Speaking at Sweet Charity’s Independent Retailer Conference gave me a chance to throw down a challenge to the suppliers in the room.

I asked them to consider the specific needs of the convenience sector when designing their products. One size doesn’t fit all. Now more than ever, the channel requires bespoke solutions to ranging, pricing, promotions and marketing.

To do this, suppliers need to understand why people are using convenience stores and how this shopper mission can vary between store type and location.

Convenience is one of the fastest growing sectors in retail up from £32.1bn in 2010 to £34.9bn in 2012, currently outperforming grocery multiples.

This growth has been accelerated by changing shopper lifestyles; with increasing numbers of working women, single person households and longer working hours. The rising cost of fuel and a desire to reduce grocery shopping bills by buying ‘little and often’ is also making the convenience sector more relevant to shopper priorities.

As people begin to use convenience stores more often their expectations will also start to rise. They want fresh food, food-to-go and a strong alcohol offer along with competitive pricing.

The supplier who understands these trends and caters for them will see their sales in this channel increase.

It is not only suppliers who need to up their game. We wholesalers also need to look at what we are bringing to the table for retailers.

Wholesalers need to be prepared to be more than a set of wheels and support retailers with range, promotion, pricing and merchandising advice.

We need to put our money where our mouths are and invest in retailers’ businesses with resource, financial support and the pro-active provision of data and legislative advice.

Wholesalers are the ones with the scale and industry overview to offer impartial support. The industry needs to support retailers to enable them to grow the convenience store channel, which will benefit everyone.

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