Buying a business: Convenience stores

Why this lucrative business appeals to a wide range of people

What is it? Who is it suited to?
Before you buy How much does it cost?
How much can I earn? Tips for success

It is not a great time for small independent food stores. They are an endangered species, threatened by the fiercely competitive superstore giants that are battling for the loyalty of Britain’s food shoppers.

Local butchers, bakers and greengrocers are finding it increasingly difficult to survive as their mammoth counterparts increase stock levels and squeeze prices in an attempt to provide the perfect ‘everything-under-one-roof’ shopping experience.

However, all is not lost for the local storeowner. Reclaiming much of the territory lost by local specialised food retailers is a more hybrid breed, a store that relies as much on where it is than on what it stocks – the convenience store.

At a time of economic uncertainty, the market in these local retailers seems remarkably solid. According to the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), 10 million customers visit convenience stores every day. So if you’re looking to buy a business, this could be an attractive option.

“National sales of convenience stores at the end of September this year were up 31% on the same month last year – and those figures were up on the previous year,” says Mike Carr, group managing director of EM&F. “Due to a degree of uncertainty in the general economic climate, people are buying businesses that are more likely to continue to grow. Convenience stores fit this bill because everyone needs food.”

What is it?

Convenience stores are, in essence, local grocery stores. They stock a wide range of food and household products and, depending on the store, cigarettes, alcoholic drinks and newspapers.

They are there to serve a need, providing a practical alternative to the out-of-town superstores. Rarely do they attract customers shopping for the week. Instead, they draw their custom from impulse or emergency purchases, from people topping-up their cupboards or from those simply getting the daily essentials like milk and bread.

With the demise of the local specialist store, convenience stores have also become centres of the community in more isolated locations. Some 5000 members of the ACS operate Post Offices, and many provide services such as photocopying, faxing and even cash withdrawal.

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