On the 22nd October the Co-op opened its latest convenience store, at the heart of the University of Stirling. This was the first Co-op franchise in Scotland and is part of the growth of the Co-op and the convenience and local store sector. At the University, we are delighted to see it appear on campus, in our refurbished Atrium, and look forward to all staff, students, visitors and the community benefitting from it.
As noted widely (and as the graphic below shows), the pandemic has seen many local, convenience and community stores gain trade, especially in the early stages of the pandemic and lockdown. Many seemed to have fewer supply problems, but also provided a vital local and community service, and expanded these services (including online and delivery). Many consumers had not previously really experienced the transformation of the sector and the high standards and quality provided. Hopefully many will continue to support local stores as things ease, recognising the benefits they offer.
The size, importance and transformation of the sector have been analysed in the recently published (by the Scottish Grocers Federation) Scottish Local Shop Report 2020 (the Scottish companion piece to the ACS Local Shop Report). This is a comprehensive analysis of the sector in Scotland (and also has some UK figures). It shows, for example that the over 5000 such stores in Scotland directly employ c47,000 people and they invested £62m in their stores last year.
Less obviously, the owners/managers are often female (39%) and/or from ethnic minorities (47%). They offer more services than many expect (bill payments, free ATM, cashback, click and collect and a post office for example). Their community involvement is impressive both in physically and commercially obvious terms (their local sponsorship and engagement) but also in the ‘community glue’ sense. Being local, their staff and customers are often active travellers (walk, cycle to store), so reducing congestion and pollution.
These are just a handful of the figures from a comprehensive and informative report on the sector in Scotland. The report is well worth a read to get a better sense of the sector than I can give in a short post. Better still, seek out your local store (including the new store at the University of Stirling if you can), if you don’t already and check it out. What it offers may surprise and hopefully please you. Such stores are an increasingly significant part of our retail mix, and one with many benefits.
Scottish Grocers Federation – The Scottish Local Shop Report 2020, can be downloaded from the SGF here.