A convenience store is a small store or shop that may sell items such as sweets, ice-cream, soft drinks, lottery tickets, cigarettes and other tobacco products, newspapers and magazines, along with a selection of processed food and perhaps some groceries. Stores that are part of gas stations may also sell motor oil, windshield washer fluid, radiator fluid, and maps. Often toiletries and other hygiene products are stocked, and some of these stores also offer money orders and wire transfer services or liquor products. They are often located alongside busy roads, in densely-populated urban neighbourhoods, at gas/petrol stations or near railway stations or other transportation hubs.
They are there to serve a need, providing a practical alternative to the out-of-town superstores. Rarely do they attract customers shopping for the week. Instead, they draw their custom from impulse or emergency purchases, from people topping-up their cupboards or from those simply getting the daily essentials like milk and bread. With the demise of the local specialist store, convenience stores have also become centres of the community in more isolated locations.
At a time of economic uncertainty, the market in these local retailers seems remarkably solid. According to the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), tens of millions of customers visit convenience stores every day. So if you’re looking to buy a business, this could be an attractive option.
Mike Carr, group managing director of EM&F believes convenience stores are a good business to buy in these uncertain times: “Due to a degree of uncertainty in the general economic climate, people are buying businesses that are more likely to continue to grow. Convenience stores fit this bill because everyone needs food.”
According to Mike Carr of business agents Everett, Masson & Furby, there is not a typical convenience store owner. “You get people going into business for the first time who want a business that they can understand fairly quickly. You also get people who have come out of the professions – retired bank managers for example. The good thing about the market is that it appeals to a wide variety of people.” Another advantage of this business is that you can come to it without prior retailing experience. And if you are a little unsure about jumping in at the deep end, you can often arrange a settling in period at the start.
Paul Williamson, director of business transfer agents Ernest Wilson, explains, “When we sell a business there is a period of time before completion during which people can go in and work with the vendors, learn how to do the job and also check the figures.” A lot of people don’t know where to buy their stock from, what to charge etc. The vendors can show them how to run the business and also introduce them to the customers, which is important.”
Not everything can be gained from experience, however. Andrew Bresnan, a convenience store owner in Dorset, says that having the right personality is crucial. “The most important aspect is to be able to get on with the general public. Another factor is to be very well organised and stay on top of the paperwork. There is a lot of paperwork in this business, with invoices and so forth.”
You will also need to be prepared to put in the hours. Many convenience stores attract business by staying open when the superstores are closed. This is especially relevant on...