The Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) held its Down Under Study Tour in Sydney last week, following a two year absence due to Covid.

There were 53 registered attendees across retail and supplier members who were all eager to network and learn about innovation in convenience retail, from format development to foodservice, technology, loyalty, and operational excellence.

Theo Foukkare, CEO, AACS, said the stores on the tour were carefully selected to showcase leading retail offers in the channel, as well as the latest in small format grocery from the major retailers moving into the convenience space.

“What was clear throughout the store visits was that convenience retail is alive and thriving with innovation, delivered in different formats to suit the geographic location of the stores – the one size fits all approach is a thing of the past and to win in an ever changing environment retailers are continuing to adapt their offers to suit the local community they serve.”

Foodservice and coffee continue to be a major focus for all retailers, with significant focus in the take home food space. Food preparation on site was also a key takeaway to deliver freshness to customers, which is also opening opportunities for online home delivery of food.

The quality and assortment of fresh sandwiches has also come a long way, along with hot food and the hotbox – giving the tradie customer what they want.

Foukkare continued: “Some of the learnings around coffee were that offering both a barista and good quality push button offer will grow overall coffee sales, as the consumer is different, and you can cater to a wider audience.

“Store format and the retail theatre / aesthetics also featured heavily, with significant investment in the look and feel of the store across the board – customers are seeking a comfortable shopping experience that doesn’t feel like a traditional service station, and we saw this in almost all the stores we visited.

“Partnerships was a key theme that was evident either through the introduction of concession stores to act as specialty operators to deliver high quality and consistent product offerings or through alignment with traditional supermarket players to try and drive new customers into the store for their mid-week top up shop or in some cases the total weekly shop.

“The other partnership theme was linking with QSR brands as a key driver of traffic to the store both from an onsite consumption and home delivery.

“Overall, the study tour was extremely well received and there were learnings that everyone could take away relevant to their retail store or product category that they specialise in.”

Check out the highlights from day one here.

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