HIM’s annual Convenience Tracking Programme (CTP) measures shopper behaviour and spending patterns across the UK convenience store industry. Based on 20,000 interviews with shoppers across 26 different store fascias at all times of day, this year’s version shows that the c-store industry is in very good health

Top-Up is in growth in convenience


There has been a significant year on year growth in top-up shopping – 40% of c-store shoppers said they are on a ‘top up’ mission in 2015, compared to 31% in 2014, 30% in 2013, and 32% in 2012.

As many as 85% of UK adults do a top-up every week (up 5% year on year). The top-up mission now drives 45p in every £1 spent in convenience – compared to 36p last year – meaning the top-up mission is worth £16.9bn to the c-store sector.

The level of top-up differs across convenience formats, but they all see year-on-year growth: it’s 45% at supermarket c-stores (40% in 2014), 37% at symbols (31% in 2014) and 29% at independents (20% in 2014).

It’s all in the planning


Growth in top-up is from an increase in ‘planned top-up’ shoppers - 26% of c-shoppers are on a planned top-up (compared to 16% last year) and 14% on a ‘distress’ top-up (12% last year). The planned top-up shopper is much more valuable to a c-store: such shoppers visit an average of four times a week, purchase 4.3 items and spend £8.90 per visit. In contrast, the distress top-upper vists 3.7 times a week on average, buying 2.6 items and spending £5.60.

Fresh fruit and veg is a main driver for planned top-up shoppers, and an increasing number of shoppers have been buying fruit and veg in convenience over the last decade (now 10%, compared to 6% in 2005).

HIM communications director Katie Littler says: “Shoppers are now trusting convenience stores to have what they need, whereas they have only trusted the supermarkets to deliver.”

Visit frequency is stable, spend is up, basket size up


70% of UK adults now use a c-store in a typical week (up from 63% last year). To put this in context, 96% use supermarkets, 43% food discounters and 42% shop for groceries online.

The average visit frequency to c-stores is 3.8 times a week - this has remained relatively stable for the last five years (it was 3.6 in 2014 and 2013, and 3.7 in 2012).

The average spend per visit is now £6.39 and continues to increase year-on-year - it was £6.13 last year, £6.04 in 2013, and £5.63 in 2012. The average basket size has tipped over three items for the first time since the recession, and the percentage of baskets containing five items or more is now 20%, compared to 17% last year and 16% in 2010.

Littler says: “These are still smaller baskets than the average top-up in supermarkets, but show that convenience is delivering against its shoppers’ needs.”

Little and often is the strong trend

High street

UK adults use four different grocery retailers on average in a typical month, with 19% saying they are using a higher number of grocery retailers than last year. As many as 30% of UK adults now say they no longer do a ‘main shop’.

Top-up shopping is the number one shopping mission across the board in the grocery industry. At c-stores, 56% of their shoppers in a typical week are topping up, but the numbers are high at supermarkets (62% in a typical week) and food discounters (48%) .

Littler explains: “UK shopping habits continue to evolve. The little and often trend has been growing for a few years already, but now we’re also seeing shoppers using multiple channels and spreading these smaller shopping trips over a larger number of retailers. That means the fight is on for all operators to attract these smaller, more frequent shops.”

Promotional highs


One in five c-store shoppers (20%) bought something on promotion – this is the highest level ever measured. Impulse purchasing is also growing, and is at a five-year high. Promotions are playing a role here – 43% who bought something on impulse did so because it was on promotion.

“Although price and promotions are the key drivers of store choice for convenience shoppers, they can help with overall trust that stores are providing sensible, acceptable pricing,” says Littler. “Retailers have focussed on clear communication of promotions in-store and also ensuring these offers are on relevant products. Promotions are the biggest driver of impulsive purchases and help with overall price perception, but half of shoppers buying on promotion bought something they had already been intending to buy.”