Sarah Freeman, Head of HH Retail Finance, comments on trends in the convenience store sector over the past 12 months
Retailers across the UK invested a record £210m in store improvements between July and September 2016 alone, according to the Association of Convenience Store’s investment tracker.
As experts in supporting retailers of all sizes to finance these new assets and shop fittings, HH Retail Finance has worked with more than 2500 convenience store owners in the last year.
During this time we have seen many retailers squeezed by competition from online retail, discount stores and larger supermarket chains as they increase their ‘local’ presence.
However, we have also seen that more new independent C-stores appear to be opening than those belonging to multiple groups.
Across the sector, savvy store operators have been investing in store improvements, more efficient technology and state of the art equipment to drive footfall and encourage brand loyalty.
The growing demand for fresh produce has encouraged many retailers to improve their stores layout and accessibility. Wider aisles, lighting, shelving and signage are increasingly contributing to the customer experience and the perception of smaller operators.
Equipment upgrades that allow retailers to mimic cafe-style establishments are proving popular too. Convenience stores complete with coffee bars, hot and fresh food dispensers and deli counters, all appeal to the time-poor consumer and slow the shopping experience down, supporting the sale of a wider range of goods.
Many independent stores are also becoming more efficient than big retailers at the checkout stage. Whilst self-service tills are still generally the preserve of big retailers, smaller franchises are increasing adapting points of sale counters with contactless card payments and developing apps with store information and offers.
An attractive, well run convenience store can also seek to ‘lock in’ shoppers by offering loyalty schemes that you might once have only found in the larger supermarket chains. Competitions and promotions across online channels are engaging millennial shoppers, ensuring that offerings and price points remain relevant to the growing younger audience.
Ultimately, every individual store needs to understand the demands of its target market. Providing an attractive, well organised environment to shop whilst understanding local demographics and cultural food preferences can often make all the difference.
Certainly, leading retailers are focusing on sustainable growth and strategic investments to stay ahead of the competition. If you are looking for ways to improve your store and grow revenue whilst protecting cash flow, asset finance could prove a prudent solution.
Our experienced team have an in depth understanding of improvement opportunities for businesses in the c-store sector, so please feel free to talk to us about how we may be able help you.