“Humanity runs on coffee” is number 10 in Barista Life’s list of the top 117 quotes about coffee. It is also the theme for a talk I am sharing with local retailers at the NFRN conference in Torquay next month.
On a visit to Tokyo and Hong Kong earlier this year, coffee was a key driver of retail success – attracting repeat business from shoppers spoiled with choice of where to spend their money.
Japanese convenience stores have built a strong market position on the back of their ability to serve Starbucks quality coffee at a lower price and faster than in a fast food restaurant.
In Hong Kong, the c-store chains are promoting coffee front, left and centre in their compact shops. While there is more of a tea culture in this territory of China, executives are investing in establishing demand for coffee. Because they have seen the model work in Japan.
However, it is in a Financial Times article on the challenges facing cigarette manufacturers that the importance of coffee can be put into context.
Kate Burgess, writing about Imperial Brands for the Lombard column, says that after 500 years, tobacco is no longer a consumer staple.
The next generation, she writes, has already picked up its addiction of choice for the next millennium. “It is screens, not cigarettes,” argues Burgess.
Twenty-five years ago, the convenience industry fought to open up the supply of newspapers to all shops because papers drove footfall and footfall drives sales.
Today, most people catch up on their news by looking at a screen. The newspaper has become optional.
The theme continues. Today, people don’t have to leave their homes to buy a takeaway meal. They can use an app on their screen to order from a wide range of different meal options.
Run short of a consumer staple? Look it up on your phone and order it. There is no need to leave your sofa or desk.
Entire high streets are at risk of becoming irrelevant if people never need to visit them. And empty high streets mean less traffic for convenience stores too.
While everyone needs to eat and drink, how do you make your store a destination. Visit a Pret a Manger and consider the theatre of their sandwich chillers that drive great profitability. Look again at your sandwich offer – how tempting is it really?
Investing in a good coffee offer does make a difference. One NFRN member I spoke to earlier this month said that his new machine had won him two customers who bought a paper daily on top of the coffee because his coffee was better than what was available in his local competitor, where they used to shop.
If more and more people are finding it hard to make time to read a magazine or vape an e-cigarette, it may be because they are absorbed in social media on their smart phones. We can all see the trend.
What worked in retail in the past is not guaranteed to work today or tomorrow. Change is coming. And good retailers will embrace it.
And remember to not stint on the quality. As the list compilers at Barista Life note, in position number six: “If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.”