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Convenience stores have always been seen as the small guy...the tough independent, the often underrated arm of retail.
Convenience stores have always been seen as the small guy...the tough independent, the often underrated arm of retail.

The reality of c-stores: refresh or die


Issued by Byte Media on behalf of FreshStop - Oct 1st 2018, 11:15

Convenience stores have always been seen as the small guy...the tough independent, the often-underrated arm of retail. However, with convenience becoming integral to consumers, even large traditional retailers have, over the years, pursued a convenience strategy and opened smaller stores in prime residential and commercial areas to take advantage of the ‘on the go’ shopper.  

To remain competitive and incorporate the retail trends that consumers expect, c-store retailers must be prepared to refresh their stores...or die. According to Joe Boyle, Director at FreshStop, the largest and fastest growing convenience retail brand in South Africa, “Most convenience stores haven’t changed in 25 years and almost half of all shoppers would rather go to a supermarket, even if it’s further away than frequent their local convenience store. This is definitely something that must change. They want better service, better availability, a better range of goods, and healthier, fresh products”.

This is endorsed in Credit Suisse’s latest report entitled ‘Traditional Stores are Doomed’ which states that “convenience stores are very trendy. The trend toward smaller households, the increasing rate of employment, and higher mobility are all favouring convenience stores. In addition, thanks to their fresh products, these stores are not under much threat from online shops.” Despite this, thousands of stores are predicted to close their doors in the coming years and it is time for retailers to wake up from the slow methodical change that’s putting them to sleep.

Since 2017, FreshStop has been implementing a Re-Fresh strategy and more than 30 of their stores have undergone this process. “Our Re-Fresh strategy not only refreshes the look and feel of the store but we use it as an opportunity to introduce new food innovations, present the latest retail trends and improve operational efficiencies. The feedback from our Retailers has been amazing and the sales figures, comparing before and after Re-Fresh, clearly shows that our strategy is on track,” explains Boyle.

The largest increases in sales turnover and basket size have been attributed to their new in-house food lines being introduced. FreshStop’s in-house brands such as Crispy Chicken, Grill to Go, Seattle Coffee bars and even newer lines such as Africaz and the Hot Dog Bar have made steady inroads. “The roll-out of our in-house brands is going very well and we’ve just opened our 54th Crispy Chicken outlet and our 7th FreshStop Diner at FreshStop Monte Vista North & South on the N3 highway in the Free State. Those stores with a FreshStop Diner derive 55% of their turnover from food and coffee sales. Convenience food lines are growing across all retail sectors and they’re currently contributing to more than 30% of our business where we have foods service offers. We know that our core food service lines will be the growth point for our Re-Fresh and new store conversion strategy,” comments Boyle.

Stores that have undergone the Re-Fresh process reflect an on average 50% increase in year-on-year trading figures. “In addition to product changes, we have also introduced our in-house radio into 50 of our Re-Fresh and new stores, which optimises the c-store shopping experience for our customers. We will continue to push our Re-Fresh strategy nationally and make more space in-store for our convenience food lines and our healthier product ranges”.

FreshStop, named International Convenience Retailer of the Year 2013 and finalist of the 2017 & 2018 International Convenience Retailer of the Year Award, is South Africa’s fastest growing 24-hour convenience store brand and has a network of 285 stores countrywide.


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