The South West is leading the way as corner shops make a comeback, taking market share from the big four supermarkets for the first time in a decade.
Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons are losing out because people are starting to buy what they need on a day-to-day basis.
And though these days the 4,590 independent local shops in the West Country are just as likely to be a small supermarket attached to a garage rather than the old-fashioned stores in the centre of a village, they still aim to become the heart of their local community by offering services such as parcel collections, home deliveries for the elderly and even the return of the “slate”.
There are more independent shops per head of population in the South West than any other area of England; a charge led by so-called symbol stores which link together under banners such as Budgens and Londis.
Nick Lloyd is managing director of Symonds Forecourt Limited which has nine shops attached to garages across the West and earlier this year was named the best independent retailer by trade magazine The Grocer .
He said: “Since austerity, people have been less inclined to want to spend £150 doing a big shop in a big shed and we have seen continual growth. There’s no doubt that people are doing more top-up shops than they used to, buying what they want, when they want it.
“With 3,000 lines, we have everything they may need and as the market becomes more competitive, the customers are getting a better range of deals. We get daily deliveries of fresh produce and John Thorners is one of our biggest sellers. Because it’s a business created by a Somerset farmer, customers get the good quality local products they want and all the money stays local, which is what it’s all about.”
According to the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), which commissioned the Local Shop Report, further growth of 5 per cent per year is predicted as the line between takeaways and shops blurs even further.
Although corner shops used to pass down from father to son, 73 per cent of convenience store owners are now first-generation shopkeepers and one in ten are aged under 30.
An increase in the number of single customers has fuelled the success and the average spend per visit is £6.04.