Convenience Growth Conference: A Write-Up

I had the pleasure of attending the Convenience Growth Insights & Opportunities Conference this week, where speakers from leading manufacturers and retailers such as Nestle, Ginsters, BP, Shell, Tchibo, Innocent Drinks, United Biscuits, Hovis, Graze and The Co-op spoke (see graphic).


It was an engaging and informative day – and most of all, reassuring.

Reassuring because there were key themes that re-occurred throughout the day – themes which resonated with the advice we have already been giving our clients.

The common themes discussed were:



Who is shopping at your stores?  What customer types are they and what are their shopping missions?  How do they shop and why do they choose your store?  What do they want to buy?  Once retailers and manufacturers know these key insights, they need to tailor their stores and ranges to meet the different shoppers’ needs.



We are shopping in different ways.  Shopping missions and channels are blurring.  Gone are the main weekly shops at supermarkets.  They are being replaced by frequent, short ‘planned top-up’ shops and ‘food on the go’ purchases at any store that is convenient to that shopper at that time.  Shoppers are promiscuous, so retailers and manufacturers need to work hard to earn their loyalty by meeting their shopping needs.

‘Meals for later’ shopping missions are not so prevalent in the convenience sector.  Convenience stores are partly to blame for this as they haven’t made it easy for shoppers to buy a ‘meal for later’ in their short visit.

So stores are now rethinking their layouts to make it easy and inspiring for customers to buy a complete meal or meal deal within arm’s length and ‘food on the go’ is positioned at the front of stores.  All of which helps increase basket spend and customer loyalty.



Range rationalisation is essential.  Seeing as the smaller, convenience stores don’t have ‘elastic shelves’ and shoppers are only in-store for 6-8 minutes, once you know who your customer is and what they want to buy, convenience retailers need to rationalise their range to give the shopper what they want in a clear and easy way to understand.  Discounters are apparently gaining momentum in convenience shopping because they offer a limited range.

Ranges also need to fit the customer profile of that store.  There’s no point in having a large ‘food on the go’ range in a community store where the majority of shoppers are coming in for ‘planned top up shops’.

Fresh, healthy and premium speciality goods are all winners in the convenience space right now.




Looking at the typical High Street, you might think we have reached coffee saturation point…but this is not true in the convenience sector.  Only a quarter of convenience stores provide hot drinks, shoppers wanting ‘food on the go’ (especially at breakfast) are more likely to visit an outlet that sells a good cup of coffee.



It was good to see examples of manufacturers and retailers working well together, sharing their insights to provide a better shopping experience to drive loyalty and sales.  However, it was prevalent from the conference, that manufacturers are working hard with their POS and promotional activities and the retailers, particularly the independents, are not always implementing them.  Out of stocks are also a big issue.  The conference speakers suggested manufacturers should offer rewards to retailers for compliance and build closer relationships to overcome this.  It is also worth considering partnerships – it has worked for BP and M&S Simply Food and Esso and Tesco Express – the opportunities are endless.

Justine is an expert on shopper research within the retail team at Marketing Sciences Unlimited.

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Justine Boston
01962 842211
Article date - 30/09/2016
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