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NATIONAL REPORT – The five in-store categories that generated the biggest 2015 first-half percentage sales gains were alternative snacks (up 9.1 percent), edible grocery (up 7.8 percent), packaged sweet snacks (up 7.4 percent), wine and liquor (up 7.2 percent) and prepared food (up 6.8 percent), according to Convenience Store News’ second-annual Mid-Year Report Card.
Disappointing categories included publications (down 7.9 percent), fluid milk products (down 6.4 percent) and frozen dispensed beverages (up only 1.2 percent).
The exclusive CSNews Mid-Year Report Card is based on mid-year data from Nielsen, government sources and CSNews’ own research analysis. Here, first-half national and regional breakouts are provided for the top product categories inside convenience stores:
Through the first six months of 2015, total cigarette sales were up 2.3 percent, an improvement over the 1.9-percent decline seen after the first six months of 2014. Retailers also reported to CSNews that the long-running 2-3 percent per year decline in pack volume has moderated.
On a sales-per-store basis, cigarette sales were up 1.6 percent. Regionally, the South (up 1.8 percent) outperformed the rest of the country, while the Northeast (up 1.2 percent) trailed.
The upper-most and lower-most price points appear to be doing the best. Premium cigarettes (up 1.8 percent) and fourth tier brands (up 8.7 percent, on a small base) led the category, while sub-generic/private label and branded discount were essentially flat.
Packaged beverage sales were up 5.4 percent through the first half of 2015. On a sales-per-store basis, packaged beverages were up 4.8 percent in the first half. Regionally, the Northeast had the biggest percentage gain, up 5.3 percent, while the West lagged, up only 4.4 percent.
The biggest segment gainers were enhanced waters (up 10.8 percent per store), ready-to-drink iced tea (up 7.6 percent), bottled water (up 7.5 percent), and alternative beverages (up 7.4 percent). Alternative beverages include energy drinks.
The softest subcategory was also the biggest, carbonated soft drinks (CSDs). However, even CSDs were up slightly (1.3 percent) for the first half of the year.
Also in the cold vault, beer/malt beverages were up only 1.2 percent for the first half. On a sales-per-store basis, beer/malt beverage sales were flat, up just 0.5 percent.
Regionally, the West was strongest with an almost 1-percent sales gain.
It was a tough first half for premium beer (down 1.9 percent per store), budget (down 5.4 percent) and popular brands (down 4 percent), but imports (up 9.4 percent), flavored malt beverages (up 7.5 percent) and super-premium brands (up 7.7 percent) shined. So too did microbrews/craft beer (up 14.9 percent) and nonalcoholic beer (up 17.6 percent) on considerably smaller bases.
OTHER TOBACCO PRODUCTS
First-half sales of other tobacco products (OTP) were up 4.9 percent. On a sales-per-store basis, the OTP category was up 4.3 percent. Regionally, OTP sales gains were strongest in the South, up 4.7 percent, and weakest in the Northeast, up 2.5 percent.
Smokeless tobacco sales per store were up 4.1 percent, while cigars inched up 1.2 percent during the first half. Electronic cigarettes were up 21.1 percent, a significant gain on a still relatively small base.
Candy sales were up 3.1 percent in the first half of 2015. On a sales-per-store basis, candy rose 2.4 percent. Sales gains were consistent across all four regions of the country.
Bagged/repacked/pegged candy (up 9 percent per store), novelty/seasonal candy (up 6.2 percent) and candy rolls, mints and drops (up 5.7 percent) were the biggest first-half winners. The largest subcategory, chocolate bars, was down 1.6 percent.
Salty snack sales ran 4.4 percent ahead of last year’s first-half results. On a sales-per-store basis, salty snacks were up 3.8 percent in the first half. Regionally, salty snack sales were up about the same percentage points across the country.
Nuts/seeds (up 9.6 percent), puffed cheese (up 5.8 percent) and tortilla/corn chips (up 4.5 percent) were the strongest salty snack subcategories. Potato chips (up only 2.7 percent) and crackers (up 0.9 percent) were lackluster in the first half.
Foodservice sales were up 5.2 percent during the first half of this year. Prepared food led the way with a 6.8-percent gain, while hot dispensed beverages were up 2.1 percent and cold dispensed beverages were up 2 percent. Frozen dispensed beverages were up only 1.2 percent.
On a sales-per-store basis, foodservice was up 4.6 percent for the first half. Regionally, the South saw the biggest gain, up 4.9 percent, while the other regions were all around 4.3-4.4 percent on the rise.
Click here for Part 1 of our Mid-Year Report Card special feature.