A lot has happened in the past two decades in UK convenience, and it’s all 
set to change again, writes HIM’s Katie Hemmings. Here’s a look back, and forward:

Pre-1994: Convenience was all about your friendly local convenience store.  Shoppers visited primarily to buy their newspapers or cigarettes or maybe a soft drink, with a high level of ‘distress’ purchases bring made; loyalty and footfall were driven firstly by service, not price.

1995-2009: The big supermarkets started to open up smaller convenience-store formats, and we saw a rise in food to go being offered within stores. Online grocery shopping saw substantial growth. Shoppers were more cash rich but time poor, looking for ethical and local ranges and didn’t mind paying for them. Standards improved across the sector and, unfortunately, many independents were driven out of business or joined a symbol group.

2010-2014: The recession hit and we saw a return to price-led shopping – enter the discounters. Shoppers were comparing prices, purchasing own label and snapping up pricemarked packs. Symbol groups became more sophisticated and the independent sector really started to fight back.

2015 and beyond: So what’s next? A new era of shopping where ‘small format’ is the future! 
We’ll see an acceleration in shopping ‘little and often’.  The discounters are here to stay and doing an outstanding job. New technologies drive new levels of engagement. We’ll see an increase in franchised stores. And a new breed of shopper, Generation C, has arrived.

These new shoppers are price driven, not price led; they want spoon feeding, with you providing the answer to what they want for dinner/lunch/breakfast, or even a snack; and they want personalised and outstanding service that will make their lives, as well as their shopping experience, easier.

To satisfy Generation C, retailers will have to work more closely with wholesalers and suppliers, and colloboration looks set to be a big theme in the next few years.

There’s never a quiet moment in UK Convenience. Bring it on!