Corner shops cash in on changing buying habits

The traditional corner shop, as seen in Open All Hours, is enjoying a revival thanks largely to young shoppers
The traditional corner shop, as seen in Open All Hours, is enjoying a revival thanks largely to young shoppers

Convenience stores are cashing in on the 'top-up shopping' trend with one in 20 people visiting their local shop daily, according to new research.

The study suggests that business is booming for corner shops, epitomised in the sitcom Open All Hours.

And young adults aged 18 to 34 are leading the trend with more than half (56 per cent) saying they regularly use convenience stores, with 14 per cent of them using them for their main weekly or monthly shop.

The research, by consumer analysts Mintel, shows almost half of all adults (45 per cent) say they regularly visit convenience stores to do a 'top-up' shop, whilst around one in 14 (seven per cent) visit such outlets for their main shop.

Of those who use convenience stores, 59 per cent visit twice a week or more, with one in eight (12 per cent) shopping four to six times a week, and five per cent saying they do so daily.

Experts say the growth in the convenience sector has been driven by a shift in grocery habits by shoppers who are looking to cut down on the time spent grocery shopping.

The research indicates that it is the flexibility of convenience stores that is key for today's time-pressed shoppers as three-quarters (75 per cent) say the opening times make it easier to fit shopping into their daily schedule.

And almost half (49 per cent) say that shopping at convenience stores allows them to be more flexible with their meal choices.

Nick Carroll, retail analyst at Mintel, said: "The increasingly busy nature of modern life means that across categories consumers are looking to cut back on the time that it takes to do certain activities.

"Grocery retailing is no different, and the convenience sector is perhaps the best suited to take advantage of this. As a result, the market is flourishing."

The convenience sector grew by an estimated 1.8 per cent in 2015 to reach £38.7 billion.

Mr Carroll said that while the figure represents a slowdown of the 2.8 per cent growth seen in 2014, it remains higher than the wider grocery sector which is estimated to have seen a 0.2 per cent fall in sales last year.

The market is forecast to grow 13 per cent over the next five years to reach £43.8 billion in 2020.

Convenience stores also appear to be benefiting from growth in other grocery channels, notably online and discount shopping.

While 22 per cent say they regularly do their main shop in a discount supermarket, nearly half (46 per cent) of those say they regularly top up their shopping in convenience stores.

And while 24 per cent regularly do their main shop online, 56 per cent of this group say they regularly visit convenience stores to top-up.

Mr Carroll said: "Increased interest in both discount and online grocery shopping is benefiting the convenience store market as both of these channels require a level of top-up shopping.

"Consumers are increasingly looking for convenience in all aspects of their grocery buying experience. That is why we have seen a shift to more fluid grocery shopping habits with consumers, particularly among younger consumers, shopping on a more when-needed basis.

"Younger consumers are more likely to live in urban areas, meaning that a full shop isn't possible due to limited space."

The research indicates that people living in towns or cities are more likely to rely on convenience stores. Of consumers living in urban areas, more than half (52 per cent) regularly visit a convenience store compared to 41 per cent who live in a village or rural location.

Londoners in particular make full use of convenience stores, with almost two out of three (62 per cent) saying they regularly use convenience stores for grocery shopping. Of those, 64 per cent say they visit them at least twice a week.

Of those who regularly shop in convenience stores, 57 per cent say they buy freshly baked goods, and 55 per cent say they buy fresh food.

Of those who use convenience stores, 57 per cent have used a cash machine in the shop over the past six months, whilst almost a third (32 per cent) have used a Post Office and 21 per cent click-and-collect services.

Mr Carroll added: "We see this as a great example of how online and the high street are supporting each other. They are not in competition so much as being complementary.

"The offering of click-and-collect services is now being viewed as a necessity amongst consumers."