- So-called quick trips make up more than half of consumer shopping visits, according to a report by research firm IRI written by Convenience Store News. This figure, which has been increasing over the past several years, has spurred retailers to build smaller stores, update their assortments, build out their e-commerce platforms and offer more personalized loyalty programs.
- These efforts seem to be gaining traction. Grocery trips increased 1.3% last year after declining the previous three years.
- "The path to purchase has forever changed,” Susan Viamari, vice president of thought leadership for IRI, said in a statement. “Shoppers are becoming increasingly demanding and embracing an omnichannel environment. And they are funneling their spending to channels and retail banners that best deliver on their expectations.”
As IRI notes, consumer quick trips have made up more than half of all shopping trips for the past several years. But it's just in the past year or two that retailer efforts to adjust to this trend have materialized.
One way is through the development of small format stores that offer consumables in addition to high-margin fresh items and prepared foods. Kroger recently opened its first Fresh Eats MKT, which features grab-and-go items as well as many grocery staples — including produce, meat, dairy and bakery items. Giant Eagle recently rebranded its GetGo convenience stores to GetGo Café + Market, an update that includes more fresh foods and positioning gas pumps in back of the stores. Meijer, meanwhile, just broke ground on a small format store in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan called Bridge Street Market.
In addition to capitalizing on rising consumer demand for fast trips and quick bites, smaller stores are allowing retailers to enter the high-traffic urban markets that represent one of the few growth opportunities in the U.S.
But building smaller stores can be a hassle for retailers used to operating 50,000 square foot locations. Meijer, whose stores average 200,000 square feet, failed after building specially branded Marketplace stores that were half that size. Grocers that operate convenience stores — like Kroger, Giant Eagle and Hy-Vee — are at an advantage here, both in terms of expertise and their ability to update existing locations.
Retailers are also facing competition from convenience and dollar stores, which are putting more fresh prepared foods in their locations. Rutter's Farm Stores, a chain based in Pennsylvania, offers grab-and-go offerings as well as made-to-order items. Sheetz and Wawa are building small, pump-free convenience stores in cities like Philadelphia.
Competition is making it tough for retailers to break into the small store market. Many are hoping to make their current stores more conducive to quick trips by offering beer, snacks and prepared foods closer to the front end — helping them cater to quick shops as well as the more lucrative, loyalty-driven weekly shops. Target’s new prototype store in Houston, going up later this fall, will offer numerous grab-and-go selections at the front end along with employees carrying handheld checkout devices to speed up processing.