In Switzerland, purchasing habits are returning to normal, and increasingly consumers are shopping for on-the-go products again. The high frequency losses in convenience retailing often have been more or less compensated for by larger shopping baskets.
The lockdown phase in Switzerland (from 17 March to 10 May 2020) is already several months passed. Consumers are now returning to normal everyday life, and many are heading back to work or to their educational institutions.
During the lockdown, many convenience shops became stops for quick and uncomplicated local shopping that was less driven by immediate hunger or thirst—without the queues of supermarkets. An impressive indication of this change can be seen in sales of on-the-go products (-24.3% compared to the previous year) published by Nielsen Switzerland in comparison with ordinary products such as pasta (+ 10.2% compared to the previous year). The changes in sales of non-alcoholic beverages—the main source of frequency for the vast majority of shops—are also impressive. While the market as a whole grew by 8.5% compared to the previous year, the convenience retail sector suffered a sales loss of 20.7% during the same period.
Swiss respondents surveyed by Fuhrer & Hotz report that they expect to return to shop in convenience shops as frequently as before the pandemic. Shops at petrol stations and railway stations will have to fight the most for frequency, since many companies have implemented work-from-home policies their employees, affecting commuting. There are still strict instructions in Switzerland, which means that there is still considerably less shopper frequency, especially at stations. Overall, 82% of all c-stores experienced a decline in frequency, but just 50% also experienced a decline in turnover. The main reason for this is (significantly) higher sales per customer, which 68% of the shops were able to achieve.
Other challenges for the industry include the security of sales staff and customers and the associated social distancing rules. For all those involved, this was an unprecedented situation. In the meantime, all the players have succeeded in doing so very well, and the Swiss convenience industry is on its way back to its previous success.