New Convenience Store Offers Drove Strong Sales in 2018

Inside a convenience store
Foodservice and better-for-you items led in-store growth last year.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Increased in-store sales in 2018 is driving convenience retailers' optimism into 2019, according to a new industry survey.

NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, surveyed convenience store owners across the United States and found that 84 percent saw in-store sales tick up last year. In addition, 62 percent reported an increased in fuels gallons sold.

Leading into 2019, 85 percent of retailers said they are optimistic about their prospects for the first quarter, the highest measure of optimism for the first quarter in the past five years.

Above all, retailers say that the industry's offer of convenience continues to resonate with consumers, notably new offers. Win Win Fillin' Station in City of Industry, Calif., cited its mobile app with the ability to order food for pickup and Timewise Food Stores in Houston pointed out its home delivery service.

Looking closer at in-store sales, 68 percent of retailers said foodservice sales grew and 62 percent said sales of better-for-you items increased.

Beverages were also a big seller in 2018, with specialty beverages selling well at Charlotte, N.C.-based Compass Group North America's stores, and water and energy drinks pushing overall sales higher at Klamath Falls, Ore.-based Fast Break Stores.

Healthy food items drove sales at Romeoville Mobile in Lockport, Ill., and fresh salads and other healthy options contributed to a strong year at Landhope Farms in Kennett Square, Pa.

Despite feeling optimistic about their business, c-store retailers were less enthusiastic about the overall economy. According to NACS, only 62 percent said they were optimistic about the overall economy — the lowest percentage in 11 quarters.

As for concerns, retailers pointed to labor issues as the biggest threat to their businesses. According to the survey, top concerns cited by retailers for 2019 are:

  • Labor issues (59 percent)
  • Regulations/legislation (47 percent)
  • Economic concerns (41 percent)
  • Competition from other convenience stores (39 percent)
  • Competition from other formats (29 percent)
  • Potential decrease in driving/increase in gas prices (19 percent)

Despite concerns, retailers remain upbeat that 2019 may be a repeat of 2018 for sales — as long as the economy stays relatively strong, the association said.

"In a booming economy, I see things continuing to trend upward. We offer great food, great customer service and a clean environment in which to shop. Most of all, customers appreciate us," said Gay Simpson, with Dutchtown Tiger Mart Inc. in Baton Rouge, La.

The quarterly NACS Retailer Sentiment Survey tracks retailer sentiment related to their businesses, the industry and the economy. A total of 72 member companies, representing a cumulative 3,885 stores, participated in the December 2018 survey.