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C-stores: How to convert top-up shoppers into loyal customers

Published:  21 June, 2016

Convenience retailing is on the rise, with consumers looking to buy 'top-up' or 'meal for tonight' rapidly replacing the weekly shop.

Convenience retailing is on the rise, with consumers looking to buy 'top-up' or 'meal for tonight' rapidly replacing the weekly shop.

As shopping habits change, there is opportunity for the c-stores which are best able to serve the new needs of customers to considerably drive growth.

For Simon Cairns, category manager for beer, wines and spirits at the Co-operative, the challenge is how to convert those shoppers into repeat business, particularly in smaller-format stores, and often it comes down to making sure the products on offer are available and relevant.

He said: "The issue I have is that convenience stores don't have any capacity to hold stock and I need to keep diversity and interest in the range. That means I need to try to reshape the supply chain to make it more agile and more fit for purpose."

"Having the right selection of products in the right store will be part of the further evolution of our offer. When you only have a limited range you have to be smarter to make sure you have the most relevant range at the right time," says Cairns.

Cairns is relying heavily on data to inform his decisions about the wines that should go into the different stores.

"There are a lot of shopper and supplier insights that have gone into informing us. There are distinctively different shopping needs in a city centre store versus a rural supermarket."

Neil Turton, trading director for the My Local chain, which comprises the 140 stores purchased by the group's chief executive Mike Greene from Morrisons in September 2015, agrees that different stores may have different needs.

"The average c-store will stock around 4,000 lines. We don't have the same lines in all stores, though around 75%-80% are similar. We categorise our stores into broadly three types: city centre where people shop and work; the neighbourhood store where people live and a transient store which is mixture of both," he says.

Being flexible is crucial.

For Turton it means the store displays need to stock products that are more relevant in specific places at specific times of the year.

"We have a big opportunity to tailor displays around events - our Champagne and sparkling wine sales in places like York and Cheltenham are really high when the races are on. It's just about tailoring displays and showing the customer available and chilled product.

"It sounds simple but it's amazing that many retailers still don't do the simple things like this which drive incremental sales," says Turton.

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