Momentum is gathering for loyalty card schemes for independents following the launch of Shop Scan Save, a mobile phone-based loyalty scheme for c-stores. Shop Scan Save, launched in September, will face new and fierce competition from the extended rollout of London-based scheme Wedge next year.
Shop Scan Save, run by PayPoint and The Light Agency, enables consumers to receive barcode SMS vouchers on their mobile, which they redeem when scanned on a PayPoint terminal. More than 250 companies, including P&G, Nestlé, Mars and Unilever, have thrown their weight behind the scheme, providing offers on key brands.
Wedge, meanwhile, currently runs a loyalty scheme across 500 independent shops in London, including 10 grocery stores, and announced last month it would expand the scheme to Bristol, Norfolk and Dorset by March next year. It also plans to run Shop Local days to encourage people to shop in independents.
But the idea of loyalty schemes for independents still hasn't convinced the majority. Independents contacted by The Grocer have been slow to embrace loyalty card schemes, with not one retailer currently part of one or aware of one. However, many have expressed an interest in loyalty cards, with 65% saying they would sign up to a scheme.
The retailers we approached feel a loyalty card would encourage consumers to make regular visits to stores and could provide a vital point of difference in the c-store sector. Only 20% of independents we asked believe a scheme would offer substantial benefits to their business. However, most believe that even if the scheme brought just minor benefits it would still be worthwhile. "We are a small shop that sells mainly cheap items so we aren't going to be able to give big discounts," says one shop owner, "but if giving even a small discount meant we encouraged people to shop with us, it would be worth it."
Not all independents are convinced a loyalty scheme would offer benefits, the most common reason given that it is most likely to attract more expensive grocery retailers where prices are at a premium.
"I can understand a scheme working in food shops where they sell expensive goods , but who's going to bother asking for a discount for a can of beans or some cereal," says one retailer. " I don't think consumers will be willing to pay £10 or so for a card to get a discount in stores like ours," says another. "It's not really our thing."