C-Stores Came Out on Top in 2019

Convenience retailers overwhelmingly said their sales increased in 2019, according to a survey by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).

Three in four retailers said in-store sales improved in 2019, compared with only 7% who said sales slumped. A strong contributor to in-store sales growth was the better-for-you category that included fruit, vegetables, nuts, health bars, and yogurt. Better-for-you products increased in sales for 67% of retailers in 2019.

“The convenience retailing industry is committed to providing better-for-you choices in stores, and the numbers show that consumers are supporting this effort,” said Jeff Lenard, VP of strategic industry initiatives at NACS. “Today, it’s almost expected that stores offer fresh and packaged better-for-you choices for customers.”

The morning daypart presents the biggest opportunity to grow c-store food sales. Forty-five percent reported breakfast as their biggest opportunity for 2020, compared with 26% who said lunch and 23% who indicated dinner.

Additionally, strong industry sales in 2019 pushed retailer optimism to record-high levels. Eighty-nine percent said they are optimistic about their economic prospects for the first quarter of 2020—four points higher than the same time last year.

However, there are still lingering concerns. The top concerns identified by retailers that could affect business in 2020 include regulations/legislation, labor issues, competition from other c-stores and other retail formats, and a potential decrease in driving/increase in gas prices.

Understanding the local community’s needs can help drive business. “Having a solid presence supporting local organizations has helped fuel our sales in 2019,” said Dennis McCartney with Landhope Farms of Kennett Square, PA. “Our fresh and local offering in foodservice helps set us apart from the competition.”

Recently, Food & Wine ranked the best convenience stores in the U.S. The number one spot went to Texas-based Buc-ee’s, followed by Wawa, New York’s Stewart’s Shops, Sheetz, and Parker’s.

Some other names on the list included Casey’s General Store, Maverik, United Dairy Farmers, Allsup’s, and Royal Farms.