The Freddo effect — how much British corner shops have changed

There are a handful of topics that are sure to shatter the stoic façade of British endurance. The nation known for its stiff upper lip prides itself in enduring all hardships. We ‘keep calm and carry on’ through all atrocities and hardships. 

That is unless you do something utterly outrageous, of course. Like change the price of a frog-shaped chocolate the size of a thumb. Or make a meat-free sausage roll. You know, the important potential impacts on day-to-day life. 

Yes, the price of the corner-shop favourite, the Freddo, is something of a raw nerve for us Brits. The little chocolates seem to serve as a reminder that things have changed, and for some of us, their changing price makes us realise how old we are getting. 

“Back in my day, we could get Freddos for 10p! And if we wanted fashion inspiration, we had to go buy a copy of Mizz magazine. No Instagram folks in my day!”  

A larger sign of change for corner shops

But is the much-loathed price change of a small chocolate bar the only change we’ve seen at our local corner shop? Well, a shop caters to its customers, so let’s take a look there first. 

According to The Local Shop Report 2018 from the Association of Convenience Stores, there are 46,262 convenience stores in UK’s mainland, and 28% of these are run by people who have been in the business for more than 25 years. 

As for their customers: 

Age rangeGen Z (16-24)Millennials (25-34) Gen X (35-54)Baby Boomers (55-74)Silent Generation (75+) 
Customer percentage 13%17%33%29%8%
Top reason for visitFood-to-go (32%)Food-to-go (21%) Grocery top-up (22%)Newsagent (32%)Newsagent (42%) 
Top driver for visit Close to home (66%)Close to home (62%) Close to home (64%)Close to home (70%)Close to home (82%) 

Though the main consumer base is Generation X, we can see an interesting change developing across the generations. Where the older two generations prefer to use corner shops as their source of information and news, naturally the younger two generations tend to get their news from smartphones apps and websites. In fact, one study highlighted that Generation Z in particular tends to get their news updates from Instagram (29%), YouTube (22%), and Facebook (15%). In the future, corner shops will not be a source of news for many of its customers at all. 

Adapting to the customer

In fact, corner shops are enjoying something of a return to their roots. Originally, corner shops were opened as a primary means for people in newly-created towns to do their grocery shopping. This dwindled away with the rise of supermarkets and hyper-competitive pricing, forcing corner shops to adopt new products to appeal to customers. Generation X has brought back the need to stock grocery goods for their top-up shops, given the increase in people opting to forgo the big weekly shop in favour for smaller, more frequent shops. 

Meanwhile, the younger generations of Millennials and Generation Z are using convenience stores for, well, convenience! Their main reason for visiting is for food-to-go — something fast for their time-starved lifestyles. Again, corner shops have changed to accommodate this, offering up more quick food and drink options. Corner shops can even compete with the younger generations’ much-loved coffee shop trips for a trendy Starbucks Frappuccino, with many corner shops installing their own Frappino machine and offering organic coffee as well as prepared sandwiches to appeal in the same fashion. 

A new focus

The emphasis is still on convenience, of course — every generation cited that the local proximity of their corner shop was a main driver to their visit. But the focus of these shops has changed and evolved over the years to cater to an ever-growing list of demands and expectations. As The Grocer points out, convenience stores now stand as a melding of multiple shops, with food options like takeaways, postal services from the Post Office, baked goods in line with cafés, top-up facilities, ATM machines, and more. The outlet speculates that corner shops will continue to grow as a jack-of-all-trades, extending to services that are still quite cumbersome in the modern age, such as collecting repeat prescriptions or missed parcels. 

What do you think about the changes to the local corner shop? Do you miss the nostalgia of a small business, or do you prefer the more sleek, modern offerings of these increasingly multi-functional stores?