Beyond providing customers with products and services, convenience retailers should look to be pillars of their community.
This can start with simply having better customer service and products than local competition and drawing shoppers to your door, but there are other ways of standing out. “We advertise local organisations’ events for them on Facebook so it gives them more presence,” says Gary Batten, who runs two Nisa stores near St Austell in Cornwall.
“We have noticeboards in the stores for local events. When the pantomime is on, we have tickets at the shop for people to buy from us.”
Batten also stresses the importance of advertising in local media. “It will only encourage a few people who don’t already shop with us, but it’s about reminding people of our presence. It doesn’t generate extra income as such, but it keeps your name in their minds,” he says.
How to adapt to changing customer behaviour
Retailers should also think about the local institutions they can work with directly, such as charity organisations and schools used by their own shoppers. “We work with quite a few charities in the local area,” says Enya McAteer, of Mulkerns Spar Jonesborough in County Armagh. “They’re all within about 10 miles of us. We sponsor leaving jumpers for kids about to leave primary schools, and there’s also a local Irish-speaking nursery who we raise money for because they’re self-funded.”
While charity collection boxes are a common sight at retailers’ tills across the UK, decreased cash use means retailers are turning to specific events to drive shopper engagement with local causes, such as an upcoming raffle stand for a local hospice at McAteer’s store.
They can also tie these in with seasonal occasions such as Christmas and the recent Platinum Jubilee.