Slow but steady change keeps P&C fresh

Extensions and changes in the products offered and store layouts drove some slight changes in the convenience shopping experience during 2018.

By Convenience Measures Australia Director Corinne Barclay.

As much as things change, they also stay the same. This maxim certainly applies to the convenience channel. When we look back, it can feel like nothing has changed, but on closer inspection we see that changes are gradually coming through.

Comparing last year with 2017, our CMA Convenience Shopper Report 2018 highlighted little movement in the key metrics we measure. Average spend increased by only four per cent, and we saw average visit frequency rise from 2.6 to 2.7 times a week. Other changes, equally small, were a result of the changing offers and products available in stores.

The hot offer across the channel continues to evolve, with practically all retailers serving hot coffee, with the price point of $1 widespread as shopper expectations are met. The hot coffee drive is reflected in the change in shopper missions we have seen, where beverage as a mission accounts for 44 per cent of all reasons for visiting a store.

Although fuel is still a major mission for shoppers, it has declined from previous years as the retail offer improves. Increasingly, with new store formats and layouts, retailers are driving the shopper focus away from fuel as the destination, to food, beverage and take-home. But more on this later.

Snacking is extending from the more traditional chocolate and chips to include alternative snacks. Healthy snacks as a subcategory of snacks grew from a 15 per cent to a 19 per cent share. Macro snacking trends drive this, along with the influence of overseas markets where protein, jerky and ‘better for you’ options are commonplace. These snacks may not replace the traditional, yet there is still a place and opportunity to provide for another occasion, or to appeal to a new shopper.

The focus on food on the go also continues, and this is varied across all retailers. Many are extending the range of ready-to-eat food on the go to encompass ‘healthy eating’. This comes in the form of increasing ranges of sandwiches/wraps and rolls, as well as salads. Some retailers are also offering sushi for meal options.

The other area expanding food on the go is the meal-for-later range. Take-home meals have attracted a surge in the channel, with a focus from retailers driving this. Although this still makes up a small part of the overall penetration, the presence, visibility and relevance of these as an option is certainly changing the face of what convenience can be.

These sorts of changes have a flow-on effect, altering the type of shopper at the stores. We have mentioned the change in shopper missions, and we have also seen a slight increase in female participation in the convenience shop compared with previous years. Males have dominated, being roughly two-thirds of the shopper base. This year we noted an increase in the proportion of females to 38 per cent of shoppers, and while this is a small change, it is certainly one we would hope to see gather pace over the years.

When we look at promotions, the CMA Convenience Shopper Report 2018 shows overall penetration remaining at 19 per cent, as it was in 2017. Look closely at the promotions on offer and we see that the offers available and the range they are available on have not changed. The two-fors and multibuys remain the primary offer across many categories. Interestingly, we know that shoppers don’t necessarily want this offer. A study on promotions through the CMA Shopper Matters community highlighted that although this was the most common, known and accepted offer, other options including loyalty and/or pick-and-mix offers were preferred.

2018 was certainly a year of some extensions and changes in the products offered, as well as store layouts, driving some slight changes in the convenience shopper. Slow as it may feel – almost as if things are remaining the same – the continuation of these trends into 2019 will make P&C an interesting place to observe the shopper experience.

About Corinne Barclay

Corinne is the co-founder and Director of Convenience Measures Australia. She has been involved in the FMCG industry for more than 15 years, working for both suppliers and agencies across research, sales, category and activation. Corinne’s expertise and passion is with the shopper, and how understanding their behaviours, attitudes and needs will deliver results.

About Convenience Measures Australia

Convenience Measures Australia is a full-service research agency with a strong focus on the convenience channel in Australia. Its programs uncover shopper behaviours in-store, as well as attitudes to stores, and delivers key metrics to measure and benchmark category and retailers. It also supports the channel with a benchmarking program on the relationships between retailers and suppliers.

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