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WASHINGTON, DC -- As the economy continues to falter consumers are looking for innovative ways to save money on staple products, a trend benefiting c-store operators.
Aulfigar Ali told The Washington Post that in recent months shopping behaviors at his Arlington, Va.-based 7-Eleven store have changed. Whereas customers used to pick up papers and milk, now they are buying a wider selection of products, including fresh fruit, pancake syrup and black beans.
Ali told the paper he is simply responding to "popular demand." To this end, he has increased his stock in salt, sugar and cooking oil, and has realized single customer sales of $150 dollars, he told the paper.
Tom Gerrity, director for processed foods in 7-Eleven’s Washington region, told the paper the company is experiencing more customers "buying products that would typically be purchased at a supermarket or club store ... throughout the month at a 7-Eleven."
The proof is on the pudding. Gerrity told The Washington Post that in the Washington region, grocery sales were up two to three percent last month compared with last year. Frozen food sales, he noted, grew seven percent, and ready-to-eat meals increased by nine percent.
According to Food World magazine, 7-Eleven, with 400 stores in the region, ranks ninth in grocery destinations in the DC market. The company was narrowly edged out by other leaders such as Whole Foods and Harris Teeter.
Researchers at TNS Retail Forward find that most people accidental shop at convenience stores while getting gas. However, Jennifer Halterman—senior consultant at the paper— said, "It’s important to add destination appeal so that shoppers think of them not only as convenience. Adding that second layer can help them in the future."