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High street struggles whilst the convenience sector shows resilience

How has the convenience market been able to weather the pressures, closures and job losses plaguing high street retail?

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The challenges of the British high street have been well publicised in recent years, with the growth of online retailers, lower consumer confidence and higher operational costs. A recent report by real estate data service Altus highlighted almost 20,000 jobs have been lost or put at risk since the Christmas trading period, demonstrating the material impact of the closures or difficulties facing the large retailers, such as Toys R Us, Debenhams, and HMV.

However, one segment of the retail sector that has shown impressive resilience is convenience which, although experiencing a decline in employment, albeit much slower than reported on the high street, continues to grow year on year.

Figures from the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) show that between 2016 and 2018, there were 25,000 fewer jobs, going from 290,000 to 365,000. This three year period shows a similar decline compared with the three month period on the high street, demonstrating a much slower rate.

This is down to the largely independent nature of the sector, which means that convenience store owners can survive by reducing other employees’ hours and spending more time in the store themselves. 

Additionally, as consumer confidence weakens, people are less likely to do a large supermarket shop and will instead do more frequent, top-up shops at convenience stores.

While convenience retailing has not been immune to job losses or struggles, with the likes of Conviviality entering administration in 2018 and more recently Oddbins in January 2019, it has remained resilient due to increasing consumer demand and cost efficient operations. 

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