Specialists set more store by wider offer
Published:  18 April, 2008

An independent study has revealed how important convenience products have become for specialist off-licences and the loyalty customers have to the sector.

But while the 2008 SOLTrack survey offers plenty of positives for specialists, it also points to an ageing customer base and a decline in the average number of weekly visits.

The survey, based on interviews with customers at Bargain Booze, Threshers and Wine Rack stores, found that 26% of stores are now selling toiletries, 23% stock newspapers and 30% offer greetings cards.

Customers gave shops an average rating of 94% for staff friendliness and 84% described staff as knowledgeable about the products they sell.

The typical customer is predominantly working class and travels an average distance of just 1.29 miles, with half living within a quarter-mile radius.

The average age of customers is 43.3, compared with 40.8 last year, and there is an over-reliance on smokers: 56% of customers, against a national figure of 22%.

On average customers visit stores 1.5 days a week, down from 2.4 in last year's survey.

Matthew Hughes, joint managing director of Bargain Booze, said: "Basically, there is nothing wrong with diversifying into convenience, providing you do it the right way and for the right reasons. You can't just play at it you have to be a good convenience retailer as well as good specialist off-licence retailer.

"More than 50% of the stores we'll open in the next 12 months will be stand-alone off-licences, so clearly we believe the stand-alone off-licence model is still robust.

"With Bargain Booze Select Convenience we actually increase alcohol sales when we convert a store to the convenience format, so we're certainly not diluting the core of what we do if anything we're enhancing it."

Like Bargain Booze, Threshers is going down the convenience route, but Oddbins has opted to stay specialised.




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