Crowd Shortcuts – a quick chat about something that’s caught our attention. This week, how local neighbourhood stores are selling luxury convenience…

What’s all this then? An everyday visit to the local convenience store is turning into a luxury browsing opportunity. You may have heard of the lipstick index: it’s a way to spot a recession by lipstick sales going up as people turn to purchasing treats within their budget. Now look instead to the ‘local store index’, because this is the new place for cash-strapped consumers to find affordable luxuries.

Luxury among the cans of baked beans? Tell me more… The neighbourhood shop has undergone a glow-up. We see this in the bodegas of New York city making space for guest-curated snack boxes, craft beers and fancy, localised gifts.

Now you mention it, I have noticed expensive olive oil and kombucha on tap… Bingo!

So will we be ditching mega supermarkets? They’ve jumped on the local luxe movement, too. In the UK, supermarket giant Asda launched On The Move convenience stores last year – promising “a wide range of premium ‘Extra Special’ products” – while Aldi’s Corner Store in Sydney does a fast turnover in treat lunches: fresh sushi and artisan baked goods. Meanwhile, luxury convenience stores in South Korea have overtaken Japan in scale, and doing so with a focus on “developing unique products” (McKinsey, 2023).

Isn’t the economy amazing! Sure is. But local luxe is not just being driven by the economy. It reflects changing consumer values – as we see in how 7-Eleven (the largest convenience store chain in the US) is installing new charging stations for electric vehicles in its local branches, hoping to attract the environmentally-minded customer.

And the cherry on the luxe cake… here’s the even better sell: it takes us full circle back to a time when we’d go to the local baker, butcher and candlestick maker. Now the corner shop is getting the good stuff on the shelves – and not just essentials, which it always has done – it offers the kudos of a local market, of knowing what their customer really wants, of generating word of mouth recommendations.

Will this change the aspirations of product makers? They may move away from wanting to sell in enormous bulk to supermarkets and want to talk to local shop owners (even if it means lower profit margins) instead. Or brands may get better quality awareness from a local, trusted supplier.

Blimey. And the local store index? In a tougher economic landscape, few would argue with the sense in turning to the small treats to sustain us rather than emptying our bank accounts with bigger ticket items. Some may even claim their local artisan bread habit as an act of anti-globalisation… 

TL;DR: Local, luxury, convenient and conscious consumption – now that’s a shopping style that should outlast the cost-of-living crisis.