European Imports

How international convenience retailers are adapting to the new normal.

November 18, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—All around the world, retailers are rethinking the future of convenience stores, especially those located in city centers or office parks. “Retail is always changing,” said Mark Wohltmann, director of NACS Europe, on this week’s episode of Convenience Matters, “What’s New in European Convenience.”

Wohltmann remarked, “We are being faced with different consumer demands, with new products and changes in lifestyles, but COVID has accelerated that change.”

He pointed out that as more and more large companies with lots of office space in city centers move more of their employees to work from home indefinitely, convenience retailers near those businesses need to rethink their stores. For example, “if you are a convenience store with [a] foodservice offer focused on the lunch crowd in London city center, you need to rethink that offer,” he said.

He gave an example of a petrol station chain in Europe that used the spring/summer lockdown as an opportunity to study the data of who continued to stop by their locations and what they bought. “Those stations that massively lost revenue during that time were pure commuter stations—and those stations won’t survive on fueling as the main focus,” he said. “If they want to keep those sites, they will need to transform the stores into a completely different offer.”

Meanwhile, the stations located close to residential areas experienced a surge in grocery sales. “So they will likely shift those stores to be more of a convenience store with fuel than a fuel station with a convenience store,” Wohltmann said. “We’re also seeing a shift in what is being sold in terms of package sizes and bulk sales, also in terms of categories themselves. Categories consumers still hesitate to buy from small stores or petrol station stores, like fresh food, saw a massive uptick during lockdown, and consumers kept up after lockdown lifted.”

For more on what our European counterparts are doing in convenience, listen to the episode here. Each week a new Convenience Matters episode is released. With more than 200 episodes to choose from, the podcast can be heard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and other podcast apps and YouTube and at Episodes have been downloaded more than 130,000 times by listeners around the world.

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