Convenience and Community

In the disaster zone that was the Tesco half year results finally released the other week, there were two figures that confirmed again the changing structure of British grocery retailing. And for a change neither of them were really to do with discounters – well, not directly.

Whilst Tesco figures for overall sales and for large stores were very negative, online sales continued to grow and the small store/convenience store component of their estate was, albeit narrowly, positive. Internet and convenience – two sides of a similar context change, namely the decline of the large store and changing grocery shopping patterns.

Neither of these should be much of a surprise, either for Tesco or more generally, as they have been clear winners in the sector for a few years now. Recently the Association of Convenience Stores published its third Local Shop Report (for 2014), reflecting both its growing significance and confidence and the scale and impact of the sector.

The full report is worth a read and is available here, but some of the figures for Scotland and some of the general points bear attention (and were mentioned in the recent debate on convenience stores in the Scottish Parliament, where the Scottish Grocers Federation took centre stage).

So, some headline Scottish figures:

  • There are 5,545 convenience stores in Scotland
  •  42,255 jobs exist in Scottish convenience stores
  • One convenience store exists for every 958 people (1:1274 in England)
  •  44% of convenience store owners in Scotland are Asian or Asian British (51% GB)

The themes that come over are those of scale of the sector and the local community impact. Convenience stores in Scotland are a large and important component of the retail offering.

More generally, the data in the report demonstrates the increasing sophistication and service orientation of the convenience sector, though some of this exacerbates the difference between the multiple owned convenience stores and the non-affiliated independents. Fresh food, food to go and a variety of services (including parcel services) are replacing the previous emphasis on tobacco and alcohol alone.

Perhaps the most surprising figures for me in the report concern the distance travelled and mode of transport to store. Some 81% of customers travel less than a mile to the store (indeed 54% less than ¼ mile). But, 39% of customers drive to the store. This suggests (one hopes) a dichotomous pattern of local walking and passing trade. It would be interesting to probe these patterns more closely in terms of types and locations of stores and investigate patterns of travel and multi-use aspects. What it does show is that local and convenience mean different things to different people.

There are some great local and convenience stores out there, in all shapes and sizes, as the recent Scottish Grocers Federation Excellence Awards show, and the sector continues to play an increasingly important part of our grocery retail landscape, as this report confirms again.

About Leigh Sparks

I am Professor of Retail Studies at the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, where I research and teach aspects of retailing and retail supply chains, alongside various colleagues.
This entry was posted in Alcohol, Association of Convenience Stores, Community Grocer, Convenience stores, Local Retailers, Scotland's Town and High Streets, Scottish Grocers Federation, Small Shops and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Convenience and Community

  1. Pingback: Musselburgh, the Scottish Grocers Federation and the Scottish Local Shop Report 2015 | Stirlingretail

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