I have been a contributor to RN, Better Retailing and Newtrade for 25 years, and for the past five I have been invited to join the judging panel for the Independent Achievers Academy (IAA). This year, the details of the 41 stores provided to the judges included the benchmark assessments, store size, turnover and staffing levels.
The store photographs, along with images retailers post on social media and Google Maps, give us an insight into the remarkable diversity convenience stores offer their communities across the UK. The IAA 2021 Category Stars range from the rustic charm of Aberdyfi Village Shop, to Premier Morley with its cocktail bar. The breadth of the convenience retail channel is enormous.
One of the positive effects the coronavirus pandemic has had on our industry is allowing retailers to invest the extra turnover in refits.
I know of two stores in the same city with similar customer catchment areas that have refitted this year, with striking differences. One has made a feature of their chilled alcohol offer and the other has significantly increased their chilled food range.
National Food Strategy
Which store formula will prove to be the most successful in the long term may depend on the government and the National Food Strategy. Item one in chapter 16 is titled ‘Escape the Junk Food Cycle and protect the NHS’. It recommends a sugar and salt tax, mandatory reporting for large food companies and an ‘Eat and Learn’ initiative for schools.
The last big public health improvement programme the UK government introduced was to tackle tobacco. The Smoking Kills white paper was published in December 1998, and after a great deal of protest, the government of the day proceeded with its policy. The result of its implementation has seen a dramatic decrease in the number of smokers over the past two decades.
The pandemic also revealed that the health of the UK population was unprepared for the degree of illness the Covid-19 virus inflicted. Around two thirds of the nation are either overweight or obese, according to official NHS figures.
Ask yourself about the health of your customers. Is your business part of their health challenge? If it is, you may find that as the government’s health and food policies start to be delivered and public perceptions change, your business model will have to change as well.
Certainly food for thought!