Today, members of the Association of Convenience Stores voted in favour of allowing the multiples to join the association.
That decision, says CEO James Lowman, will make the ACS “a representative body for the whole convenience sector” and is part of its wider strategy to provide political representation, industry leading advice and networking opportunities for all convenience retailers”.
Before today, to join the ACS a retailer’s primary activity has had to be convenience retailing. This has therefore meant that though the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons have convenience operations, they have been unable to join.
The move is a positive one for the ACS. Its membership currently focuses on independent convenience operators, but with the might of the multiples behind it, it will be able to make its voice heard even louder when campaigning and lobbying.
And as most research points to the growth in the convenience sector largely coming from the multiples, which are continuously opening new c-stores, it is no longer possible to exclude such an important part of the sector.
Inclusive membership also deals with anomalies like One Stop. The Tesco-owned chain launched a franchise format in January and since then a number of indies active in the ACS have switched to them.
Now the mults can join, it will be interesting to see whether they do. The big supermarkets are already highly-influential members of the British Retail Consortium – a body that has disagreed with the views of the ACS in the past. Will they want to join yet another association?
However, what you can be sure of is that if the mults do decide to come on board, both indies and mults will find they can learn from each other. The indie convenience sector is full to bursting with innovation and entrepreneurship, but there is also equally as many good ideas and practices indies can take from the mults.