Darren Park

Opinion: Shopper complacency is not an option

The industry must work together to capitalise on the many opportunities available to the P&C channel, writes Darren Park.

We live in the most competitive and challenging regions in the world. And it’s not just competition between P&C banners and other channels that keep us on our toes. Like many industries we are collectively managing through cost-of-living challenges, illicit tobacco issues, CDL Changes, plastic bag bans, product inflation, staff challenges (both retaining and attracting) and the list goes on.

I offer my admiration and support, it’s not easy, yet our channel continues to show growth, with much of that growth coming from the growing contribution of the independent segment.

Retailers across many industries are seeing a reduction in foot traffic to their stores. Convenience operators also report differing traffic trends, with the bright side being reports of more items being purchased per visit and the resultant higher shopper basket values. This offers us enormous opportunity – and big exposures if we fail to seize it.

Over the month of September, I’ve sat with several retailers to review shopper research findings and similar to what happens when we focus on a topic long enough, questions start to flow. Before I talk about some of these questions and what we might be able to do to answer them, the first approach is to understand and describe what we see in a clear way.

Here’s my first effort, “in a time of great competition and change, shopper complacency is not an option”. So, what does this phrase really mean? For me right now, it means questions like:

  • Do we as an industry truly understand what value means to shoppers?
  • Why do we have shoppers that only purchase fuel and no shop? What is happening in their day?
  • Why are shoppers with fuel in their basket, less happy with their shopping experience with us?
  • Are manufacturers spending enough effort in their brand building, on emphasising “On the Go” and not just “Fill the Pantry at Home”.

You probably have many more questions like this and if you do, send them to me on email. I’d love to know what industry changing questions you might have.

Ultimately, where does all this inward-looking lead to? It leads to looking outwards – later in 2023, I will bring together a diverse group of thought leaders and retailers from not only convenience, but I’ll also look to include participants from grocery, QSR, airlines, research houses, and insights people from our major trade partners.

We have enormous opportunities in convenience, we have the assets, the intellect, and the energy to succeed in bringing so much more to shoppers. If you believe you have value to bring to a group like this, send me an email and let’s talk.

This opinion piece was written by Darren Park, CEO, United Convenience Buyers, for the October/November issue of C&I Retailing Magazine.

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