Convenience store retailers say that in-store sales have performed strong so far this year, and they are optimistic about their business prospects for the remainder of 2017, largely because of the growth in food sales, according to a survey of U.S. retailers released today by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).
Three in five convenience store retailers (60 percent) say that in-store sales in the first nine months of 2017 were higher than the same period last year, compared to 20 percent who say sales thus far were lower. And one in three (35 percent) say that motor fuels sales were higher compared to the first nine months, compared to 27 percent who say sales were lower.
Three in four retailers (75 percent) say they are optimistic about how their business will perform leading into the fourth quarter. While retailers cited several reasons for both strong sales and optimism, an increased emphasis on fresh food sales was most often cited. Pride C-Stores Inc. (Columbia City, Indiana) is placing a greater emphasis on prepared foods, Kwik Trip (La Crosse, Wisconsin) continues to grow its hot foods program, and Cameron Park Petroleum (Folsom, California) is experiencing strong sales with its fresh sandwich program.
A robust foodservice program is just part of the overall reimaging program at Landhope Corp. (Kennett Square, Pennsylvania). As part of its remodeling process, the company says its stores have provided more fueling locations for customers and improved aesthetics with enhanced lighting both inside and outside the store, and an expanded foodservice program has been well-received by customers, said Dennis McCartney, the company’s director of operations.
Greater consumer confidence also has helped grow store sales, according to the retailers NACS surveyed. Both the economy and consumer confidence was cited as an important factor growing sales at Gate Petroleum Co. (Jacksonville, Florida) and Gore’s 66 (Tuttle, Oklahoma).
The survey found that most convenience store retailers are equally optimistic about the overall economy. More than three in four (76 percent) say that they are optimistic about the economy in the fourth quarter, a significant increase from this time a year ago when only 53 percent of retailers were optimistic about the economy. Additionally, 73 percent of retailers say they are optimistic about the convenience store industry’s prospects leading into 2018.
“We are becoming well known for awesome food, clean facilities and great customer service,” said Don Burd with Otter Creek Country Stores Inc., summing up both his company’s and the industry’s prospects.
Despite the overall optimism, retailers did express some concerns, citing high insurance costs, a shrinking labor pool and increased competition from retail disruptors like Amazon, noted Michael Lanman with Lanman Oil Co. (Charleston, Illinois).
Most survey respondents (60 percent) also say that they will be attending next week’s NACS Show, October 17-20 at McCormick Place in Chicago. Retailers cited finding new ideas and networking as the prime reasons for attending the NACS Show, which annually draws more than 22,000 attendees. Specifically, retailers say they are looking forward to finding new foodservice equipment, hearing ideas from their peers that will help drive operational efficiencies and exploring new trends that could enhance their businesses.
The quarterly NACS Retailer Sentiment Survey tracks retailer sentiment related to their businesses, the industry and the economy. A total of 90 member companies, representing a cumulative 1,778 stores, participated in the October 2017 survey.
NACS goal is to advance the role of convenience stores as positive economic, social and philanthropic contributors to the communities they serve. The U.S. convenience store industry, with more than 154,000 stores nationwide selling fuel, food and merchandise, serves 160 million customers daily—half of the U.S. population—and has sales that are 10.8 percent of total U.S. retail and foodservice sales. NACS has 2,100 retailer and 1,750 supplier members from more than 50 countries.