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May 13, 2002

UK: Convenience stores market continues to grow and change

The UK grocery convenience market is now valued at £20.6bn (US$30bn), an increase of over 5% on last year’s figure.  Also, the sector outperformed the whole grocery market in terms of growth levels and continues to represent almost 20% of all grocery expenditure, according to the IGD.

The UK grocery convenience market is now valued at £20.6bn (US$30bn), an increase of over 5% on last year’s figure. 

Also, the sector outperformed the whole grocery market in terms of growth levels and continues to represent almost 20% of all grocery expenditure, according to the IGD.

Almost all segments saw an increase in store numbers, with the only exception being the independent sector although the decline has now slowed. Trading conditions have improved and numbers have been boosted by new arrivals as independent grocers and CTNs convert to the full convenience offer. Overall store numbers remained stable at 54,780. 

As convenience store operators continue to expand the range of products and services offered in their outlets, the conventional definition of convenience shopping is beginning to appear somewhat clichéd and outmoded. IGD suggests that the modern convenience market requires a broader understanding of how shoppers perceive convenience. In the future services, such as dry cleaning, food-to-go and leisure goods will be at least as important as standard groceries within the overall convenience store offer.

In addition, leading players in the market have identified the bigger-basket top up shopping occasions as the main opportunity for growth. They are attempting to move away from traditional distress and impulse needs towards becoming an established part of a customer’s shopping routine. Given these developments, IGD predicts that the convenience market could potentially grow at a rate of £1bn per annum over the next four years.

Convenience shopping trips in the future are therefore likely to be different and may be:

  • Broad based – take-home food and grocery, foodservice, non-food and services;
  • Frequent – although dedicated c-store operators will compete with other retailers;
  • Planned – as operators develop a role as destinations for top-up shopping;
  • Not so local – the best stores will draw traffic from a wider area;
  • Higher spend – reflecting consumer affluence and altered product mix in some stores;
  • Fun and involving – not just a functional and in-and-out retail outlet;
  • Branded – affluent customers require aspirational brands in terms of stores and products.

IGD CEO Joanne Denney OBE said, “Clearly, convenience is taking on a broader meaning for shoppers. The offer is developing rapidly and the most successful store operators will be those that recognise this trend, developing store formats and product ranges to reflect the aspirations and desires of consumers.”

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