Home » National C-Store Sales Grow In 2016; NACS Optimistic About New Year

National C-Store Sales Grow In 2016; NACS Optimistic About New Year

Last updated on June 13th, 2024 at 04:58 pm

Low gas prices helped drive sales increases at convenience stores in 2016—and retailers expect those strong sales to carry over into 2017, according to a survey of retailers released this week by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).

More than two in three convenience retailers (68 percent) said their fuels sales increased in 2016 and nearly the same percentage (63 percent) said that foodservice sales increased. Industry-wide, better-for-you items like fruits and vegetables, yogurt, nuts and health bars saw strong sales in 2016: 63 percent of retailers reported that sales of these items increased. Only one retailer surveyed said that sales were down in 2016.

“Healthier-for-you items are beginning to gain some traction,” said Michael Zielinski of Retail Management Services Inc. in New Lenox, Illinois.

Retailer confidence about the U.S. economy also surged. A record 79 percent of retailers said they are optimistic about the U.S. economy—a 26-point jump from last quarter. This surge in retailer optimism mirrors the optimism of their customers. A record 60 percent of U.S. fuel consumers said they are optimistic about the U.S. economy, according to the NACS December 2016 consumer sentiment survey.

Retailers also are optimistic about the overall convenience retailing industry. More than three in four convenience retailers (78 percent) said they are optimistic about the industry’s prospects in the first quarter of 2017, a 7-point jump from three months ago. New investments in technology related to loyalty programs and enhanced customer experiences are central to the strategy of growing convenience store sales in 2017, according to NACS. Retailers said that new investments in food and beverage equipment also are growing sales. Ready-for-you meals will be a big industry trend in 2017,

Increased investments in their stores may have helped reduce retailers’ concerns over competition. Overall, 39 percent of retailers cited competition from other convenience stores as a concern, down from 47 percent who cited industry competition a year ago. Meanwhile, 33 percent cited concerns over competition from other channels like drug stores or dollar stores. However, the new Amazon Go concept “could be game-changer down the road,” said Lisa Dell’Alba of Square One Markets Inc. in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Despite concerns over threats to their businesses, 69 percent of retailers are optimistic about their own business prospects in the first quarter of 2017, largely because of the combination of convenience and an enhanced food offering.

“I truly think food will continue to be the trend in 2017—but it’s going to take ingenuity and creativity to continue to entice people to visit convenience stores for lunch and dinner. We’ll need to continually adapt to reflect trends and customer preferences—whether it’s a new burger or a new healthy option,” said Dennis McCartney of Landhope Farms in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

The quarterly NACS Retailer Sentiment Survey tracks retailer sentiment related to their businesses, the industry and the economy as a whole. A total of 81 member companies, representing a cumulative 4,052 stores, participated in the December 2016 survey.

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The Shelby Report delivers complete grocery news and supermarket insights nationwide through the distribution of five monthly regional print and digital editions. Serving the retail food trade since 1967, The Shelby Report is “Region Wise. Nationwide.”

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