UK consumers have identified specialist food shops and banks as the most-wanted services in their local area, highlighting opportunities for convenience stores to meet such demand, according to new research by the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS).

Budgens of Aylsham

The ACS Community Barometer, an annual report which polled 2,016 UK adults in June 2019 about the importance of services in their local area, placed specialist food shops and banks as the most-wanted services among consumers, ahead of non-food shops, post offices, restaurants, pharmacies and convenience stores.

The report also showed that shoppers believe convenience stores and post offices have the most positive impact on local communities. Convenience stores are also placed in the top three services that are most essential to the local area, as well as having an important role in reducing loneliness.

While convenience stores don’t rate highly as a ‘most wanted’ service, “this is likely because consumers are happy with the number of convenience stores in their local area,” the report argued.

However, ACS chief executive James Lowman suggested that the UK business rates system must be reformed if c-stores and other local services are to remain an integral part of the local community.

He said: “Convenience stores have spent £633m over the last year investing in their businesses, with much of that work going toward bringing more and more services into their stores, from post office counters, to banking services, pharmacy counters and even bakeries and butchers within the shop. However, retailers are faced with the prospect of higher business rates whenever they improve their stores which can have a significant impact. Business rates need to incentivise investment, otherwise communities could face losing essential local services altogether.

“The Community Barometer shows that local shops are much more than just a place to buy things, they’re a social hub for people in the community, especially those that are vulnerable or less able to travel. UK consumers are also sending a clear message that post offices are still as important to them as ever. Many Post Office branches are housed in convenience stores, but to provide this service requires investment and a model that makes financial sense for retailers. Convenience stores want to provide post offices, but cannot be expected to subsidise the network.”

National Federation of Sub Postmasters ceo Calum Greenhow added: “These results once again demonstrate the vital role that post offices play across the UK. Clearly, local and national government stakeholders recognise the importance of post offices - but this recognition must go further. Subpostmasters are investors in the post office network and occupy a unique position at the very heart of their communities; more must be done to support and reward them for their work.”