this summer increased by another point to 32%.

Crucially, the increase is not being driven by those on a ‘distress’ top-up mission, where the customer count is stable at 9%, but by those on a planned shopping visit. These are typically higher spending shoppers who purchase fresh and chilled items in between supermarket or online shops. Overall, the share of trade spend accounted for by top-up shoppers has increased from 35% in spring to 38% in summer.

HIM insights director Katie Littler commented: “Halting the decline in planned ‘top up’ visits is exciting news for the convenience industry; not only does it mean a higher value shopper but it suggests UK convenience stores have elevated themselves in shoppers eyes and are no longer seen as merely a distress destination.

“We hope to see this trend continue showing convenience stores are now an important and trusted part of UK shoppers’ weekly grocery shopping repertoire.”

Mike Dorey of Eastcombe Stores in Gloucestershire agrees.

“Baskets are definitely getting bigger with customers now regularly coming in for midweek meal ingredients,” he told C-Store. “Our average spend has risen by about 20% since the start of the year and is now hitting £5.20.

“For us, it’s been driven by a significant investment in our chilled range and a focus on availability. Shoppers know they can rely on us to be in-stock of the things they need for a quick and easy mid-week meal rather than driving to the supermarket.”

Discounters, however, continue to be the biggest winners in terms of grabbing the UK top up basket, with 71% of UK adults now topping up at a discounters in a typical month, compared to 65% using convenience.

“Discounters have been rated as the most improved retail channel in terms of ease and experience of shop” Littler added.


“The last six months have seen my weekly sales rise by £1,000. I’ve expanded my range of fresh and chilled products but I’m also focusing heavily on value and promotions which is paying off. Loyalty has increased as a result and shoppers are visiting more frequently and buying more items.”

Manny Patel, Manny’s Thames Ditton, Surrey

“Our average basket spend is now up to £7 and growing. I think promotions are playing a key role, particularly on fresh and chilled items. Shoppers can now clearly see that we can not only compete with the supermarkets on many key goods, but in fact on some areas such as fresh milk and bread we are as cheap as the discounters.”

Dan Cock, Whitstone Stores, Holsworthy, Devon