Chris Noice, Head of Communications and Research, ACS

Tell us a little about Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) and your role in the industry?

ACS exists primarily as a lobby group to represent members, both independent and company owned, to Government. We work on pretty much every issue that affects a local shop, from business rates and employment costs through to environmental concerns and product regulations. This lobbying work is supported by a comprehensive programme of research, led by the annual Local Shop Report, which is designed to explain to Government and other decision makers just how important the convenience sector is to the UK economy and the thousands of communities where retailers trade.

What are the biggest opportunities and trends you see for the the grocery convenience channel in 2020?

An area where convenience stores can establish a big point of difference is in environmental responsibility. Promoting ways to reduce food waste, voluntarily charging for carrier bags, and introducing a free water refill point in the store are all ways that convenience stores can show their customers that they are taking action. Another opportunity for independent retailers especially in the coming year lies in social media engagement. There really is no ceiling when it comes to what retailers can do on social media to engage with customers and suppliers, and I see this as a big potential growth area in 2020.

Food to go is a huge trend that is only going to grow. Are their any stores that have stood out to you that are doing this particularly well?

One of the stores that I saw this year that is taking a unique approach to food to go is Whitstone Stores in Cornwall. The owner, Dan Cock, has a fantastic store which includes basically a full pub and restaurant within it. One of the things that Dan does on a Sunday is a full carvery for customers, and after responding to customer feedback he’s started offering a take away Sunday roast, which has been flying out of the door. Food to go is big business for a lot of retailers, but it’s important to be creative with it and ensure that you’ve got an offer that works at all times of the day.

In your opinion, what more could suppliers be doing to support the channel?

It’s important that suppliers consider pack sizes and packaging when speaking to convenience retailers. What works in a large store doesn’t necessarily work in a store that’s less that 1000 sq ft. Another area where suppliers can support retailers more is on the promotion and understanding of new product lines. Keeping it simple for colleagues in store and clearly explaining the benefits of the new products can be crucial to their success.

Finally, finish this sentence: “I couldn’t live without my local convenience store because…"

I couldn’t live without my local convenience store I have a one year old who is extremely demanding, especially at unsociable times of day!

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