Re-defining the “C” in C-Store

* 3 min read

C Store Eat17

Convenience surrounds us. It is what we expect from our high street shops and what we demand from our online stores and has become integral to the way we live.  Indeed, 71% of UK shoppers now say convenience is more important to them than it was 5 years ago. And whilst online solutions are increasingly “fast” we still want the interaction and connectivity that our local C-store provides. 

It seems ironic then, that it has taken the convenience of online shopping to make us realise what we want from real, not virtual, shops. Right now, convenience isn’t just about serving an immediate need, it is about building an emotional connection and creating a social space that we want to visit. No-compromise convenience is no longer just about selling us “stuff” we need. We want the best quality; the best choice; the best value; the best for our community and the best for our health as well as wanting it now.  

So how are brands and retailers responding to our challenging demands?

One of our favourite convenience stories is the success of Eat 17.  Founders Chris O’Conner and James Brundle really have re-invented the c-store format. Since opening their first neighbourhood grocery store in 2006, they have worked hard to create 4  “locals” (with more on the way), each with their own distinct look to reflect the character of where they live. Eat 17 is proud to be “not your average store”. Their aim is to put proper food on your plate and this means doing things “the right way”; thinking local, collaborating with fellow pioneering businesses and taking great pride in the look and feel of each store. They don’t compromise.

We visited the Hackney store, which lives in a family-run Spar and is situated in a 100 year old art-deco electric cinema, which they have helped restore to it’s former glory. It is a vibrant, exciting space with a distinct market-place feel, selling local seasonal products for real foodies alongside everyday family essentials. 

And “doing things the right way” means having refillable wine stations by Borough wines; having flowers from local florist Rebel Rebel, as well as a vast array of locally sourced high quality produce. This also includes creating their own Eat 17 range of products. In fact, their Bacon Jam has such a following that it is now stocked in over 1500 retail outlets throughout the UK.

Eat 17 shows us how “no-compromise” hyper-local convenience really works and has been described as “‘the future template for the metro convenience sector’ by Adam Leyland, editor of The Grocer. However, the hyper-local approach isn’t new. It’s just taken time for us to realise what it really means.  

The Lincolnshire Co-op knows the importance of a hyper-local approach. It has seen such demand for locally made products that it has incorporated them into each category with point of sale that tells each Maker’s story, helping customers make an emotional connection to what they’re buying. There are now over 40 local suppliers who together supply over 180 products from beer to crisps, cheese to chutney. The demand creates a convenient solution for local producers too, “A successful local economy is good for everyone. We know that our Love Local range gives producers a route into a wider market and keeps what’s made here, here..” , says Lincolnshire Co-op’s chief retail officer Mark Finn.

So, things are changing as we see the success and ultimate survival of our local C-store depend on the re-evaluation of what we really mean by “convenience”.  

The future definition of “C” will be all about community, conscience and connectivity. Retailers, both big and small, will need to create engaging spaces that we can fall in love with; that we want to visit as well as needing to. And we’re hoping that there will be an Eat 17 near us soon!

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Image(s) sources: Eat17