While debate rages over the economic implications of New Zealand's supermarket duopoly, the New Zealand Association of Convenience Stores (NZACS) has called for greater recognition of the overall value of the convenience store offer.
NZACS Chairman Roger Bull said the concept of value is too often interpreted simply as price, while other elements contributing to real value are often overlooked.
Hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders visit their local convenience store to buy an ice‐cream on a sweltering summer day, pick up the milk and their paper, buy munchies late at night while studying for exams, choose a lotto ticket, rent a trailer, grab a cup of hot coffee on the way to work or simply fill up the car with petrol.
For decades convenience stores have provided a valuable service to the community and have become a fixture in many small towns. They are the modern general store and continue to evolve in the face of significant challenges posed by the large supermarkets," said Mr Bull.
Actively involved in local communities, convenience stores are open all hours to service customers' needs, they carry a range of products proven to be wanted by customers, they offer easy parking, are conveniently located, provide ATM's and other essential services, and participate in regular product promotions.
Importantly, the vast majority of convenience stores are in the main operated by small business people that employ their families and staff from the local area they serve.
Supporting these small businesses in the current retail environment and recognising the valuable services they provide is essential for an industry that employs thousands of New Zealanders at a local level.
NZACS encourages regulators and politicians to keep a watchful eye on practices that seek to disadvantage small businesses - the major employers in the country and the lifeblood of many of New Zealand communities.
"The need for consumers to support their local independent retailers is greater than ever," Mr Bull said.
Supporting local retailers and small businesses now is the best safeguard against the price hikes and continued erosion of choice that could materialise if dominant major retailers continue to sweep away all before them in their supermarkets' aggressive path to growth.
"More than this, it's important for consumers to remember and recognise the many valuable services convenience stores provide and the special place they hold in the community," he said.