Surveys by the trade body show that the public ranked convenience stores as having the second most positive impact on the local area, behind post offices in first place and coffee shops in third. This represents little change from the previous 2017 ACS survey on the same topic, except that coffee shops have overtaken specialist food stores this year.

While the perceived positive impact of specialist food stores has diminished, they are more in demand than ever. They were the ‘most wanted’ services according to consumers, behind banks (2nd), non-food shops (3rd) and post offices (4th). Convenience stores were ranked 7th, which the ACS claimed is due to the public being “happy with the number of convenience stores in their local area”.

Despite councillors placing convenience stores lower in the rankings of most wanted services, 32% said they wanted more in their area, compared to just 3% who said they wanted fewer.

MPs had a less positive view of convenience stores than councillors and the public. While both of the latter groups placed convenience stores in their top three in importance for reducing loneliness and having a positive local impact, MPs believed that convenience stores did not deserve a spot in the top three in either category. The ACS claimed that Labour MPs “feel much more strongly about convenience stores as an essential service than those in other parties.”

ACS chief executive James Lowman said convenience stores were adding new services or categories, such as post offices, pharmacies and food specialisms, to meet local demand, but warned that business rates were putting shop owners off investing. “Retailers are faced with the prospect of higher business rates whenever they improve their stores, which can have a significant impact,” he said. “Business rates need to incentivise investment, otherwise communities could face losing essential local services altogether.”

While councillors and the public may have a similarly high opinion of convenience stores, when it comes to local shop issues such as parking, crime and business rates, their views differ significantly, according to the ACS 2017 Community Barometer.