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18.09.2019

Tackling Loneliness

Tackling Loneliness

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Our Associate Director, Amy Searle highlights the positive impact that the Convenience retailing sector is having on loneliness.

There are over 46,000 convenience stores (C-stores) in the UK, generating £40.3bn sales last year, according to the Association of Convenience Stores during the launch of its Local Shop Report 2019. 80% of smaller stores are located in isolated locations – so it’s unsurprising that the convenience store is ranked in the top three for positive impact on the local community and its economy.

Research from the British Red Cross and Co-Op says 9 million people in the UK say they are always or often lonely, whilst The Office for National Statistics revealed 2.4 million adult British residents suffer from chronic loneliness.

C-stores were ranked in the top three for their positive impact on alleviating problems associated with loneliness and Cirkle’s recent ‘Bisto Community Table’ campaign was born from this insight – culminating in a C-store retailer winning a meal for its community to bring people together.

Graham Soult, Retail Commentator and on the panel at the ACS Local Shop Report launch, stressed that the human element is one of the defining USPs of the convenience store. For some, the conversation they have with checkout staff is the only human interaction they get.  Richard Inglis, Co-Op, Southampton, spoke about freeing up 38% of his staff costs by introducing five self-service checkouts. It’s important to then look at ways to reinvest those staff costs onto the shop floor to offer that valuable human interaction.  39% of convenience stores use Facebook to communicate with consumers, 19% are offering free Wi-Fi to keep customers in-store for longer and 14% have opted for serve over coffee rather than self-service in the last year.

The future of convenience will undoubtedly see technology advancements fulfilling the greater raft of customer expectations, such as click & collect, self-service and greater automation, but the people and human touch in the majority of smaller store formats, I would hope, will remain constant.