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According to NACS, 62.1% of all C-Store owners in the US are single-site operators. This means the majority of the C-Store Industry is comprised of single-site owners and small operators. This pandemic has been rough on everyone, but it is expected to hit small companies the hardest. Small operators are categorized as owners that retain 1-20 stores. Their average store size is 3,470± square feet and only about 20% also have a car wash whereas the industry average is 3,225± square feet. Not all is bad though, in 2019 small operators saw increases in multiple sectors regarding their in-store sales so there is still plenty of potential in the industry. Here is a deeper look into the small operator’s in-store sales before expenses.

On average small operators have 7 pumps per store and 82% sell diesel fuel. They are more dependent on fuel sales than larger companies, so it is expected that they are the most likely to be negatively impacted due to the pandemic. The average price per gallon has decreased since 2018. In 2019 the average price was $2.57 while in 2018 it was $2.66. Although that could be worrisome the gross margins have actually increased. In 2018 gross margins were at about 19.2 cents but as of 2019, the margins have increased to 22.4 cents per gallon. Also up from 2018 is weekly fuel transactions by 1.7%. The rest of the industry is experiencing a decline of 4.3%. Gallons sold between 2018 and 2019 have remained stagnant. . As an obvious side-effect of the shutdown, gallons sold in 2020 will decrease from previous years but the margins were at an all-time high so that should mitigate some losses.
56.4% of small operators reported an increase in per-store merchandise sales. Average weekly in-store transactions are up by 2.3% for small store operators while larger operators report a .5% decrease. The shutdown affected food service more than any other category. Luckily for the small operators statistically speaking they rely less on foodservice than larger companies. However, in 2019 they still saw a net gain of 4.2% in foodservice sales while larger companies made a 5.9% net gain.
Least affected by the shutdown are beer, wine, and tobacco sales. Both small and large operators saw an increase in alcohol sales in 2019. Small operators saw a 7.1% increase whilst larger companies saw a 9.2% increase. Tobacco sales weren’t quite as good. Small operators saw a .7% increase while large operators reported a .8% decrease.
Due to COVID grocery sales are reportedly on the rise due to overstressed supermarkets. Even before the pandemic grocery sales were on the up and up. 60% of small operators recorded an increase in grocery sales in 2019 while an astonishing 0% reported decreases in that sector. Candy sales saw a 5.1% net gain while the industry saw a 4.7% net gain. Salty snacks also saw an increase, again besting the industry with a 6% net gain while the entire industry only saw a 4.2% net gain. Finally, general merchandise and HBC (health and beauty care) saw an increase of 1.2% while the rest of the industry saw a 1.5% decline.
Although COVID has been hard on everyone, C-Stores remain resilient. Volumes were down but margins were up. C-Stores also saw an increase in grocery sales.

While beer, wine, and tobacco remained strong. Those operators that understand the new trends will thrive well into the future. We look forward to hearing from you and discuss your company’s future.

Source: Convenience Store News

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