The reopening of non-essential stores has provided convenience retailers in England with opportunities for increased footfall, returning food-to-go sales and longer opening hours.

This week, the government allowed non-essential shops such as clothing and electrical stores throughout England to trade again.

High streets reported customers queuing “around the block”, but convenience stores in different locations also reported positive impacts from the move.

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Neighbourhood shops

Declining food-to-go sales in some suburban stores reversed on the first day of non-essential store reopenings.

Mike Nichols, of Costcutter Dringhouses in York, told betterRetailing: “Customers were buying larger packs during lockdown, but they’re buying sandwiches and coffee again because they’re returning to work. I’m slowly adding more food to go.”

Oxfordshire retailer Joe Williams has extended his Spar’s closing time from 6.30pm to 8pm to cope with increased demand, while Hull-based Premier retailer Sam Coldbeck added: “ATM footfall has increased, and I’m seeing the morning and evening peak rushes return. It lets me do proper stock rotation and spend more time at the cash and carry in the day.”

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Rural stores

Transient rural sites, such as forecourts, reported an uplift from the return of non-essential sites, with David Charman, of Spar Parkfoot Garages in West Malling, Kent, citing increased footfall due
to high street shoppers returning to the road.

Amy Bushell, of West Dean Community Village Shop & Tearoom near Chichester, said the store
had remained “steadily busy”. She said continued public nervousness around visiting crowded
areas coupled with store adherence to strict safety standards would retain customers to rural stores even as high streets reopened.

“Making our store a safe space is really vital. We’re still seeing a lot of new faces,” she added.

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City centres

After losing core customer bases during lockdown, stores in city centres heralded the return of nonessential retail as providing a significant boost this week, with impulse products and drinks to go keeping tills ringing.

Sudesh Patel, of Coulsdon Londis in south London, said his sales were “through the roof” on the
first day of nearby stores reopening. “We need to look at introducing new things to ensure we keep our customers. We are discussing putting in a slush machine as summer approaches,” he said.

Carlisle retailer Colin Reed, who reopened his store on 15 June, added: “We’ve been selling a lot
of ice cream, slush and tobacco. We’ve had 50-metre queues for some of the stores reopening nearby.”

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