ACS survey shows Brits want local specialist food shops

New research published today by the Association of Convenience Stores has found that UK consumers are crying out for more specialist food shops and banks in their local area.

The ACS Community Barometer looks at which services the public want (and don’t want) around them, as well as how essential those services are, the impact they have on reducing loneliness, and whether those services overall have a positive impact on where they live.

Top of the list of services that people want more of are specialist food shops (1st) and banks (2nd). Rising rents, the cost of business rates, and cuts in interchange fees for ATMs have led to widespread closures of bank branches amidst a continued decline of dedicated butchers, bakeries and other food stores. As these specialist services decline, convenience stores have been increasingly looking to invest to make them a part of their offer to customers.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said, “Convenience stores have spent £633m over the last year investing in their businesses, with much of that work going toward bringing more and more services into their stores, from Post Office counters, to banking services, pharmacy counters and even bakeries and butchers within the shop.

' However, retailers are faced with the prospect of higher business rates whenever they improve their stores which can have a significant impact. Business rates need to incentivise investment, otherwise communities could face losing essential local services altogether.”

The Community Barometer also found that the number one most essential service, and the service that people believe has the most positive impact on their local area is the Post Office, followed by convenience stores (2nd) and coffee shops/cafes (3rd).

Elsewhere in the research, coffee shops, pubs and convenience stores were seen as the three services that play the most important role in reducing loneliness for people in a local area due to the social nature of those businesses.

Lowman continued, “The Community Barometer shows that local shops are much more than just a place to buy things, they’re a social hub for people in the community, especially those that are vulnerable or less able to travel.

'UK consumers are also sending a clear message that Post Offices are still as important to them as ever. Many Post Office branches are housed in convenience stores, but to provide this service requires investment and a model that makes financial sense for retailers. Convenience stores want to provide Post Offices, but cannot be expected to subsidise the network.”

National Federation of Sub Postmasters CEO Calum Greenhow said: “These results once again demonstrate the vital role that post offices play across the UK. Clearly, local and national government stakeholders recognise the importance of post offices - but this recognition must go further.

'Subpostmasters are investors in the post office network and occupy a unique position at the very heart of their communities; more must be done to support and reward them for their work.”