Communicating to the convenience channel: Cutting through the noise

29 October 2020

Independent retail has been at the heart of our business here at Mercieca since we were founded over 25 years ago. The convenience sector is growing but it’s also fast evolving due to changes brought about by Covid-19. It’s a challenging business environment with plenty of speculation about what the future convenience store will look like and what purpose it will serve. What’s clear though is that it’s a channel no brand can afford to ignore.

We’ve recently partnered with our friends at Newtrade Media and KAM Media to commission a new report on what life after lockdown will look like for independent retailers. We investigated what retailers really want from their suppliers and importantly, how brands can communicate and support them more effectively.

Whilst always being a key service for the local community, during the first lockdown in March convenience stores found themselves in higher demand than ever as people’s worlds became a lot smaller. A large portion of retailers reported a significant increase in customer numbers and basket size during the pandemic. Convenience sales were up almost 20% earlier this year, with shoppers embracing their ‘ultra-local’ stores during this time*, and this trend looks set to continue in the months ahead**.

Many shoppers are looking to buy products locally and demand for online delivery is rising, it’s perhaps no surprise to see shoppers using their local convenience stores more. However, the challenge will come when the retail landscape returns to ‘normal’ as this will test whether independent retailers can maintain this loyalty under increased competition.

This is where suppliers and brands can support. The top three challenges that independent retailers think suppliers must help with are:

  • Availability of core lines
  • Maintaining or growing footfall
  • Getting the range right

With so many changes happening in-store, from evolving safety precautions, to consumers looking to be in and out of the store quicker than before Covid, brands can play an important role in advising on how to ensure categories are merchandised in the most effective manner.

It’s more important than ever that retailers continue to stock core lines but also simultaneously pivoting their offer to appeal to the new customers gained during lockdown, as well as catering for the emerging delivery market.

Retailers are looking for reliable supplier partners to grow their business as lockdown is lifted – they want to work with suppliers that can adapt and shift at pace with the evolving situation in what could be a turbulent few months ahead. The power of brands is still very important to retailers and their customers, and they know that these big-name products can act as signposts for an entire category.

So how can you communicate with these retailers? Well that’s where we can help. We’ve been working in the channel for years and are in weekly communication with some of the biggest retailers in the UK.

Emails are the most popular form of digital communication with retailers, but it’s vital that your messages stand out and you use language retailers expect. Store visits (socially distanced of course) still remain popular – with the hours of 10am – 2pm the most convenient time to visit.

Trade media remains a very important comms channel with 44% of retailers wanting suppliers to communicate with them via print or digital formats. Of the retailers that requested communication via trade media websites, 68% said they also used magazines, indicating the importance of a multi-channel approach to campaigns.

Currently there are over 50,000 stores in the UK serving their local communities, generating around £50 billion in sales every year! It’s a massive opportunity, but you need more than just a great product to succeed. You need to engage with retailers in the right way to cut through and ensure your brands thrive.

Want to know more? If you need support or advice on how to successfully communicate with the independent retail channel, we can help. Get in touch today at hello@mercieca.co.uk

*Source: Nielsen, June 2020
**Source: KAM Media, May 2020

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