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    Busy Summer Expected

    Convenience stores could expect increased sales of snacks and beverages.

    Convenience store retailers can expect time-pressed travelers to boost sales of beverages, snacks and prepaid phone cards and cell phones, according to summertime sales projections by convenience store retailers released by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).

    In addition to the usual increased summertime demand for gasoline, retailers can expect to see increased sales for beverages, ice, Styrofoam coolers, picnic supplies and bug spray, the report said.

    Retailers that participated in the study also said they anticipate a strong demand for convenience products and services like prepaid telecommunications products and ATMs.

    "With convenience stores selling roughly 60 percent of the gasoline purchased in the country, and most Americans planning at least one major driving vacation this summer, travelers throughout the summer will use convenience stores as the one-stop shopping place to fuel up and feed up," said Carl Bolch, Jr., NACS' chairman of the board and chairman of Atlanta,-based RaceTrac Petroleum Inc.

    According to the survey, retailers said they are prepared for:
    *Increased bottled water sales. Convenience stores now sell one of out every five bottles of water purchased in the United States, NACS said. Retailers also expect continued strong demand for energy drinks, as well as juices.
    *Portable meal sales. Retailers said that they've seen a trend toward consumers treating snack foods like "portable meals," eating four or five times a day, and "grazing" on snacks like meat snacks (which have tripled in sales in nine years), energy bars muffins and cookies.
    *Bigger demand for prepaid telecommunications products. Convenience stores expect another strong summer of sales for prepaid telecommunications -- with hot-selling items like prepaid phone cards and even prepaid cell phones, which grew 24 percent in sales over the last year. And with nearly 70 percent of stores having ATMs, retailers also expect strong demand by vacationers for ATM services, the survey said.

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