New research from the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) shows the crucial role the convenience sector played during the peak of the COVID-19 crisis.
The research, compiled by Convenience Measures Australia (CMA) for AACS, shows consumers are increasingly looking to C-stores as safer, more hygienic and quieter places to shop, compared with major retailers. The greater stock availability during the peak of panic-buying in March and longer trading hours of C-stores was also a drawcard for many consumers.
The petrol and convenience sector was voted the most trusted retail sector to shop in during the lockdown measures with 51% of those surveyed saying they felt ‘totally comfortable’ in C-stores, compared to 43% of shoppers in larger supermarkets. Of those who did not feel comfortable shopping in stores, 21% said they were not comfortable in a large supermarket compared to 11% of those who shopped in convenience stores.
Importantly, the industry seems to be retaining many of the customers gained through this period. Figures from CMA’s research show shoppers were buying more snacks, milk, bread and coffee in May than in March.
AACS CEO Jeff Rogut said the industry’s investment in thorough and regular cleaning hygiene regimes helped customers feel more confident in shopping in C-stores.
“New AACS research on the way people shop during the pandemic, and how this has changed over the course of the past two months, vindicates the investment leading operators have made to ensure the environment they present is safe, clean and comfortable,” Mr Rogut said.
“Our research clearly shows that shoppers feel more comfortable in convenience stores and other small format stores than they do in supermarkets and large format stores, with safety being a key reason for this. In other areas, the ways that convenience operators have adapted will likely prove more temporary.”
Mr Rogut added that the challenge for businesses now was how to continue to retain the customers, adding that while some consumers may return to their pre-COVID-19 shopping habits, tores have an opportunity to capitalise on being able to offer a more convenient shopping experience.
“For consumers who regularly visit convenience stores for top-up grocery items, demand for those items has remained steady during the pandemic. Convenience shoppers have bought more snacks, milk, bread, coffee and cleaning supplies, with sales to these customers increasing since March. Hot coffee has continued its amazing growth in convenience stores.”
The full research is available to AACS members on their website.