Sustainable development and convenience stores: an opportunity for the industry

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As consumers gain a deeper understanding of the impact of their personal consumption and shopping habits on the environment, they are also assessing the impact of the stores where they shop most often. . To establish a strong connection with modern shoppers, convenience stores need to start thinking about their sustainability strategies.

The urgency for stores to implement sustainability initiatives is clearly demonstrated in the latest NACS/Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council (CCRRC) study, Convenience Store Customers and Sustainability: The Journey to Creating Brand Ambassadors. Consumers are navigating their own sustainability journey, and the report highlights the expectations they have of stores in their community to support them.

In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has focused shoppers’ attention on the importance of convenience stores to their communities. Of consumers surveyed and surveyed for the study, 68% said they visit a convenience store as often or more than before the pandemic.

In an era when shoppers struggled to get supplies and feared shopping, convenience stores stood out as a place to get important goods in a smaller and seemingly safer environment. Over the years and even before COVID-19, customers have come to view local convenience stores as an essential community partner, which means they expect the store to reflect their values ​​and priorities – and durability is at the top of the list.

The study demonstrates that customer loyalty can be built and strengthened through progressive action on a range of social issues, including sustainability. In fact, many shoppers say their loyalty and willingness to promote or recommend specific stores to others could be improved or diminished depending on how their local stores deal with these issues.

The challenge many operators face is how to approach such a broad issue as sustainability in a realistic and financially sensible way. Fortunately, the current CCRRC/NACS study includes a simple roadmap that convenience store operators can use to identify the most appropriate initiatives for their stores.

Appearing on page 10 of the report, the roadmap outlines the various actions that operators can take, ranking them both according to the difficulty of each action and the impact it is likely to have on buyers’ opinions. Operators should consider this as a tool to help decide which actions can be easily implemented as part of their unique sustainability strategy given the resources they have.

For example, some of the more manageable actions with high levels of impact relate to the current COVID-19 situation. The supply of hand sanitizer stations, the requirement for masks, and social distancing loom large among consumers as factors that help them decide where to shop.

Consumers interviewed for the report also indicated that they would like to see their local convenience stores create incentives for shoppers to be more sustainable by encouraging reusable and recyclable beverage containers. They would also like stores to offer eco-friendly options such as paper straws.

Other initiatives such as the use of energy-efficient light bulbs and electric vehicle charging stations are viewed favorably, but are recognized as significant financial investments for operators.

Among sustainability concerns, consumers’ desire for convenience store operators to show value and appreciation for their staff ranks just as high. Diversity, inclusion and employee health and safety are important factors for buyers, along with increased wages and benefits. Consumers want to see their convenience store staff reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the local community they serve, and they appreciate that store employees are encouraged to volunteer with local groups.

While not every initiative described in the report serves every convenience store equally, making any positive change toward more sustainable operations is a win.

As buyer values ​​evolve, it is increasingly important for operators to meet consumer expectations by implementing initiatives they can sustain over the long term. By aligning yourself with the values ​​of the unique community that your store supports, it is possible to not only build customer loyalty, but also to be part of the solution to environmental problems.

The full report can be downloaded free of charge from the city hall’s website.

Michael Sansolo is currently Research Director of the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Councils of North America. Since 1978, CCRRC has established a history of trust in helping grocery and convenience retailers grow their business through relevant and exciting research topics.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience store news.

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