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    C-store Visits, Spending Increases in First Quarter

    More consumers selecting chains based on loyalty programs and promotional deals.

    HOUSTON – Consumers continue to recognize the value that convenience stores provide, leading to a 2-percent increase in consumer traffic and a nearly 6-percent increase in spending during the first quarter of 2013, compared to the same quarter one year ago, according to The NPD Group.

    C-store research from NPD shows that visit frequency also grew quarter over quarter to 6.1 visits in a 30-day period for the average, conventional c-store shopper.

    NPD's Convenience Store Monitor found that the traffic gains in 2013’s first quarter were concentrated in traditional c-stores, which saw visit growth of 9 percent vs. a year ago. Visits to major oil and small c-store chains decreased by 5 percentage points and 1.1 points respectively, however.

    Rising gasoline prices during the quarter ($3.37 per gallon at the beginning of the quarter and $3.74 per gallon at the end) contributed to a decrease in c-store penetration. NPD also found that 48.8 percent of the U.S. population reported visiting a c-store within the last 30 days, a slight decrease from last year and from the fourth quarter of 2012, when 49.5 percent reported the same.

    Reward and loyalty programs are gaining popularity with traditional and major oil chain shoppers, with 7 percent of conventional c-store shoppers citing rewards or store loyalty as a reason for choosing a specific chain, the research also revealed. With the addition of 5 percent of shoppers who list coupons, discounts, sales or promotions as a chain selection reason, one in 10 c-store shoppers now select a store for deals, NPD stated.

    "Right now, consumers are generally a little less sour, but there is not a lot of consumer exuberance," said David Portalatin, NPD's c-store industry analyst. "They still feel financially shaky and are cautious about what they spend, which is why c-store rewards and loyalty are increasing in popularity. As discounts become the new normal and consumers continue to seek them, conventional convenience retailers will have to offer overall value for the experience in the coming months to entice repeat visits and overcome consumer spending hesitations."

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