C-stores will stay solid despite risks

Property expert Christie & Co outlines its predictions for Scottish stores and petrol forecourts during 2019

Christie & Co identified chilled, fresh and food to go as leading categories

STEADY as she goes seems to be the trend for Scotland’s convenience sector in 2019, according to commercial property firm Christie & Co.

At its Business Outlook event in Glasgow, the firm said that it expected profit margins to tighten throughout the year, with the level of turnover needed to sustain a c-store likely to increase.

However, Christie & Co pointed out that food to go, chilled and fresh were the categories “leading the way” in Scottish convenience stores, chiming with contemporary thinking among food and drink brands.

“Larger turnover stores, with chillers and square footage to accommodate for these services, are becoming increasingly popular among buyers,” according to the firm’s report.

And while Christie & Co predicted that there was “likely” to be an increase in corporate sell-offs of convenience stores, many business owners were keen to reinvest in, rather than sell, their stores.

Last year, UK convenience retailers invested £814m in their businesses, with freehold tenure favoured by independent buyers who were able to improve sites and reduce costs.

Independents continue to own the largest share of convenience stores in the UK, making up 31% of the market.

When it comes to filling stations, Christie & Co said that margins for fuel retailers look set to improve in 2019, with the gap between pump prices and oil prices expected to widen.

It also anticipates a rise in purchasing activity from fuel suppliers like Certas Gulf, Jet and Harvest in a bid to retain market share.

And, as ever, the uncertainty of Brexit has real potential to negatively affect convenience businesses.

Christie & Co warned of a potential impact on the supply chain if the cost of sourcing products and labour is pushed upwards, through the introduction of any “undesirable” import and export tariffs.