ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Enhanced fresh-food offers and low gas prices led the convenience store industry to strong sales for the second quarter of 2015, with the third quarter expected to be robust as well.
According to a retailer survey conducted by NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, 82 percent of c-store operators said their in-store sales were higher in the first half of 2015 vs. the same period in 2014.
Close to an equal number (83 percent) of those surveyed said they are optimistic about their business for the third quarter. Although this figure is certainly positive, it does represent a 3-percentage-point decline compared to what retailers said in a similar survey three months ago.
Overall, retailers cited three factors that should affect third-quarter sales: the economy and consumer sentiment (cited by 21 percent), low gas prices (20 percent) and a continued emphasis on fresh food (17 percent).
Digging deeper into the foodservice category, 70 percent of retailers said they are optimistic about prepared food sales in 2015's third quarter. Several retailers cited c-stores' ability to customize food offerings, compared to traditional quick-service restaurants (QSRs).
"We are trying to create food products that are targeted to the local customers that the QSRs won't do," Kim Robello of Minit Stop Stores in Kahului, Hawaii, told NACS.
Retailers also continue to add more fresh and better-for-you food items. According to NACS, 77 percent of retailers said they sell fresh fruit and vegetables, 57 percent sell packaged salads and 47 percent sell cut fruit and vegetables. During the past six months, half of the respondents said they expanded their fresh fruit sales, 30 percent increased their cut fruit and vegetable offers, and 21 percent are offering more salads.
Beyond fruits and vegetables, 97 percent of survey respondents said they sell nuts and trail mix, 93 percent sell healthy bars, 80 percent sell yogurt, 80 percent sell string cheese and 56 percent sell boiled eggs. Among these items, retailers are expanding their selections of health bars the most.
Other findings of the NACS survey, released Tuesday, are that 55 percent of respondents say fuel sales are stronger thus far in 2015 vs. the same period in 2014.
And while c-store retailers are definitely optimistic about their individual business prospects, they are slightly less optimistic about the overall convenience retailing industry (79 percent, down from 80 percent three months ago), and the economy as a whole (61 percent, down from 70 percent three months ago).
Founded in 1961, Alexandria-based NACS has 2,100 retail and 1,600 supplier member companies that do business in nearly 50 countries.