ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Convenience store retailers are continuing to enhance operations to address new consumer preferences related to safety protocols and convenient shopping options that have emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the latest NACS Retailer Member survey, here's how operators are serving their guests, employees and communities:
Nine in 10 stores (89 percent) have installed plexiglass barriers at checkout and 87 percent provide hand sanitizer inside the store. Nearly one quarter of retailers (24 percent) are offering hand sanitizer at the fuel island.
"Customers really appreciate observing our associates cleaning, continually wiping down high-touch points in the store and keeping our fueling dispensers clean and in tip-top shape. I think the pandemic has really made it necessary for convenience stores to enhance a 'culture of cleanliness' throughout the property, both inside and at the pump," said Dennis McCartney, director of operations at Landhope Farms. "This will continue to be an important issue and an important continuing aspect to our everyday business."
New measures are also protecting the safety of employees. For example, Rainbo Oil Co. dba Kwik Stop is ensuring adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and disinfecting/cleaning supplies throughout the pandemic.
Deemed essential businesses during the coronavirus, 98 percent of survey respondents said their stores have remained open. Sixty-four percent have kept the same hours, while 34 percent stayed open but with reduced hours.
Many retailers said they are also driving forward new convenience offers that respond to customer demands, such as new payment options, that have accelerated within the industry:
- 40 percent have introduced or increased contactless payment options inside stores;
- 62 percent said fewer customers are paying by cash, reflecting a broader retail trend; and
- In terms of product pickup, 33 percent of stores have introduced or expanded curbside pickup, 29 percent have increased a drive-thru element to their operations and 21 percent increased delivery.
Nearly two in three retailers (63 percent) are supporting medical/healthcare personnel, first responders or others affected by the crisis. Other companies are recognizing local heroes during the industry-wide 24/7 Day (July 24) that honors first responders, medical personnel and American Red Cross volunteers.
"We're looking forward to bringing the community back together," said Edwin Piper, general manager at Willits General Store.
The NACS Retailer Member survey was fielded in late June and closed July 2. A total of 77 member companies, representing a cumulative 2,796 stores, participated in the survey.
Alexandria-based NACS advances the role of convenience stores as positive economic, social and philanthropic contributors to the communities they serve. It has 1,900 retailer and 1,800 supplier members from more than 50 countries.