Convenience stores have pumped £646m into their stores over the past year, marking the highest level of investment the sector has made since 2018, new research shows.
According to the ACS 2023 Local Shop Report, published today, the top areas of investment were refrigeration, shelving, store signage, in-store lighting, and technology, with 54% of retailers funding it themselves.
The trade body said it showed how retailers were looking to provide a wider range of services to their customers and improve their contributions to communities, despite the challenges they had faced during the energy and cost of living crises.
It comes as retailers generated £47.1bn in sales over the past year, up 4.2% from 2022, with that figure set to grow to over £50.9bn by 2026.
The report also found that colleagues in the sector worked a combined 12.1 million hours a week during the past 12 months, as opposed to 9.6 million last year, highlighting that as staff shortages eased, retailers were employing more people for more hours, ACS said.
“Local shops operate at the heart of the communities, constantly adapting and evolving to meet the changing needs of the local population,” said ACS CEO James Lowman.
“As well as food and drink, convenience stores provide services like bill payment facilities, parcel services and access to cash through hosting most of the UK’s Post Offices and through other partnerships.
“We fill in the gaps by providing services that have been lost as specialist operators close, where our communities cannot sustain lots of different standalone services, or where we see an opportunity to provide something new to our customers.
“No business sector is more in tune to the way our communities are changing, and no business sector operates in more communities than convenience stores.”
The report has also revealed significant growth in the number of retailers that are using social media for their businesses. With more products and stores going viral over the last year, there has been a clear shift towards activity on platforms like Facebook, X (Twitter) and Tiktok to engage with customers, according to the trade body.
It said it could be linked to the changing profile of convenience store owners, which is becoming younger, including more women, and more likely to include first-time investors coming into the sector, as well as established family businesses.
Lowman continued: “We are seeing a sector led by innovative business people drawn from every demographic and with their eyes firmly on the future.”