Rural convenience stores
“Indispensable Hub” for thousands of isolated communities
The Association of Convenience Stores has called on the Government to ensure that there is a level playing field for the UK’s 16,944 rural convenience stores which allows them to keep pace with new technology and continue providing essential services to local people.
The 2019 Rural Shop Report reveals that rural convenience stores provide flexible jobs for almost 140,000 people, have invested over 271 million pound in improving their businesses, and are providing a wider range of services despite being hampered by slower than average broadband speeds and unreliable mobile connectivity.
The importance of rural convenience stores is also highlighted in new research for this year’s report which shows that one in five people living in rural areas would have to travel more than five miles to get essential groceries if their local convenience store wasn’t there.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Rural convenience stores are an indispensable hub for communities, providing a wide range of products and services to local people, many of whom would be effectively cut off if their local shop wasn’t there. These businesses increasingly rely on being connected to be able to provide the latest innovations and technology in their stores, which is why we’re reiterating our calls on the Government to ensure that there is a level playing field for mobile and broadband connectivity.”
The 2019 Rural Shop Report also explores the value of services to rural customers. The two services that rural people value the most in their local shop are the Post Office (provided by 34 percent of rural shops) and access to a cash machine (provided on a free to use basis by 44 percent of rural shops). For young people aged 18-24 in rural areas, access to a cash machine was the most valuable service available in their local shop, enforcing the importance and continued relevance of cash as a method of payment both in stores and in the wider community.
Mr Lowman continued: “Providing access to cash is clearly important for rural customers, but stores are under increasing pressure to either remove their machines or start charging for cash as a result of LINK cutting interchange fees. We have not seen any evidence that the ‘super premium’ that LINK recently introduced is having an effect, and with banks leaving communities in large numbers we urge the Government to closely monitor the provision of cash to rural customers in the future.”