They’re a demanding bunch those consumers - not only do they want a their c-store to offer a comprehensive product range and long trading hours, they also want things like ATMs and PayPoint. Indeed, according to new research from HIM’s Convenience Tracking Programme*, 66% of shoppers expect their local c-store to have a cash machine.

It should come as no surprise really as by their very nature (and name), convenience stores are meant to be convenient. And forecourt stores keen to cash in on the convenience market need to be so too.

Nearly 300 forecourts were included in the HIM survey - grocery forecourts, oil company chains and independent sites. Not surprisingly, a car wash was the number one service on a forecourt, and of all the sites surveyed, 69% were found to have one. When it came to ATMs, more forecourts had one outside their shop than inside. Overall, 54% of the forecourts surveyed had an outside ATM. Ten per cent of the forecourts had PayPoints; 7% had PayZone; 3% offered DVD/video hire; but none had a post office.

Tom Fender, director at HIM, says: "Services have always been a fundamental part of a c- store’s offer and if there are any retailers out there who remain unconvinced about the importance of services - or the value of those services to shoppers - then hopefully our latest research will convince them otherwise."

Fender refers to the part of the research that found that many consumers thought services were as important as promotions and 14% of those surveyed said they wanted more services. "The services shopper doesn’t usually just visit the store for the service alone," explains Fender. "We found that the service shopper bought 3.1 items per trip on average, which is higher than the average c-shopper who bought 2.9 items per trip."

The top cross-purchases with services were newspapers (bought by 27% of services customers), confectionery (20%), cigarettes (18%), milk, bread, grocery and chilled lines.

Ten per cent of service users visited the store intending just to use the service, which means the retailer makes the profit on the extra items sold.

An important fact is that nearly 10% of service users say they would probably shop elsewhere for everything if their c-store removed services like PayPoint. HIM found that services are a "destination category", with the majority of users coming from home and returning straight back home. And 49% of service users live within a quarter mile of the store.

The research found that more women than men (58% vs 42%) use c-store services. Users are usually of a low socio-economic background and are likely to have children living at home. "Retailers who have stores in these kinds of catchment areas should see high services penetration. Fifteen per cent of c-shoppers said they’d paid a utility bill "here at this convenience store" in the last month. Assuming good c-stores get 6,000 transactions per week, that’s 3,600 people per month," says Fender.

However, users missions are not driven by services alone, as 18% were visiting their c-store to do a top-up shop; 17% were going there for newsagent purchases; 14% were making a snacking purchase; and 11% were there for the services.

* HIM interviewed nearly 28,000 shoppers across 1,500 branches of 30 c-store chains, including forecourts, during spring 2006.