The rise and rise of the convenience store

I’ve been in Hawaii the past two weeks racing outrigger canoes with my club, so I missed a couple of blogs. In Hawaii I came across a chain, more a blanket, of small convenience stores.

ABC is a fantastically buzzy and useful chain with stores on almost every corner and attached to many hotels. In fact, when we asked, we were told ABC stands for “All Blocks Covered”, meaning there is a store on every corner of a city block. Well, in Honolulu there certainly is.

ABC didn’t have everything I wanted, I caught a cab or jumped on a trolley bus to a mall for those items, but the stores had everything I needed. From 6am until 11pm every day.

I have written many times about convenience stores. My colleague and managing director of CROSSMARK Australia, Polly Yule, has also written in retail publications about the rise in number, size and relevance of new convenience stores around the world. The surprise is that sometimes their growth appears to be a dichotomy: growing a store format that has very few items sold at high prices, while grocery store growth is coming from lower prices on tens of thousands of items by a few cents.

But convenience stores don’t provide shoppers with price value, they provide time value. Convenience stores don’t satiate shoppers’ wants, they provide shoppers’ needs. And they are growing at a rapid rate.

I was working with a global big box grocery retailer in China last year and a key strategic platform was the roll out of small footprint, convenient mini-grocery stores. Regular shoppers from apartment blocks within a 500 metre radius had taken them up as their regular place to shop for their “needs”.

In Mexico, the OXO chain is opening three new small footprint convenience stores a day. I will just restate that so you don’t think it’s a typo: Three new stores a day; one new store every eight hours.

Mexico’s socio-geographic make-up is at exactly the other end of the continuum as Australia. We have a very few large cities where most of our population lives. Mexico has over 150,000 small towns and villages serviced by these small footprint stores.

I wrote last year that one day our west coast mining boom would cool and that by then Australia needed a vibrant and growing retail industry on the west and east coast to ensure full employment. The West and Queensland’s mining industries are cooling.

Convenience stores, whether privately owned, franchised or managed by a corporation, is a growth sector that provides flexible jobs close to people’s homes. They also allow us to save time in our busy lives.

Now all we need is for every state in Australia to allow alcohol to be sold via convenience stores and then we’ll have all our wants and needs covered by the store on the corner.

As CROSSMARK CEO, Kevin Moore looks at the world of retailing from grocery to pharmacy, bottle shops to car dealers, corner store to department stores. In this insightful blog, Kevin covers retail news, ideas, companies and emerging opportunities in Australia and across the world. His international career in sales and marketing has seen him responsible for businesses in over 40 countries, which has earned him grey hair and a wealth of expertise in international retailers and brands.

CROSSMARK Asia Pacific is Australasia’s largest provider of retail marketing services, consulting to and servicing some of Australasia’s biggest retailers and manufacturers.

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