Queues outside the doors, empty shelves and trolleys stacked with toilet roll are just some of the sights that food and grocery retailers have faced over the last three weeks. These really are unprecedented times, but it has been fantastic to see so many convenience store retailers become a shining light within their local communities at such a difficult time. According to HIM’s Convenience Tracking Programme data, the friendliness and helpfulness of staff is the number one driver to store and many retailers are playing to this strength.
Here are five ways that retailers have reacted positively to the coronavirus outbreak and supported their local communities…
Delivering to those in need
Delivery is not something necessarily considered synonymous with convenience retail, but it is a growing trend and many retailers have already struck up partnerships with Uber Eats and Deliveroo. Beyond this – and regardless of existing delivery capabilities or arrangements - many retailers have stepped up to support their communities at the current time, particularly focussed on those in need.
For instance, Tuffins, a family-run supermarket with stores in Shropshire and Wales, has launched a click-and-collect and free delivery service for those within a 10-mile (16km) radius. Owner, Harry Delves told BBC Midland, "We've never done this before but with a large proportion of our loyal customers having to stay away, we have to help them."
Another retailer going out of their way to support those in need is North Staffordshire Bargain Booze store, which is offering free home deliveries to anyone self-isolating due to the coronavirus pandemic. These are just a couple of examples from a long list of retailers that have introduced similar initiatives, which is brilliant to see!
The current environment in grocery stores can be quite frantic, with shoppers rushing to locate the items they need. To ensure those most at risk have a comfortable shopping environment and can get the items they need, many retailers have adapted their shopping policies. Many stores are opening their doors first thing exclusively for the elderly.
Well known One Stop retailer, Sunder Sandher, for example is opening his store for half an hour a day only for customers born before 1950.
Free survival kits
These are challenging times for retailers, as they navigate incredibly high footfall and high demand, but there is no doubt that increased basket spend is up for grabs. Despite this, one retailer is going above and beyond to ensure those people in its community that need it most are looked after, even if it means a hit on profitability.
Day-Today Drylaw in North Edinburgh, has donated 1,000 free coronavirus ‘survival packs’ to elderly and vulnerable customers. These packs include some of the products that are most in-demand, such as toilet roll, antibacterial handwash, pocket tissues and paracetamol. Furthermore, he is planning to expand this initiative by including food bags that include pasta and other ambient products.
Retailers will have their habitual ways of restocking and replenishing their shelves. Placing orders on specific days and visiting cash and carry depots in between. However, these abnormal circumstances are resulting in the playbook being thrown out. Independent retailers across the UK are taking daily trips to depots to ensure that their shelves are stocked with the products that their customers want and need.
Merseyside retailer Navin Soni told Convenience Store, “I drove around most of the North West calling upon all my supplier contacts to source as much essential stock as possible. As a result, we have forty more pallets of toilet roll and other key lines arriving this afternoon.”
Restrictions can often be perceived as negative, but in times of uncertainty and unprecedented demand, retailers are doing all they can to ensure that everyday essentials are available to everyone, prioritising those customers that are most in need.
East of England Co-operative has introduced a limit of two items per customer across all products, Henderson Group and Spar NI has introduced a three-item limit and Fraser’s Budgens is operating a two-packs-per-customer policy, while limiting essentials to one pack per customer. This is alongside widespread restrictions that have been introduced by the multiple retailers and supermarkets.
Overall, it is heart-warming to see and hear of the lengths that many retailers are going to in order to support their customers. We knew it already, but c-stores truly are the heartbeat of their local communities.