A Convenience store – just what is a convenience store?

Last time I wrote in favour of buying a branded store versus a non branded store and I said that because most coming into this industry have little or no retail experience. The transition into retail is therefore made easier. However, this industry is moving backwards in many ways in terms of its offering to our customers. Quite frankly, we are losing our boots with the lack of inspiration in the offerings we are giving to our customers!

When we first opened our shops in the early 1990’s our vision for these stores was very narrow indeed. We catered to offering our customers the 4 C’s. These were cigarettes, chips, cooldrinks and confectionary (sweets). So our shops were small and very quickly we learned that our customers were wanting more from us. And so we started to build bigger shops with a wider offering.

In the last two weeks, I have purposely gone into over 20 convenience stores in the Cape Town area – just to look at the range of products. It appears that the industry has shifted back to the 4 C’s – whether this is due to the recession or whether this is a concerted and planned move backwards, I am not sure. One thing I can tell you with absolute certainty, is that we will lose this portion of the consumer market very quickly and any growth potential that is out there is going to be lost, if we continue down this path. Or worse still, we are going to have to hand it over to the big supermarket chains to manage on our behalf!

Where has the selection of products gone to? Even in the categories of the 4 C’s – take a look. There is hardly any choice for our customers! Suppliers – what role are you playing in dumbing down the consumer choice? Just look at the number of line items you can find in slabs of chocolates? Or boiled sweets? Never mind groceries or fresh food items!

Let me give you a very small example of what I am trying to say here – and it pertains to experiences I have had in the past two weeks, which then prompted me to actively search and look for any branded convenience store that has a half decent offering out there.

I live in Sea Point in Cape Town and have three oil branded stores less than 500 metres from my home. One evening I ran out of eggs, so popped into one of them – to find that they did not stock eggs or did not have them on that evening. Another evening I needed cream so popped into another one of the branded stores (on the assumption that if the first one did not have eggs, they would not have cream) – and they did not have any cream. On the third occasion I needed a tub of ice cream for desert, custard would have done too – and none of the three had either? Why no ice cream in any of those big deep freezers?

Now right across from my street is an old fashioned Mom’s and Pops store run by a family from India and new to our country. On each occasion they had just what I was looking for including fresh produce such as potatoes and onions – and a great selection of breads. All of which needless to say I bought!

And I am not even talking about the price difference on like products between the branded stores versus the family owned store!

This industry has huge potential for all stakeholders! Our customers will move with their feet and wallets, if we do not realign ourselves with customer needs…

Take care out there


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