Talk about resilience. Despite a pandemic that closed thousands of retail businesses across the United States, the convenience store industry was able to actually grow inside-the-store sales by 3.3 percent last year. That's even better than the 2.6 percent in-store sales increase that the c-store industry generated in 2019.
Of course, fuel sales cratered in 2020 due to the shutdowns enacted nationwide to slow down the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Because fuel revenue dropped almost 30 percent last year, total industry sales fell by nearly 18 percent, according to the 46th annual Convenience Store News Industry Report. Fuel volume was down nearly 20 percent to 123.3 billion gallons as Americans stayed home from work, school and play in record numbers during the health crisis.
Last year’s record-high $243.1 billion in inside sales was driven by double-digit sales growth in beer/malt beverages, wine and liquor, edible and non-edible groceries. In a major departure from a decades' long trend — but understandable given the impact of COVID-19 safety measures on fresh food and dispensed beverages — foodservice sales declined nearly 10 percent in 2020.
With the nation poised to emerge from the devastating pandemic this summer, a reinvigorated foodservice category, combined with the COVID-19-inspired new programs that debuted or gained traction in the past year, could propel the convenience store industry to one of its best years in 2021. It will be interesting to watch how new initiatives like mobile ordering, contactless checkout, curbside pickup and home delivery fare in the year ahead.
Click below to download the full 2021 Convenience Store News Industry Report.