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    C-stores Offered More Food Options, Gas Discounts in 2013

    Consumers paid more for fuel but made more purchases inside stores.

    ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Rising gas prices and the increased number of convenience stores offering prepared and healthy food options caught consumers' eyes the most in 2013, according to the results of a survey conducted by NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.

    A majority of surveyed consumers (56 percent) reported that gas prices overall where noticeably higher or lower, with variations based on where they lived. In the Midwest, 26 percent of consumers said that gas prices in December were higher than one year ago, while 45 percent of consumers in the South stated the same thing.

    Meanwhile, discounts and opportunities for savings at the fuel pump appear to be on the rise. Thirty-two percent of consumers said they saw more stores offering loyalty card discounts, and 18 percent said they saw more stores offering discounts to customers who pay with cash, which reduces the total swipe fee expenses retailers must pay. Additionally, alternative fuel options also appear to be increasing, with 8 percent of consumers saying they saw more stores offering diesel fuel and 7 percent saying they saw more stores offering fuels such as E85 or natural gas.

    Inside c-stores, 20 percent of consumers said they saw more stores offering prepared foods and 11 percent say that stores offered more healthy options, such as salads, nuts and fruits. More stores are also making changes to themselves, according to the survey, as 15 percent reported seeing more stores remodeled in order to increase attractiveness.

    Finally, younger customers were the most likely to notice these changes and to be there in the first place, with 17 percent of consumers aged 18 to 34 saying they purchased more items inside a c-store than they did last year.

    "Gas prices will always be top of mind with consumers, but many are looking beyond the price and selecting where to stop based on what's inside the store," said Jeff Lenard, NACS vice pesident of strategic industry initiatives.

    NACS partnered with Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates LLC to conduct the survey, which polled 801 consumers from Dec. 3-5.

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