What you need to know

The COVID-19 outbreak has placed a strain on the UK’s convenience store sector and reinforced its essential nature at the heart of communities. From a sales perspective the shift towards in-home food and drink has driven significant additional demand through the channel, with Mintel forecasting almost 8% growth in 2020 to take the market to £47.5 billion.

Whilst the sector is benefiting from the larger basket sizes which greater in-home demand brings, this comes at the expense of lower on-the-go food demand. This is a key aspect of trade within convenience retailing, with 44% of consumers using c-stores for on-the-go food and drink, but with the lockdown restricting consumer movement and widespread working-at-home practices, this demand has naturally been depressed.

Moving forward c-stores remain in a good position within the convenience sector, and primed to capitalise on key COVID-19-accelerated trends. More localised purchasing will benefit much of the sector, due to their location, whilst heightened awareness around supporting local stores should benefit the independent and small chain side of the sector.

Even prior to the outbreak 88% of c-store shoppers thought convenience stores provide essential services to the community and this will only be heightened by the outbreak. This can be further capitalised on by investing in more locally supported products and by promoting and launching schemes designed to give back to the local community.

Report issues covered in this Report

  • The impact of COVID-19 on consumer behaviour and the convenience store sector.

  • The types of shopping missions c-stores are used for, and how this could change in the face of COVID-19.

  • The use of and attitudes towards different retailers operating within the convenience store sector.

  • Attitudes towards the position of convenience stores within the grocery sector and the community.

Products covered in this Report

This Report combines both market and consumer data along with key retailer metrics to give an overview of the UK convenience market.

Broadly speaking a convenience store (c-store) is a small-store grocery-focused retail format which is in effect complementary to grocery formats more geared towards large weekly shops, such as supermarkets and online channels. Conventionally, it offers a convenience service for people needing to undertake top-up shopping or make distress purchases. With the entrance of major grocers into the sector in recent years, with higher standards of fresh and chilled foods and trusted own-brands, the sector has become increasingly prominent in consumers’ last-minute meal shopping.

In practice, c-stores should:

  • Be open seven days a week and have extended hours of opening

  • Sell a range of groceries beyond simply CTN categories

  • Usually trade from a unit of less than 3,000 sq ft (280 sq m). Stores above this size cannot trade all day on a Sunday. Due to its larger size, Tesco Metro falls outside this Report; however, Tesco Express is included. Although some M&S Simply Food stores are larger than 3,000 sq ft, the retailer is predominantly a top-up shopping destination and is therefore included as a c-store operator.

The scale and offer of a convenience store are dictated by its location and the amount of business it can attract. At one end of the spectrum, a c-store can come close to fulfilling the primary shopping needs for a particular location. This is particularly true of the c-stores of the major grocers such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s, but also of symbol groups such as Spar and Nisa.

At the other end, smaller stores serving more limited catchments can be more akin to a super-CTN. One Stop, Mace and Best-one are examples of these smaller c-stores.

The following are excluded:

  • All food specialists, from bakers and greengrocers to off-licences and tobacconists.

  • Hard discounters and Iceland.

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