Our sister publication Supermarket News provides a look at why convenience stores are faring surprisingly well during this recession.
First, new formats are rolling out with convenience front and center. Last week, for example, Giant-Carlisle launched a new convenience store concept called Giant to Go. The company's pitch is twofold: an emphasis on fresh items and quality along with savings from its Bonus Card loyalty program, tied to a gas discount initiative. This format, like some others before it, wisely targets fresh foods rather than competing only with the commodity grocery offerings of traditional c-stores. It's also on target by incorporating a strong value component to avoid leaving the impression of being pricey in the midst of a downturn.
Meanwhile, a number of stores are launching new layouts around convenience. Food Lion will be unveiling a new convenience/prepared-meal aisle in 17 stores that eschews the typical category approach in favor of grouping items by level of convenience, such as amount of time needed for preparation. In another effort, Giant Eagle has retooled an Express store to emphasize fresh prepared meals and grocery items that are most frequently purchased, with the fastest-turning items up front.
These new ventures show retailers are committed to experimenting with convenience, not just with the products for sale but also the in-store experience. The reality is that recession hasn't changed the time pressures on many customers. Shoppers avoiding restaurants are still looking for value-oriented ways of replicating that experience at home.