Short days, gloomy, cold and rainy, that’s generally the outlook in January. Cheery isn’t it? It seems that a lot of news on convenience retail also reflects this mood. Many independent convenience retailers feel overpowered by the larger superstores such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco who are having an increased influence in the convenience retail sector. Some independents have benefitted from government assistance such as reduced business rates. Many are also family run which means that their staff costs are low because the family is there to help. However, independent retail stores are still feeling the pressure.
But surely things aren’t that bad? As James Lowman (Chief Executive of the Association of Convenience Stores) explained on Radio 4’s You and Yours, increasing numbers of consumers are shopping little and often and the change in shopper demographic (more single person households and an ageing population) is reinforcing the convenience shopping trend. So is 2013 really going to be that bleak for convenience retail? Is there not another way?
More independent retailers are becoming part of symbol groups. IGD (2009) highlight that there are many added benefits to a convenience retailer in joining a symbol group. Firstly, the convenience retailer will become part of a brand which consumers will easily recognise. Secondly, there will be improved buying terms, options to sell own branded products and improved access to technology such as POS systems. Symbol group retailers will also have access to other IT products including cloud accounting.
As IGD explain, symbol group stores are currently generating £13.6bn in sales, three times the level they delivered ten years ago, and they predict that symbol group stores will account for half of all convenience sales by 2020.
James Lowman feels that there’s a lot of opportunity out there. Whilst he doesn’t deny that there is tough competition with the bigger retailers. It seems that symbol groups help to improve trade for independent retailers and so maybe 2013 will not be so bleak after all. You can listen to the full interview here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01pglkx
Would you agree with the assessment? Are you part of a symbol group? How has this relationship improved footfall in your convenience store? Please comment below.