Supplier News: Quail Digital - The Rise of the Convenience Store

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2020: The rise of the convenience store

As the UK was suddenly struck by the Coronavirus pandemic at the beginning of 2020, and lockdown measures were enforced, the convenience store became essential to serve local communities. Public transport ground to a halt, so those in remote geographic areas without their own transport meant that a trip to the supermarket for essential goods became out of the question. And those hoping to secure a home delivery slot from any of the large supermarkets faced up to a three week wait, often with many items unavailable due to people panic buying. In turn, consumers became dependent on their local stores leading to growth in the convenience store market of more than double the rate achieved in 2019.

With this trend set to continue, the vital role that the convenience store plays in supporting local communities has become more clear than ever. As Tom Downes, CEO, Quail Digital, explains, digital communication now presents an opportunity for the sector to improve operations in the run up to the Christmas rush and beyond the Coronavirus pandemic, while unlocking further innovation to deliver beyond customer expectations.

Essential for the community

2020 has raised awareness of just how important convenience stores are to the local community: indeed, a recent Mintel report showed that 80% of shoppers agree convenience stores provide essential services to neighbourhoods. And a report by the Association of Convenience Stores, entitled ‘The Local Shop Report 2020’, shows that on average customers visit their local shop 3.7 times per week, with more than half of all customers traveling on foot. Furthermore, consumers would have to travel an average of 1.7 miles to the next nearest shop if their local convenience store wasn’t there, meaning that those without access to transport would struggle to get essential goods without the dependence on home delivery services, which at the height of the pandemic were near impossible to secure. It’s clear that the crisis has reinforced the ‘essential’ status of convenience stores in communities for the long-term.

Coping with seasonal demand

With many convenience stores offering much more than just groceries, the local community is also reliant upon the other services that they offer, including but not limited to: the Post Office; cash withdrawal facilities; parcel collection and drop off points; bill payment services; mobile phone top-up and local home delivery services. And as the festive season approaches, these services are expected to see an increased demand. The Post Office has urged people to start planning early, announcing that they are expecting a last-minute Christmas rush due to the Government restrictions on face-to-face social gatherings, meaning that more people are relying on posting cards and gifts. Indeed data reveals that 66% of people plan to do so. With such a wide range of services, often in relatively confined spaces, the challenge is how convenience stores can continue to meet the needs of their local communities both safely and efficiently in such peak and challenging times?

Tools to improve communication

Communication holds the key. From managing queue systems, to enabling clear team communication across the shop floor, and deterring criminals, digital wireless headsets are a transformational step in improving the overall customer experience and importantly ensuring the safety of both customers and staff.

For many local convenience stores, there are often only a handful of employees working at one time. For example, one member of staff might be at the back of the store serving in the Post Office, while another member is serving at the grocery checkout and another member of staff could be taking control of deliveries and replenishing the shelves. And while 92% of convenience stores have implemented signage to encourage social distancing and 90% have restricted the number of customers allowed in the store at the same time, the challenge remains as to how staff can effectively manage these rules while themselves remaining socially distanced and serving customers. Linking staff via headsets at all times helps to ensure that they can work together as a team to fulfill orders more efficiently, and can enable key information to be shared.

Importantly, better communication is also proven to deter crime, with retailers providing staff with wireless headsets reporting a 25% reduction in shrinkage due to petty theft. Shoplifters are deterred by the fact that staff can immediately communicate their concerns to colleagues and gain instant support. Extending the headset communication to include a 24-hour monitoring service can deliver essential real-time support and expertise for staff when a dangerous situation occurs.

Conclusion

2020 has been a year of uncertainty and has presented many challenges for retailers, but the growth that the convenience sector has experienced demonstrates just how essential these stores are to serving the local community. Ensuring that good communication tools are put in place not only helps staff to cope in peak trading times, but ensures improved customer experience all year round and importantly helps to safeguard employees and support future innovation.

For more information, visit https://www.quaildigital.com/