COVID is having a far-reaching impact on our industry. Fuel sales are down significantly but climbing back up. C-store sales started down a lot too but have generally rebounded to levels close to pre-COVID norms, and in some cases, sales are even higher than pre-COVID levels. Stores that are on commuter routes are not seeing quite the same rebound, but stores that are close to communities are definitely seeing a bounce. We believe this is due to the fact that some people would rather go to their local convenience store than to a large supermarket with all the anxiety that the supermarket trip entails.It is also due to the unique product mix that c-stores offer.
Convenience stores sell items that customers tend to buy more of in times of distress, like tobacco, beer and wine, and lottery. They also provide a quicker and easier way for customers to get in and out, and stores with fuel offer a one-stop shopping experience for people. A coffee offering adds further incentive for customers who do not want to make many stops. We are hearing from store operators that sales of grocery items are also increasing in c-stores so that may be an avenue for some operators to investigate to increase sales.
We recommend that operators work with their vendors to bring in items that are in high demand in supermarkets. Here is a list of items that your customers would like to see in your stores:
- Toilet Paper
- Paper Towels
- Hand sanitizer
We know these are in high demand everywhere but even items that people may
not want to go to the supermarket for, like milk, eggs, bread, fruit, foil, and plastic wrap should be kept in stock in higher quantities too. Speak to your supplier – the good ones will have their finger on the pulse and will be able to let you know how consumer demand is changing and how you can take advantage.