Why corner shop nostalgia could be key to Symbol groups’ success

* 2 min read

If the world of retailing is changing, and more and more of us are taking to smaller and more local convenience stores, why are we not seeing a dearth of independently owned corner shops reclaiming the streets we live on?

As a child, having permission to skip down the street with 10p in hand to buy penny sweets was the highlight of the weekend. Hours with our noses pressed against the counter, picking between the gobstopper (one sweet but lasted days or the “lucky bag” (11 penny sweets for 10p - bargain!) was the hardest decision we made that day. Choice made, we were home within a heartbeat. Now that WAS convenient.

These days, our reality of convenience shopping is probably still a car ride away. As multiple grocers create mini (and often more expensive) versions of their mega superstores, we naturally gravitate to them, often passing by the corner stores of our youth. Why is that?

Well, truth to be told, the corner store is mostly not all that convenient these days. Consistency of range, date codes, product and service all contribute in our decision to turn left to the mini Tescos and Sainsbury’s of this world than turn right to the closer corner shop. Ease of parking, reassurance that the multiples will have “what I need” and confidence in pricing means we actually find getting in our cars more convenient than walking down the street.

You’d think that the Symbol groups (SPAR, Costcutter, Premier, Nisa) amongst us would rise victorious at this time, supplementing the tradition and warm fuzzy feeling of shopping truly “locally” at the corner shop with a more consistent and reassuring proposition across hundreds of independent shopkeepers. But sadly, few have risen to this challenge. 

The power of the collective is what could make Symbol group stores ultra-powerful. There’s no doubt that Symbol stores are in all the right locations, and who better to serve local communities than local shopkeepers? The independence of these stores gives them the charm and feel good factor, but the independence of these stores also gives rise to disparate ranging, inconsistent availability and pricing structures that don’t always make sense. Partner this with own brands that consumers don’t recognise, struggle to understand the proposition of, and don’t know whether to trust, and it becomes harder and harder work to shop local. 

So today the Multiples win. After all, hassle free is the biggest driver of convenience. And as yet, the potentially powerful collective haven’t quite got their act together.

But what a difference it would make if they did.  Here’s hoping…