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Friday, 12 October, 2001, 15:37 GMT 16:37 UK
Corner shops stage a comeback
David Jason and Ronnie Barker in Open All Hours
Many corner shops no longer conform to the traditional image
The corner shop, that British retail icon that many thought doomed by the coming of supermarkets, appears to be staging a comeback.

A new report says local stores have boosted sales by almost 8% in the past two years, thanks both to the trend of transforming into convenience stores and from the simple fact that they are closer to their customers.

The rise followed stagnant trade throughout most of the 1990s, research group Mintel said.

The realisation by shopkeepers that they could not compete on price with supermarkets, backed by reams of customer research and armies of logistical support, has been key to the reversal in fortunes, report author Richard Caines said.

"We think [the revival] is very much due to corner shops reinventing themselves as convenience stores, and offering a lot more products in line with what modern customers want," he said.

"They are not gaining customers at the expense of supermarkets.

"They are making a high level of sales for distress and top-up purchases, where people need to buy a few things but do not want to do a main shop."

Playing to strengths

Mr Caines' conclusions were echoed by industry group the Association of Convenience Stores.

"Convenience stores have recognised that they cannot compete with the out-of-town superstores so they have decided to complement them," association chief executive Trevor Dixon said.

Corner shops have also sought to improve their standard of service, and the quality of goods sold, Mr Dixon said.

"They know that if they do not meet the needs of the modern customer, then their future is in question."

By playing to their strengths, corner shops should survive despite an escalating price war among supermarkets.

"Maintaining sales is constantly going to be a challenge but provided they continue to improve services, they will be able to cater for consumers who do not want to spend time shopping at superstores," Mr Dixon said.

Fickle customers

Friday's report also revealed that supermarket shoppers display little loyalty, and may visit at least five stores a week to buy groceries.

Only 15% of shopper remained faithful to one store.

The report also reveled that 59% of main food shopping trips are to one of the three major supermarket chains, Asda, Sainsbury and Tesco.

In 1994, this proportion was 48%.

See also:

07 Oct 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Small was beautiful
28 Aug 01 | Business
UK 'poised for supermarket wars'
29 May 01 | Business
Big future for supermarket giants
11 Apr 01 | e-cyclopedia
Hypermarket economy: Checkout the big boys
24 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Online at the corner shop
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