Convenience stores have become the backbone of our communities
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, many UK businesses have widely reported financial struggles, as a result of decreased revenue due to having to close their operations. However, one specific market has benefitted from unprecedented growth. The market in question is the grocery sector, encompassing convenience stores, corner shops and big-label supermarkets.
Corner shops, convenience stores and independent grocery stores reported a 63% surge in trade during the peak of coronavirus, as shoppers began to turn to local outlets to avoid crowded and understocked supermarkets.
In fact, sales at independently owned grocery stores, many of which trade under recognised brand names such as Spar, Shell and Londis, soared by more than double the pace of the fastest-growing grocery chain, the Co-op, in the three months to 17th May, according to a report from analysts Kantar.
Further grocery sector figures suggest a marked change in consumer behaviour by shoppers throughout the high street lockdown, with small, local independent shops benefitting alongside their online counterparts. Many shoppers resorted to their local independent stores, for their essentials, as the vast majority of supermarkets struggled to keep pace with demand, and many grew tired of overcrowded shopping environments.
Convenience shops have been in a unique position to adapt and take advantage of this surge in demand, in which so many larger supermarkets struggled with. The planning and agility of smaller independent stores has paid them dividends. With tighter supply chains, smaller independent stores were more reactive to changes in demand, with the ability to restock shelves quickly with the products consumers want.
Steve Leach, Sales Director for Nisa who own or supply a number of convenience stores, when asked about their efforts to maintain service to customers said:
“Independent retailers have a real advantage over the corporate supermarket groups because they can react very quickly and are often very innovative in their response. We have seen lots of ideas from Nisa partners over the past [months] with retailers offering free delivery services or accepting orders over the phone for their most vulnerable regulars.”
“This helps build brilliant relationships with their customers which is more important than ever in the current climate.”
It is this unwavering culture of imagination, innovation and creative destruction, coupled with their fluidity, which most profoundly distinguishes the independent retailers from their larger counterparts.
Ensure your business model is tech-enabled and future proof
One thing is for sure, the crisis has accelerated many societal trends that were already underway, namely: remote working, online shopping, tech-enabled retail, and localised supply chains. Even as food retailers address today’s short term challenges, time should be invested to rethink their business model to become more efficient, and therefore, less exposed to external shocks:
Stores. Can you make your store model cashless or virtually cashless? Can you replace the cashier-based model with a seamless no-checkout model? Are you automating stock replenishment? These are all areas that a smart EPOS system can assist your business in.
Supply chain. Have you adopted machine learning in forecasting to predict demand/supply addomalities fast and adjust immediately?
E-commerce. Are you able to increase (or begin) investment in a seamless online-to-offline experience that proactively supports your physical shopping experience?
Merchandising. Have you diversified sourcing sufficiently to de-risk future shocks? Are there reasons for you to pursue further vertical integration or more strategic partnerships? In view of the latest consumer trends, have you forged the right balance of local and international suppliers and partnerships?
The Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted like never before, the dependency of many on the small, independent corner shop and convenience store - many have become the backbone of their respective communities.
The actions highlighted above can help you and other leaders in your organisation navigate this current crisis, as well as build and strengthen your business for the longer term.