Customers returning to the corner shop

'Top-up shopping' becomes the norm

Updated: 
Richard still uses his local convenience store to save time, but in recent years he acquired the habit of checking price tag twi
British shoppers are increasingly turning to convenience stores for more than just the odd pint of milk.

New research from consultancy Him! has found that we are buying an average of three products per trip, up from just 2.8 last year. One fifth of convenience store shoppers said they'd bought five or more items on their last visit, with an average spend of £6.52, compared to just £6.05 in 2014.

"This is great news for convenience, as it shows shoppers are trusting them as a destination for bigger shops and for a broader selection of missions and categories," Katie Littler, communications director of Him!, tells the Grocer.

According to Him!, four in ten convenience store shoppers are topping-up between their main shopping trips as they try to save money by targeting their spending.

While convenience stores have higher prices than large supermarkets, this strategy means less wastage and fewer impulse buys, meaning that many customers find it cheaper overall.

Many people are now visiting discount stores such as Aldi or Lidl for occasional big shops, with the rest of their shopping done locally on an as-needed basis. Indeed, according to Him!, 30% of UK adults no longer do a main shop at all, instead shopping at several different retailers each week.

"UK adults use four different grocery retailers, on average, per month and this number is increasing," says the firm. "Not only are we continuing to see shoppers do smaller, more frequent shops, but those smaller shops are now being spread thinner across a wider number of retailers."

This is a trend spotted by Sainsbury's, which says its smaller convenience stores, Sainsbury's Local, have seen a big surge in takings over the last couple of years. As a result, the company's planning to double the number of convenience stores to 1,500.

M&S Simply Food, Waitrose, Asda, Aldi and Lidl all have similar plans to increase their number of smaller outlets.

However, according to the CBRE, supermarkets may be eating into their own sales by opening convenience stores. It points out that since town-centre-first' planning guidance was introduced in 1996, the convenience store outlets of the big four supermarkets have trebled in number.

But, it warns, "The spread of convenience store openings, in tandem with both online grocery sales growth and aggressive expansion activity of Aldi and Lidl, has progressively changed consumer shopping behaviour, encouraging repetitive top-up shopping that cannibalises some main grocery sales and weekly one stop shops at superstores."

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