Has lockdown boosted the opportunity for Forecourts to operate as Convenience stores?

We have long been arguing that forecourts are becoming more like standalone convenience stores. With the fuel mission in long-term decline, successful forecourts have been innovating in areas such as food to go and broadening their grocery offer in order to compete.

Lockdown has changed how grocery retail operates and forecourts are no exception to this. Since lockdown began, just over 10% of shoppers say they have been visiting forecourts more. This figure rises to over 20% of younger shoppers, aged 18-34.  

It appears that forecourts are an attractive option during the pandemic since shoppers expect that social distancing would be implemented well in these outlets (1 in 4 shoppers agree), as well as a third of shoppers who anticipate forecourts will have shorter queues than other shops.  The physical constraints of lockdown also means that for 31% of shoppers, forecourts are convenient because they are close to where they live.

As for the convenience channel in general, there are many great examples of forecourts that have expanded services to help those in need. Hill’s Retail for example launched a phone ordering service at its Alcester branch, delivering goods directly to shopper’s homes to meet the needs of some of its elderly shoppers.

Whilst the current situation might have made forecourts more favourable for shoppers, now attention must turn to how forecourts can retain any new convenience shoppers gained. Pricing will clearly be a factor here. HIM/MCA’s Forecourt Report 2020 found that shoppers expect to pay a 20% premium within forecourts. The same report found that forecourt shoppers needs are generally being met, apart from satisfaction with value for money and prices.   

At a time when disposable incomes are squeezed and with greater uncertainty about the future, shoppers are likely to become more value-orientated post-lockdown. It will become even more important for Forecourts to manage the pricing message through PMPs, price checking and promotions which will help promote positive price perception and will play an important part in driving shopper loyalty in the channel.   


UK Forecourt Market Report 2020

A comprehensive and forward-looking overview of the Forecourt channel in the UK.