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The trade lessons from convenience stores

Our everyday life is marked by the products of the basic necessities – these are, for example, fresh rolls from a nearby bakery, toothpaste, toilet paper, water or medicines. Their use is so natural for us that their absence would cause social panic. This was perfectly illustrated by the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, when we rushed to buy the necessary products. Many shops were empty, it was not easy to buy even the toilet paper. The pandemic has shown the importance of continuity in providing essentials, but also made many retailers realize that one way or another all stores are convenience stores.

What is a convenience store?

Convenience store is a term that has its origins in the USA and denotes a small store, located in residential areas of cities and frequently visited points, trading mainly goods for daily needs. This trade is convenient for customers, easily accessible, well organized, clear, shopping is fast and the prices are affordable.

The pandemic has further exacerbated the trend of this type of retail. For a long time, a large proportion of people worked remotely, so the demand for take-out coffee and gasoline decreased. Instead, the consumers needed the basics – they were looking for paper products, cleaning products and groceries. Consumers’ demand for quick and efficient sourcing of products through their preferred channel has changed from a retailer’s distinguishing feature to an absolute necessity. Companies that focused on improving their operations were rewarded with increased sales. Those who didn’t are left behind. The convenience store segment helped meet basic product needs during an unstable supply chain and shopping panic. And it was appreciated for it.

The “first necessities” stores have made us used to convenient and quick shopping. Now most of us have high expectations for other types of sales channels. Therefore, now all retailers should adapt to the convenience store rules.

What changes should sellers introduce not to lose their customers?

  • Instant deliveries

While the pandemic may have changed the purchasing habits of consumers, in many ways, the c-store industry relied heavily on systems that set what set it apart from the outset. This means being able to reach the customer where he has been, either with home delivery or via easily accessible stationary locations.

The pandemic has accelerated these options, with many grocery stores offering delivery of milk, bread, eggs, alcohol and other groceries in around 30 minutes. Gen Z and Gen Alpha and Gen Beta – they never had to wait too long for anything. They’re so used to streaming music, TV, getting delivery in 15 minutes. And it won’t change. And that’s why sellers should spend a large chunk of their budget looking for ways to get deliveries as quickly as possible.

  • Location

C-stores have a history of providing local products to the communities they serve. These retailers typically have stores that are less space-saving and located in areas, thus providing grab-and-go solutions to their customers.

An optimized product mix at local level is what convenience stores have always offered, because there are usually many such stores in the same area. Convenience stores are becoming more hybrid – which means combining a traditional convenience store with often rarely available food items from different countries or other surprising goods. Upscale shops seem to follow this trajectory: They are part grocery, part restaurant, part cafe. And all because in an attractive location, you can access many goods and stand out from the competition.

  • Private labels

While the concept is not new, private labels are increasingly becoming part of the retail product strategy.

A recent report by the Food Industry Association found that 91% of retailers and food producers plan to significantly or moderately increase their private labels over the next two years. In the food industry, sales of private brands reached over 15% more than a year earlier. Private label sales are expected to continue to grow.

Own brands are how retailers can offer consumers quality at a reasonable price, can provide a competitive product offering, and give buyers an alternative to big brands.

  • Surprise

Shopping in search of treasures has always been the domain and strength of sellers at discounted prices, the so-called outlets. However, the same can be said for convenience stores.

While customers always expect gas stations to find items such as snacks, coffee and cleaning products, there is some level of discovery at gas stations, especially when it comes to food.

Both grocery stores have improved their food offerings so much that some experts believe their competition is not from other retailers, but rather from other restaurants. Grocery stores are evolving to act like restaurants – when you remove part of the store, it remains a restaurant. As with localization, the idea is to give buyers something unexpected. People love being surprised!

  • Technology

By their very nature, convenience stores have always been at the forefront when it comes to quick and easy shopping, but even these retailers had to speed up the transition to meet the needs of shoppers during the pandemic. The pandemic probably forced several years of innovation in just a few months.

Convenience stores had to adopt new practices recently, but they were constantly experimenting with technology even before the pandemic. One of the places where it is most apparent is with grab-and-go technology.

C-stores have been using the self-checkout system for a long time, and more and more are now introducing the no-checkout system.

  • Give comfort and increase sales

Why are c-stores experimenting so much with technology and extraordinary commercial solutions? It all comes down to the foundation of better, faster customer service. Our society is becoming more comfortable and that will not change. What’s more, we are observing a dynamic development of technology, which in the end must also translate into sales. We encourage you to read our article about technological novelties in stationary stores. And if you need advice in this field, please contact our specialists.

Photo: Erik Scheel / Pexels.com; Valeria Smirnova / Unsplash

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