Even before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the UK convenience sector was changing rapidly. It and online were the key growth areas for the grocery sector and as such convenience was increasingly attracting the attention not just of major supermarket operators but global tech giants like Deliveroo and Uber Eats.
But in the past year, as we learnt to live with Covid-19, the sector has gone through even more profound change. Most regrettably, for some it has claimed the highest price of all, with convenience retailers losing their lives to this horrible disease as they looked to feed the nation.
More others still have seen thriving businesses, particularly those in busy transit hubs and city centres, brought to a shuddering halt as we retreated to the safety and security of our homes. We can only hope, as the governments across the UK issue their roadmaps out of this latest and potentially final lockdown, that these great business operators and entrepreneurs can get back to doing what they do best as soon as possible.
Even for those businesses reaping the benefits of much higher sales, the journey hasn’t been easy. There has been the cost of implementing social distancing plans, Perspex screens and other Covid-secure measures, as well as getting shoppers to comply with mask wearing. All this while keeping shelves full in the wake of panic-buying and having to completely overhaul their product mix to cater for completely changed customer needs.
For all of this, convenience retailers deserve enormous credit and that is partly the reason why The Grocer – along with William Reed’s two other leading convenience brands, Lumina Intelligence and ConvenienceStore.co.uk – has launched a new four-weekly podcast specifically for the convenience sector.
The Convenience Mix, which has launched today, will look to provide key insight and analysis of the most important developments and trends within the sector, as well as hopefully providing an entertaining and enjoyable listen.
In coming episodes, we will take a deep dive into subjects such as the burgeoning online convenience market, where next for food to go, health and new and emerging categories such as low & no alcohol.
In the first episode, which is available here, Lumina Intelligence head of insight Blonnie Whist, ConvenienceStore.co.uk editor Aidan Fortune and myself discuss the legacy of lockdowns on the sector, what lessons retailers can learn from this past year and the challenges they face in keeping hold of the new customers they have picked up during the crisis. I hope you enjoy it.
Follow Ronan on Twitter: @ronyhegs