Commuter Disruption Takes Its Toll on C-store Trips

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Commuter Disruption Takes Its Toll on C-store Trips

08/06/2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — As commuters' everyday routines continue to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, convenience store retailers are battling for their share of shrinking trips.

According to the latest biweekly report from PDI and NACS on how COVID-19 is impacting consumer behavior, the weekday morning daypart remains stalled at 85 percent of year-ago trips for convenience stores, while lunchtime trips also show signs of slipping, as reported in NACS Daily.

For the two-week period ended July 26, overall trips declined. During the 11 a.m. to 2:59 p.m. daypart, trips fell to 88 percent of year-ago trips from 90 percent for the prior two-week period ended July 12.

Many former commuters are still working from home amid continued concerns about rising numbers of COVID-19 cases. Returning restrictions in some areas of the country are playing their part, and summer vacation travel impact is likely mixed as some consumers are curtailing their usual summer road travel, while others choose to drive instead of fly, according to NACS Daily.

Although consumers aren't visiting c-stores as often as they did before the pandemic, they are spending more per trip. Basket spend continues to be about 20 percent higher than the prior year, and dollar spend in the two weeks ended July 26 inched higher compared with the prior two-week period (up 21.5 percent vs. a 19.2 percent increase).

Year-over-year dollars continue to weaken, primarily because trips are declining. Cigarettes and packaged beverages — the two largest c-store categories on a per-dollar basis — contracted during the two-week period (3.4 percent and 7.4 percent vs. 5.3 percent and 10.5 percent, respectively, for the two weeks ended July 12).

"Rising cases of COVID-19 will likely continue to adversely affect c-store trips," said Dafna Gabel, vice president of Insights, PDI Insights Cloud. "Economic pressures that can worsen with expiring unemployment benefits make it paramount that retailers and manufacturers continue to deliver value and be resourceful in offering product choices that support some of the changed behaviors (large pack sizes, non-traditional categories, for example). Being able to adapt quickly remains as important as ever."

Additional insights from the PDI and NACS biweekly report show that for the period ended July 26:

  • Dollar sales growth declined from the prior two-week period: 4.9 percent for the week ended July 26 and 5.9 percent for the week ended July 19 vs. 6.7 percent for the two weeks ended July 12
  • Weekly basket spend increased year over year: 21.5 percent vs. +19.2 percent for the two weeks ended July 12
  • Trips remain on the downswing: -13.2 percent vs. -10.5 percent for the two weeks ended July 12
  • Foodservice trips still have ground to recover: -24.9 percent vs. -22.6 percent for the two weeks ended July 12
  • Despite earlier progress, packaged beverage trips are slipping: -1.8 percent vs. 1.8 percent for the two weeks ended July 12
  • Cold dispensed beverage trips took a dip: -32.3 percent vs. -27.2 percent for the two weeks ended July 12
  • Cigarette trips softened: -11 percent vs. -9.3 percent for the two weeks ended July 12

Powered by PDI Insights Cloud, the PDI and NACS biweekly report provides consumer trip and basket-level data and analysis from 5,500 mid- to large-size convenience retail sites across all key geographic locations. The full report is available here.