Lockdown has changed how grocery retail operates and forecourts are no exception to this, reports Sarah Coleman, project manager at shopper research specialist HIM/MCA.


The company’s latest research reveals that since lockdown began, just over 10% of shoppers say they have been visiting forecourts more; and the figure rises to over 20% of younger shoppers, aged 18-34.

“It appears that forecourts are an attractive option during the pandemic, since shoppers expect that social distancing would be implemented well in these outlets (1 in 4 shoppers agree), as well as a third of shoppers who anticipate forecourts will have shorter queues than other shops,” said Coleman.

“The physical constraints of lockdown also mean that for 31% of shoppers, forecourts are convenient because they are close to where they live.”

As for the convenience channel in general, she said there are many great examples of forecourts that have expanded services to help those in need: “Hill’s Retail, for example, launched a phone ordering service at its Alcester branch, delivering goods directly to shoppers homes to meet the needs of some of its elderly shoppers.”

However, while the current situation might have made forecourts more favourable for shoppers, attention must now turn to how forecourts can retain any new convenience shoppers gained.

“Pricing will clearly be a factor here,” said Coleman. “HIM/MCA’s Forecourt Report 2020 found that shoppers expect to pay a 20% premium within forecourts. The same report found that forecourt shoppers needs are generally being met, apart from satisfaction with value for money and prices.

“At a time when disposable incomes are squeezed and with greater uncertainty about the future, shoppers are likely to become more value-orientated post-lockdown. It will become even more important for forecourts to manage the pricing message through PMPs, price checking and promotions which will help promote positive price perception and will play an important part in driving shopper loyalty in the channel.