Coronavirus: What convenience retailers need right now

By Stefan Appleby, trade consultant at Hanover Communications

“Staying close to what’s happening in retail is critical for our team, as we get messages across, launch products and supply category information from some of the nation’s leading brands to on- and off-trade operators.

“What’s happening in the market now is unprecedented. Our team has been in constant contact with retailers to understand the pressures they are under and to advise how suppliers can help them during this uncertain time.

“We have heard two key things:

·       It’s busy out there. Community retailers have a regular group of shoppers but in recent days they’ve had new customers looking for products that have been stripped from the shelves of larger stores. Unsurprising, as the weekend of March 14 and 15 saw the biggest volume sales in history from the major supermarkets. Retailers told us how they’ve sent team members home to isolate, and they are struggling to meet demand. But they’re doing what they’re doing because they know that in their local area, people need them.

·       They are thinking of their local communities. They are examining how they can operate delivery services to customers that are self-isolating. They’re connecting with Facebook groups in their local areas to let people know they are there, let them know what sought-after goods they have available, and to offer help in any way they can. Their priority is helping to keep local communities calm and live their lives as best they can in the circumstances, as a myriad other examples from that weekend have shown.

“Wholesalers are experiencing the same pressures as retailers. Shelves are empty, as thousands of retailers shop to try to get the goods their customers want and need to stay safe and comfortable. Retailers told us they were impressed by the feedback from some wholesalers through the process.

“What does this mean for suppliers to the convenience channel? Supplier communication needs to be focused on what they are doing to support small stores.

“Firstly, they need reassurance that the supply chain is working, and they can get what they need to keep providing their customers with what they want.

“Secondly, they need to know that they can still get key information on the lines they sell through reps – be that in person, or over the phone if necessary.

“The third thing that retailers need are alternative ways to communicate with those key suppliers. That could be social media, over the phone, or through trade press. Being present across as many channels as you can is key

“And finally, retailers are worried that once we’re past the peak, shoppers will be low on funds and have fully stocked cupboards. That’s when they will need supplier support to help create excitement to get shoppers into stores

“It’s a privilege to work on behalf of some of the great businesses in this channel. While the Covid-19 crisis is changing the way customers behave and businesses operate, we’re helping to ensure stores will still be there to stock the latest products, to drive sustainability initiatives and to dedicate themselves to their local communities.”

Hanover Communications is a communications consultancy that advises businesses ad individuals on how to build recognition and enhance reputation

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