Retail channel shifts: the growth of convenience

28th April 2020
Industry sage Jim Bilton – (Wessenden Marketing) allowed ACE a preview of his latest industry briefing and we were impressed. Amongst a treasure trove of valuable analysis, comment and insight the latest edition of the “wessendenbriefing” really does help us all get a clearer picture of what is happening out there, the impact for our industry and invites us to consider our strategies for the future

One article we particularly found valuable was a look into the seismic shift in channel sales as a result of lockdown

There are some clear shifts as to where people are buying newspapers and magazines.


• Up until lock-down, the overall picture after the pandemic had started to develop, had been built on a robust performance from Supermarkets. Yet since then, in-store movement restrictions seem to be playing a part in their more recent sales dip. It is the Grocers who are reviewing tighter ranges and are pushing for simplified processes.

• The flight into smaller, more local, Convenience stores appears to be accelerating, as people walk to make essential top-up purchases. Stores with significant food, house-hold and pharmacy ranges are showing the best performance.

Travel outlets have been badly hit, with the whole WHSmith Travel division in hibernation, apart from its hospital outlets.

• The volatile location remains the High Street which is dominated by WHSmith, which is operating at around 10% of its previous sales levels.

• What is significant is that the Independents and Specialist Newsagents are currently benefiting from these channels shifts.

Non-traditional outlets are being taken out of the market. These are usually “non-essential” outlets going into hibernation (e.g. Waterstones, Hobbycraft), but most are not great volume providers for N&M anyway.

Whether these initial shifts in channel share will continue through lock-down and whether they revert back to where they were pre-coronavirus once we reach the Other Side: all that remains to be seen, but the likelihood is that Grocery and Convenience will permanently hold on to any share gains they have gouged out and there is more hope for the indie Neighbourhood store than for some years. In addition, Supermarkets are also under pressure to reduce ranges and close non-essential services: the longer-term impact on the role that N&M plays in the grocers is still uncertain.

Get in the know

Wessendenbriefing is an alternate monthly newsletter, available on subscription to senior executives in the Audience business – newspapers & magazines, retail & subscriptions, print & digital.  For a free sample issue, email Jim Bilton (

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