Please Note: The information in this article was sourced from NACS (National Association of Convenience Stores), PDI Insights Cloud and csnews.com (Convenience Store News). For more information about the below topics please visit the following websites: https://www.convenience.org/ ; https://go.pdisoftware.com/COVID19ImpactOnCustomerBehavior ; https://csnews.com/
As a leading walk-in cooler manufacturer, U.S. Cooler outfits many convenience stores with walk-in coolers and freezers. We care about the convenience store industry and understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted each person and business differently. Today, we take a look at how the pandemic has affected the convenience store industry as a whole and how the behavior of consumers has changed in response.
With many consumers working from home, convenience stores, or c-stores, took a hit. The everyday consumer who would typically stop in for breakfast items or an afternoon snack while filling up their gas tanks were playing it safe at home. According to NACS, one-third of consumers were no longer making their commute to work, and for c-stores, this meant a low in normal rush hour routines. During this time, we also saw gas prices hit a record low. Fewer consumers were filling up their tanks, and those who did fill up were spending a lot less on gas. The combination of the change in consumer routines, cost of goods, and an overall fear of the virus led to an 11.5% decrease in total convenience store sales from January to April when comparing sales to 2019.
NACS reported that 58% of Americans stop at specific convenience stores based on brand loyalty. To keep both loyal and new customers feeling safe, c-stores kept busy by implementing new cleaning regimens and creating special accommodations for consumers. Even before the pandemic, a clean environment was important. When c-stores implemented their new cleaning changes, consumers could be confident that, if they did have to go out, they could still be safe. Consumers were also pleased with special accommodations that c-stores set in place. Convenient stores changed grab and go items from the “help yourself” style to pre-packaged goods. Many c-stores even started offering an attendant gas pumping service and food delivery.
The month of June brought a large uptick in numbers for most convenience stores. Consumers began to return to their daily commute and gas prices started to rise. Convenience Store News reported the c-store industry saw about a 90% increase in trips to the stores from 2019. There are a variety of c-store consumer behavior trends that have become a topic of industry news since the hit of the pandemic. Although alcohol sales rose at the beginning of the pandemic, the number of alcoholic beverage sales are now on a downward trend. As consumers return to their daily commute there has been an increase in how much they are spending per transaction. PDI Insights noted that at the end of June, convenience stores saw a 19.1% year over year increase in dollars per transaction. This behavior may be due to consumers picking up more everyday items to avoid extra trips out and about. This being said, several key categories are showing a decrease to year over year dollars in June. These categories include pre-packaged beverages, cold dispensed beverages, lottery and gaming, beer, and tobacco products.
Many people rely on their local convenience stores. From large cities to rural small-towns, convenience stores play a vital part in the economy. Whether it is providing day to day services and goods or fundraising relief programs, convenience stores always seem to step up to the plate. In such uncertain times, we can count on c-stores to embrace the “new normal” and to serve their local communities.