Convenience retailers saw increased sales in 2019, according to a survey of U.S. convenience store owners by NACS.
The quarterly NACS Retailer Sentiment Survey tracks retailer sentiment related to their businesses, the industry and the economy. A total of 68 member companies, representing 2,896 stores, participated in the December 2019 survey.
Three in four retailers (74%) said that in-store sales increased in 2019, compared to 7% who said sales declined. And 62% say that their fuel gallons sold increased, compared to 25% who said that their fuel sales decreased.
A strong contributor to in-store sales growth was better-for-you (BFY) items that include fruit, vegetables, nuts, health bars and yogurt. Two in three (67%) retailers surveyed said that their better-for-you products enjoyed increased sales 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 NACS Vice President of Strategic Industry Initiatives Jeff Lenard. “Today, it’s almost expected that stores offer fresh and packaged better-for-you choices for customers and our industry’s commitment to groups like a Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) is one of the reasons why.”
NACS was the first retail-facing association to sign a commitment with PHA, joining 10 NACS retailer members and six distributor members. In recognition of the industry’s efforts, NACS was named PHA’s “Partner of the Year” in 2019.
Retailers say that the morning daypart presents the biggest opportunity to grow their food sales: 45% said that breakfast in their biggest opportunity in 2020, compared to 26% who said lunch and 23% who said dinner.
Strong industry sales in 2019 also pushed retailer optimism to record-high levels: 89% of retailers said they are optimistic about their economic prospects for the first quarter of 2020, which is 4 points higher than the same time last year.
While retailers are optimistic about their prospects in 2020, there are some concerns. The top concerns identified by retailers that could affect their businesses in 2020 are:
- Regulations/legislation (60%)
- Labor issues (58%)
- Competition from other convenience stores (50%)
- Competition from other retail formats like drug and dollar stores (33%)
- A potential decrease in driving/increase in gas prices (30%)
Convenience stores sell nearly 80% of the fuel purchased in the U.S. and conduct an estimated 165 million transactions a day, making the industry a good indicator for trends related to travel and consumer spending.