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Retail Leaders Forum

The Retail Leaders Forum was launched in 2011 and now includes Booker Retail Partners, Boots, BP, Cooperative Food, Costcutter, Marks & Spencer, One Stop, Sainsbury's, Spar UK and Tesco. Unilever UK, Retail Insight and The Association of Convenience Stores support the forum.


Offers retailers the time, space & interactions to inspire innovation and different ways of working.


Visiting and interacting with top retailers in leading markets.


Challenging forum members to think differently.


Providing ‘win-win’ opportunities for our international host retailers.

Bringing global expertise insight & knowledge to retail leaders.

  • Testimonial #3

    In the field of Food Retail, Scott is a subject matter expert with particular expertise in the dynamic Convenience sector. Scott is widely respected for his strategic opinions and advice across the industry. His professional network in Retail is broad and he always operates with absolute discretion.

    Mike Baker, Brand Director, Booker Retail Partners, 2016
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  • Testimonial #2

    We thoroughly enjoyed the trip [to Hong Kong & Tokyo], learnt loads and it was clear that the depth of your relationship with the senior teams is key to a successful trip.

    Jane McCall, Transformation & Change Executive Director, The Cooperative Food, 2015
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  • Testimonial #1

    I personally got a lot from the from the development day. It needs an experienced and knowledgeable person such as yourself to make you open your eyes and look around. Winning the store of the year was really great, apart from the prestige the opportunity to receive advice and help…

    Brian Charlton, Londis Store of the Year winner 2015
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Access to some of the finest retail businesses the world over.

UK Forum members


International Forum members

These retailers have kindly supported the forum with headquarters and store visits.




Philadelphia & New York City 2017

In March 2017 the Forum visited Philadelphia and New York City. The economy of the USA is the largest in the world by nominal GDP, the second largest by purchasing power parity (China #1) and is the world's largest developed economy. GDP per capita is $56,116 (UK $43,876) & GDP is $18.036 trillion (UK $2.858 trillion) World Bank, 2015. NYC’s economy at $1.3 trillion is 10% larger than that of South Korea. World Bank, 2015. Philadelphia’s economy at $353 billion is 25% larger than that of Singapore. World Bank, 2015.

The 2017 themes

  1. Associate & customer engagement
  2. Using retail technology for competitive advantage: from ‘store efficiency’ through to ‘1:1 customer communication’
  3. Health & Wellbeing: choice, innovation and offer
  4. Anchoring our Customer Value Proposition
  5. Store format development linked to the themes

USA retail trends

  1. Hectic lifestyles are driving sales and growth in retailers who are convenient. C-stores CAGR in 2015-16 was 13.2%. Kantar Worldpanel.
    E-commerce share of value in 2016 was 1.4% versus 6.9% in the UK. Kantar Worldpanel.
  2. Personal experiences that resonate with consumers’ preferences such as food, limitations such as time and their dietary needs.
  3. Curated assortments project retailers’ expertise and help to ease customers’ real or perceived stress & time anxieties.
    The Grocery top up selection is minimal in the majority of C- and D- stores.
  4. Health & wellbeing awareness and demand is growing particularly in the major cities. Culturally the ‘American lifestyle’ positions health & wellbeing and retailers’ delivery and marketing of it in a different place than in the UK.
  5. The end of one size fits all. Customer demand is being matched with associates skills & supply to optimize sales. The right person with the right skills is in the right department. The standard (& still half) of C-stores majoring on ‘Cokes, Smokes & Gas’ in a convenient location is changing.
  6. Technology to strengthen customer relationships & offer a personal experience whilst simplifying store operations.
  7. Mission or ‘famous for’ ownership. Growing store sales, e-sales and margins through owning a category or mission in a location.
  8. Authentic connections. Retailers are engaging shoppers on a personal level with staff interaction and technology.
  9. Food for Now is a strategic category in NACS quartile 1 retailers, Fast Casual eateries and Walgreens.
  10. Store format & mission innovation. Leading examples are Sheetz ‘kicked up convenience’, Fresh & Co & Honeygrow fast casual cafés, Walgreens’ drugstore-convenience hybrid and Fairway Market’s convenient neighbourhood supermarkets.


Tokyo & Kyoto 2016

In March 2016 the Forum visited Tokyo and Kyoto, 5 years after the first visit. Japan is the world’s second largest Convenience market after the USA and the top market for product and technology innovation.The Japanese convenience retail business model is a franchise model: 95% of stores in the top three retailers – 7-Eleven, Lawson, Family Mart Uny Holdings Company - are operated by independent retailers. The three retailers each has its own franchise model, however, they are similar to the 7&I model for 7-Eleven franchisees. Seven-Eleven Japan’s distinct franchise system aims to bring innovation and dynamism to small and medium sized retail stores and achieve coexistence and co-prosperity with franchisees.

The top 10 learning from the trip were:

1. C-store sales are growing at +5% through franchising, integrated stores & institutional locations. #2 channel with 53,600 stores after supermarkets.
2. Big 3 retailers are targeting a 12% increase to 60,000 stores. Focus on Business, Education, Health, Transport & combo-stores, e.g. Drug & Greys’ Lifestyle. Store density is 1: 2,500 within a ‘3 minutes’ walk.
3. Food for Now #1 strategic category across Fresh, Hot, Ambient & Dry. Products such as onigiri rice balls, instant ramen noodles, bento box meals and fried chicken are > 50% sales.
4. Proprietary products are 50% store sales, 68% excluding Tobacco
5. 100% annual replacement of food skus: innovation ‘waterfall’ with >200 new skus in-store every Tuesday (Family Mart Uny)
6. Innovation - ‘always something new’ – to hold shopper interest and visits. Manufacturers launch new & premium products at C-stores. Unsuccessful products are moved to the Discount sector to clear after 4 weeks. Product failure rate is 90%.
7. Fresh food deliveries x 3 each day.
8. Retailers have a constant focus on ‘single Cm’ space performance
9. 100% supply to franchisees: >99% fulfilment across all categories driven by real time data exchange.
10. Stored payment transport cards such as ‘Pasmo’ & cash dominate transactions. Customer use ‘corner’ machines for banking, auto loans, bill payment, ticketing and other services.



Boston & Chicago 2015

We expanded the reach of the forum in 2015 to bring in important retailers on the ‘frame’ of Convenience: Walgreens, Walmart and WholeFoods Market. The big themes from the visit were:

1. Sector blurring. Market leaders Walgreens & Walmart are moving from the periphery of Convenience to the mainstream:
• Walgreens with fresh food service & high end grocery
• Walmart with smaller Neighbourhood & Express stores +
opening in ‘challenged’ neighbourhoods with community support
• WholeFoods Market leading on Fresh Grab ‘n’ Go and Dinner Tonight
2. Drug. Major urban trend to Wellness (from illness) driving retail strategy change
3. Foodservice. Convergence of Convenience & Food Service. Fresh food service destination strategies in 7-Eleven & Walgreens to build credibility. A principal destination in Walmart small stores & Wholefoods
4. Proprietary brands. Growth in Fresh Food, Beverages & Snacks. Also fuelled by national DSD vendors (Coca Cola, Frito-Lay, PepsiCo … ) refusal to deliver to retailers’ DCs.
5. Click & collect. Fully integrated at Walgreens, Walmart & Wholefoods stores
Amazon + e-retailers order collection at all 7-Eleven stores
6. Credit card fees. #1 NACS action programme. Cumberland Farms SmartPay gas loyalty program circumvents credit card swipe (interchange) fees
7. Technology. Each retailer leveraging customer data for ‘next phase’ marketing, loyalty and reward programs
8. Fuel. 80% motor fuels sold through C-stores. Traffic driver for Food Service strategy
9. Tobacco. Walgreens in review. #2 CVS & smaller chains delisted
10. Franchising. 7-Eleven (& #2 Circle K (Couche Tard) uses Japanese full compliance business model


Hong Kong & Seoul 2014

Leaders from Boots, Sainsbury’s and Tesco joined the Forum for the trip to Hong Kong and Seoul. The forum now included Drug retailers in recognition of the channel blurring of Convenience, Drug, Health & Beauty and Food retailers. Hong Kong and Seoul are two of the top three – with Tokyo – Health & Beauty innovation markets.

Our hosts were Convenience Retail Asia, Dairy Farm Group and SaSa in Hong Kong and BGFretail, Lotte Group, CJ Olive Young and Tesco in Seoul.
The efficiency of small spaces and the transport hub store formats were two of the big convenience insights. The ‘waterfalls’ of new product innovation in both Hong Kong and Seoul Health & Beauty stores was a massive eye-opener. Snail mucus facemasks were the big hit!
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Retail Leaders Forum - Tokyo 2011

The forum was created in 2011 for leadership of the independent retail groups. We visited Tokyo six months after The Great East Japan Earthquake and were heroically hosted by 7-Eleven Japan, Family Mart and Circle K Sunkus - UNY Group - who gave is in-depth looks at their retail strategies and stores. Katsumi Yamada MD of Circle K Sunkus overviewed their crisis management procedure. There was not a dry eye in the room when we heard about the colleagues and stores lost to the tsunami that accompanied the earthquake.