Like consumers, we are passionate about authentic, trusted brands. We are able to create these brands for our clients and grow their sales as a result by at least 15%. We are also passionate about integrity, so deliver these results whilst being affordable and fleet of foot.
That’s why Central and Local Government choose us to engage with hard-to-reach local business to deliver healthy eating and town centre revitalisation policies.
We also have one or two things to say - read more below and let us know your thoughts!
After 30 years of working in the convenience retail sector, it always amazes me how the basic principles of how to sell your proposition stays the same, despite unbelievable changes and are best understood by those people who started their careers at the bottom before rising to the top. I am proud to know many former account managers, team members, store managers and buying assistants who have all risen to the top by starting at the bottom. They all share a love of retail that never leaves them but also share common sense, empathy and humility. They come together as a team, which inspires them to work incredibly hard to get close to the customer. To have the right product in the right place at the right time is the fundamental principle of retail and the more you understand your customers, the better you will be able to surprise and delight them.
Until recently, all of our collective attention was on the number of sku’s that could fit in a 8,000 sq. ft. store that we could see and touch. How could we tempt customers to buy seasonal products, try new products on promotion, introduce new, own label ranges and encourage small suppliers to trade with us? Now we are concerned with meeting these same needs of consumers in store foot prints of under 3,000 sq. ft., requiring us to become experts in space management, operational efficiency and day-part merchandising. Today, technology has transformed the UK retail sector and is central to the efficient running of any business but, more importantly, we are having to get used to the idea that customers will interact with us from their phones and their tablets and not always in our shops. It’s more important than ever to communicate a clear and simple message so that consumers know what you can offer them and what need you are able to meet.
This leads me to the fundamental principle of retail - to have a passion for understanding your customer so that you can anticipate their needs and provide a solution before they even know themselves what they are looking for. It is more important than ever to understand what the unique selling points of your business are and how you can use technology to communicate them. But one thing remains core to your success: you have to be genuine at every level when you communicate with your customers - summed up in a LATTE: Local, Authentic, Traceable, Transparent and Ethical according to Liz Claydon, UK Head of consumer markets at KPMG.
Why should you invest in having a clear local identity? Because it has added 20% to store sales for those clients who have invested in a strategic local marketing plan and who deliver products and services aligned to that local brand. Ultimately, it provides a robust defence plan against local competition.
The UK convenience retail industry is adapting rapidly as it rushes to keep up with the constant changing needs of the UK consumer. UK consumers are flocking to those smaller shops, ideally located in their neighbourhoods, in the hope of finding instant solutions to a multitude of complex needs that change so quickly, sometimes hourly. Consumers respond to those retailers who can over-deliver when meeting their complex needs because they have specialised in a category and deliver fantastic personal service.
1. Consumers are being assailed by health messages, whether through media, celebrities, or government and are eager to react to this new information. But it all needs to fit into complex and very individual plans. Consumers are looking for instant ideas for meal planning - whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner (although even these terms seem outdated as many consumers simply refuel rather than create a sense of occasion). They want to use nutritious ingredients that can be made into meals worthy of a dinner party in under 30 minutes.
2. Consumers are looking to smaller shops to help them when tiny changes unexpectedly throw their elaborate daily plans off track: the friend who stays for supper, teabags forgotten off the shopping list, the milk that's run out too early as kids surprisingly choose cereal rather than toast for breakfast etc. But consumers are used to getting what they want when they want it and are not willing to compromise on quality, price or taste just because they happened to have had a change of plan. So consumers are looking for the best brands, the best quality own label and a comparable price to their large store or online shop…but within a 5-10 minute walk of home. If their local, small shop can meet these demands, then they are likely to return again as a loyal shopper, having had the benefit of walking there and back in under 5 mins.
3. Consumers are desperate not to lose their sense of connections as they navigate (at great speed) through their daily lives. They want to build a sense of community, whether with friends, family, neighbours, schools, exercise etc. This search for community has been behind the growth of the coffee culture, cafes and coffee shops, offering a place to dwell and take stock. Equally, consumers are also responding to those brands who demonstrate a genuine desire to connect with the communities upon whom they depend.
4. Consumers are bombarded with choice online which has led to the rise of the specialist, niche brands that have genuine heart and soul and stand out from the raft of major brands. Major brands have responded by using social media to become ‘individual’.
5. Whatever you do, you have to do it well, with an easily-communicated proposition that is instantly recognisable and memorable - whether it’s a store where everything is 99p, award-winning Malbeck wine at only 6.99 from a discounter, fresh produce that is picked and delivered to store within 24 hours or the best range of American sweets in the area.
6. Consumers are being given the chance to be individual, to personalise every aspect of their lives and they want products that have resonance with them. A further re-enforcement of their need for connection is the growth of local foods. However, these products have to deliver superior taste at an acceptable retail price in order to be considered as a genuine choice for consumers.
Where does the UK convenience sector begin to meet these consumer needs? Is it risking being too narrow in its offer and consequently in the number of solutions that it can provide to consumers? More importantly, the sector will be exposed to major multiple small format competition. Major multiples are world class at listening to their customers, who, for some time, have been asking for compact, fresh food stores that provide meal solutions right in the heart of their daily lives, whether at work or home. It is therefore no surprise that major multiples have entered the traditional convenience sector and transformed the expectations of customers with their small format stores.
Any new independent entering the market, or those already here, have to see this as a minimum entry for doing business, knowing that their offer can compete with a small store UK major multiple format.
1. Retailers are moving away from relying on tobacco to define their business. Suppliers have done a great job in educating retailers but it is no longer the defining category for consumers, as the number of smokers decreases and the government wages war by bringing in plain packaging. Retailers now need a different level of support and engagement and suppliers will need to work on engaging retailers through events and networks to encourage loyalty.
2. Retailers have to become storytellers. In our digital age, it is now possible to engage with social media to create individual personalities for businesses, which consumers can relate to and engage with. Retailers understand that social media is important but they have not seen enough case studies to know why and how they should use it. This will be a major focus for 2016.
3. Suppliers need to work in partnership with this fragmented audience of independent retailers and need help and guidance in understanding the real USP of independence. This means a focus on field sales teams who genuinely understand the local opportunities and understand the real USP of independence - not necessarily seeing it as a negative of non-compliance and lack of discipline but rather flair, energy and ambition. Retailers need expert category management advice either through their symbol group or direct. They would respond better if the advice was tailored to their challenges of limited space and if supplies were able to come together as the consumer requires them. For example:
4. More than ever, retailers have to find their own USP. They can only do this by having an in-depth understanding of their customers lives, what interests them, what they like and dislike.
This extends far wider than just the offer they should stock in store. It should be an innate understanding of their role within the community, the environment, as an employer, teacher, public servant and champion of small suppliers to boost the local economy. Retailing is not just about keeping stock on shelves.
5. As consumers demand more from their local convenience store, retailers need more support from their suppliers to enable them to meet these new customer demands. 6 day a week fresh deliveries will no longer be desired but essential. Ordering lead times will need to compete with the likes of Amazon Fresh. Most importantly, suppliers will have to offer a level playing field on price and stop differentiating between multiple grocers and the convenience sector to allow independent retailers to sell at the same retail price.
Food service, wholesalers and cash-and-carry channels are all merging as the end consumer does not differentiate where they buy their coffee, sandwiches, or hot food. Retailers are just as likely to go to the cash-and-carry when they run out of stock in the same way that consumers would visit the local convenience store.
6. Retailers have to understand the needs of their consumers before they know it themselves. Take seasonal events, which represent an untapped opportunity for convenience stores. Halloween is now the second biggest event behind Christmas. Convenience stores already understand the role they play at Christmas – namely, providing last minute decorations, small presents, ingredients and fresh food items that have been forgotten – or eaten ahead of time! Convenience retailers now need to understand the role they should play at Halloween. Specialist party shops are tapping into the huge spend for this event by 8-25 year olds; Poundland and 99p Stores are leading the way in providing cheap but relevant solutions – fake blood, sweet bowls, hair dye etc. – and convenience stores should now become experts in selling relevant non-food products that are small, under £10 and unique. They need to become the one-stop solution for on-the-night requirements such as vampire teeth and trick-or-treat sweets and should be constantly alert to any fashionable trend that is driving teenagers at this time of year.