A GasBuddy study found that 18- to 44-year-olds prefer shopping at convenience stores for packaged goods vs. drug and warehouse stores, and 74 percent make purchases at c-stores at least once a month.
While traditional retail chain brick-and-mortar stores have struggled, the U.S. c-store industry is thriving, experiencing 16 straight years of record in-store sales—reaching $242 billion in 2018. GasBuddy, a smartphone app that connects drivers to fuel choices in the area, released a new study exploring what is “fueling” the success of gas station c-stores across the nation.
C-stores beat out drug and warehouse stores by double when consumers were asked where they prefer to purchase their packaged good items like snacks and beverages. The 18-29 age group has the strongest preference for c-stores vs. all other age groups.
According to the survey, 66 percent of respondents said they make purchases at a c-store at least once a month, while 38 percent said at least once a week. The most popular items that consumers “often” or “very often” purchase at a c-store are sweet snacks (55 percent), beverages (52 percent) and salty snacks (52 percent).
“The original on-demand commerce, c-stores are in the business of selling time making it the first-mile and last-mile choice for millions of Americans,” said Frank Beard, c-store analyst for GasBuddy. “It’s no surprise that they’re meeting the needs of younger generations who crave ease and immediacy.”
While the pit stops may be intentional, in-store purchases are often not. Twenty-four percent of consumers said they made an unplanned, in-store purchase the last time they stopped for gas, while 57 percent said they have done so within the past month.
GasBuddy’s footfall traffic shows that the average visit by their users to a gas station has grown to nearly 8 minutes, far exceeding the 2-3 minutes it takes to fill the car with gas.
Store owners now are faced with new challenges to stock products that appeal to a wide base. There are now more food and snack options at a gas station than ever before. When asked what the triggers are to make a purchase at a gas station c-store, more than 30 percent of respondents said simply because “I’m already there.”
“More than ever, snack and beverage brands need to be top-of-mind for consumers before they visit. Otherwise they’ll get lost in the crowd,” said Beard.
Every day, millions of drivers use the GasBuddy app and website—a source for crowdsourced, real-time fuel prices at more than 150,000 gas station convenience stores in the U.S., Canada and Australia—to find gas station convenience stores based on fuel prices, location and ratings/reviews. Its fuel savings program, Pay with GasBuddy, has saved Americans more than $6 million at the pumps since its launch in 2017. The company’s business-solutions suite, GasBuddy Business Pages, provides fuel marketers and retailers their best opportunity to maintain their station information, manage their brand and promote to their target consumer audience.