Fewer c-store openings, stagnant supermarket growth and limited profits through online; it’s no wonder grocers are looking at forecourts as a new route to growth. With Morrisons extending the roll-out of its Morrisons Daily fascia to 50 stores with Rontec, the Co-op trialling with MRH and Sainsbury’s partnering with Eurogarages, retailers clearly see forecourts as an important growth opportunity. Initial performance indicators appear to be positive, but if the undoubted growth potential in the forecourt sector is to be fully capitalised on, three steps should be taken to better engage with customers.

WHY IS CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT KEY TO UNLOCKING GROWTH IN THE FORECOURT SECTOR?

WHY IS CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT KEY TO UNLOCKING GROWTH IN THE FORCOURT SECTOR?

Part of the key to shifting perceptions of forecourts is understanding the customer mission when visiting these stores. Whilst a need to fill up on fuel is naturally the primary mission when visiting forecourts, our desire for greater convenience means that there is no reason why, if the offer is right, consumers can’t combine shopping and leisure trips with filling up. 

Additionally, particularly in less competitive food retail locations, with the correct range, forecourts can provide customers with a genuine top-up shopping option.  However, generally forecourts struggle to regularly attract consumers beyond their main mission of fuel, with forecourt users being overwhelmingly dominated by those groups with higher car ownership, such as Regular Family Shoppers, Busy Young Couples & Families and Families on a Budget (source: Acorn & TGI).

Given that 30% of forecourts are in relatively uncompetitive residential locations (population of over 500 and less than two retail competitors within 500m), if forecourt stores are ranged appropriately based on local consumers, there is significant untapped potential to grow c-store baskets. In contrast, in more transient locations, partnerships with food service and café operators can provide additional reasons for consumers to increase their dwell time.

© Source: CACI and TGI

INFLUENCE CUSTOMER MISSIONS

CONVERT THE SCEPTICS

However, there are some contrasts between consumers who have access to a forecourt, and those more likely to shop at it. These mismatches highlight those demographic groups that, if better engaged with, represent strong opportunities for growth.

The consistent theme here is the need for forecourt operators to better understand customers who have access to their shops. Providing the right range of retail and food services is key to engaging with new consumers, convincing existing customers to extend their dwell time further and, ultimately, spend more.

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CHANGE PERCEPTIONS

What did you buy last time you visited a forecourt? A pack of chewing gum, a chocolate bar or maybe a meal deal if you’ve got a drive ahead of you? How about a small selection of fresh items and dinner for the evening? Probably not. Whilst there has been a trend towards UK consumers doing more regular top-up shops at convenience stores, this trend has not extended to forecourt c-stores. Only 3.6% of UK consumers have done a main or top-up shop at forecourts, despite 14% of consumers having shopped at a forecourt over the course of the year (source:TGI). This epitomises both the opportunity and challenge for forecourt operators; a large market to go after, but also a need to shift perceptions regarding the capabilities, product range and shopping environment at forecourts.

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FORECOURTS STRUGGLE TO ATTRACT NON-CAR OWNERS

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Grocery Acorn is CACI’s unique segmentation for the grocery and FMCG sectors that combines our market-leading postcode-level segmentation, Acorn, with market research insights from the TGI survey panel.

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MATTHEW SOFFAIR

Location Strategy & Analytics