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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Convenience store sales grew during the first half of 2017, and retailers are even more optimistic about sales during the second half, according to results from the most recent quarterly survey of convenience retailers released by NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.
Two out of three c-store operators (67 percent) said that in-store sales during the first half of 2017 were higher than the same period in 2016, compared to just 15 percent that reported a drop in sales. A majority (51 percent) also stated that fuel sales during the same time period were higher, compared to 18 percent that saw a decline.
Most retailers are even more optimistic about the future, as 83 percent said they are optimistic about business prospects over the third quarter of 2017. This is the highest level recorded in the past eight quarters.
The continued high level of consumer confidence is one of the biggest factors contributing to retailer optimism. Nearly three in five (58 percent) drivers reported feeling optimistic about the U.S. economy, according to the June 2017 NACS Consumer Fuels Survey.
Warm weather and the extended period of low gas prices also had an effect, some retailers said.
The c-store industry's growing embrace of more fresh and prepared food is driving retailer optimism, as 62 percent of retailers said that more opportunities to grow food sales is a reason for being optimistic about their business prospects and 58 percent expressed optimism about their ability to compete against quick-service restaurants.
C-stores are also increasing the number of healthy options they offer. Almost half (47 percent) of retailers said they stock more fresh fruit than they did six months ago, 35 percent said they stock more packaged salads and 9 percent are stocking more cut fruit or vegetables.
Packaged healthy items are also on the rise, with 45 percent of retailers adding more health bars and 41 percent adding more nuts/trail mix over the last six months.
Healthy beverage items have been taking off since the beginning of the year, as 70 percent are stocking more nutraceuticals/enhanced water, 60 percent are stocking more bottled water and 48 percent are stocking more low-calorie teas.
Many of the changes in c-store food programs are driven by the demographic that most embraces c-stores. "We are catering, in particular, to millennials," said Kwik Trip's Steve Loehr.