The UK convenience sector is changing – from being shops used largely for emergency or distress purchases to being a regular part of many consumers’ grocery shopping repertoire.

But not all shoppers are migrating equally to these newer usage trends: Mintel’s data finds younger shoppers are leading the move to convenience shopping.

Usage of convenience stores for top-up grocery shopping peaks among 25-34 year olds: nearly half use these stores regularly. Regular usage is lowest among the 55-64 age group:

Figure 1: Regular usage of convenience stores for top-up shops, February 2014
Base: 2,000 internet users aged 16+

Source: GMI/Mintel

For convenience retailers, those consumers incorporating convenience stores within their regular grocery shopping repertoire are most important: the average basket value is likely to be higher and they will be using the store more frequently.

So young shoppers – most importantly, the 25-34 age group – should be the focus for retailers. By this measure, 55-64-year-olds, who are by far the most likely to say they only use a convenience store in an emergency, are the least important age group.

Figure 2: Attitudes towards convenience store usage, February 2014
Base: 915 internet users aged 16+ who regularly use a convenience store

Source: GMI/Mintel

And as we show in our Convenience Stores report, younger shoppers are buying different product categories than older shoppers in convenience stores.

Younger consumers are more likely to be buying categories that would traditionally have been bought from supermarkets, such as fresh fruit, fresh meat or ready meals; older shoppers are still much more likely to be buying traditional distress categories such as bread and milk.

And food-to-go is an important category in attracting younger age groups: these consumers are much more likely than older shoppers to be buying breakfast or lunch from convenience stores.

What it means

  • On many key metrics, younger shoppers, and especially 25-34 year olds, register as the most important age group for convenience retailers.
  • Younger shoppers are not just more likely to be using convenience stores – they are buying different categories than older shoppers.
  • These buying habits suggest younger consumers are using convenience stores as a genuine substitute for supermarkets.
  • So retailers must cater to these more valuable shoppers with more fresh foods, meal solutions and food-to-go.
  • One question, which only time can answer, is whether these shoppers will carry these convenience shopping habits through life or whether it is the faster-living, smaller-basket demands of young shoppers that are justifying their usage of c-stores.

Our Convenience Stores UK 2014 report includes extensive consumer research, including what product categories they buy from convenience stores, which types of locations they shop at, how they use convenience stores for food-to-go and which convenience retailers they buy from. To find out more about the report, click here or if you are a Mintel client, talk to your account manager.

John Mercer is an analyst focusing on retailing in the UK and mainland Europe. He works on Mintel’s retail reports across food and non-food retail sectors, with a particular focus on e-commerce and multichannel retailing. John joined Mintel in 2010, having previously worked for market research and market intelligence firms and in a business school.