Last week saw a first for Aldi in the UK. It opened a ‘convenience’ store on London’s Kilburn High Road.

Last week saw a first for Aldi in the UK. It opened a ‘convenience’ store on London’s Kilburn High Road. What make this particularly interesting is that until now, in this country at least, convenience retailing has been the domain of the mid-market with discounters playing little part.

Yet what seems obvious is that Aldi has seen the success enjoyed by the likes of Sainsbury’s and Tesco in small, carefully targeted ‘local’ stores and decided that this is a possible avenue for future growth. What however does the term convenience actually mean?

For most of us, convenience is probably defined by proximity. If a store’s local and it’s got what you need to satisfy an immediate pressing need, aka lunch, then it may well be deemed convenient. For retailers, the word also implies a limited range. This equates to a highly edited version of what is found in larger format stores - just enough to ensure that if you’ve forgotten something for the evening meal, the chances are reasonable that you’ll find it in one of these smaller shops.

And that should be about it. Except that the Aldi store is something of a fly in the ointment.

This may be smaller than a normal Aldi, but it is actually a reasonably sized supermarket. And while it may have a few sandwiches in a chiller unit close to the entrance, there are also the weekly ‘deal’ items that give shoppers a reason for repeat visit behaviour.

On this reckoning, convenience, it turns out, is less about size and range and rather more about looking around and seeing what others are not stocking. The only thing that it seems safe to say, looking at the slew of Morrisons c stores that we are set to see as this year progresses, is that a convenience store is smaller than a standard supermarket, but this may not be by much.

There is also the matter of convenience. There remain a hard core of shoppers for whom self-scan is not especially convenient although this is part of what the term increasingly means in the UK. Yet a visit to a Delhaize convenience store in Brussels on Friday revealed the fact that multiple manned tills in a small(ish) store were the order of the day. It’s the same at Aldi Kilburn High Road. So what is a convenience store? Maybe it’s whatever a retailer decides it is…things are less clear than ever.