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    New Definition of Convenience

    Product differentiation driven by convenience has been around since the caveman invented the wheel. But the need for convenient and easy-to-use solutions has increased with the hectic pace of change in society. With more two-income families, longer working hours, increased children's after-school activities, as well as greater value now being placed on leisure time, consumers are looking for anything that will save them time, according to Executive Perspective, a VNU information service.

    Product differentiation driven by convenience has been around since the caveman invented the wheel. But the need for convenient and easy-to-use solutions has increased with the hectic pace of change in society. With more two-income families, longer working hours, increased children's after-school activities, as well as greater value now being placed on leisure time, consumers are looking for anything that will save them time, according to Executive Perspective, a VNU information service.

    On the retail front, convenience stores no longer own the most convenient retail real estate in the market. Indeed, many c-stores aren't even easy to get in and out of quickly anymore. The convenience of one-stop shopping (along with low prices) continues to be a major draw for the thriving supercenter concept spearheaded by Wal-Mart. Drug stores are adding more consumables to play into the one-stop shopping trend. They are also opening stores on costly inner-city corners to be closer to customers and adding drive-through windows to cut down on shopping time. Medical clinics staffed by nurses are opening up in Wal-Marts, Targets, grocery and drug stores to save consumers the bother of a doctor's visit. Walgreens and CVS stores are adding automated teller machines to many of their stores. Kroger has started offering home equity loans, pet insurance, identity theft insurance and mortgage services. On the technology front, scanners and self-checkouts are obvious time savers, and it won't be long before consumers are using their cell phones to navigate a store and pay for their purchases.

    Convenience means more than a quick-prep product or a good store location. In the coming year, the focus will shift to process issues, including self-service checkouts, ease of ordering, simplified delivery, menu planning, dry cleaner services, and a host of other on-site services from party planning to banking. Convenience store retailers will need to look globally as well, seeking best practices that can be applied to their business. One thing is certain: consumers have shown that saved time is worth paying for.

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