Feeling Optimistic

If convenience store retailers are right in their predictions, sales will increase by 3.7 percent this year (motor fuels and in-store combined) for the average convenience store.

Based on the results of Convenience Store News? first-ever Retailer Forecast Study, c-store operators are entering the new year with a good deal of optimism. More than eight in 10 of those surveyed (86 percent) expect their average sales per store to increase this year vs. 2014, whereas only 8 percent expect a decline and 6 percent foresee their business being flat.

Despite this optimism, there are several issues top of mind for c-store operators that could have a big impact on their sales and profitability in 2015. Motor fuel prices, which had been on the decline for many months as of press time, ranks No. 1 on retailers? list. Nearly three-quarters of the survey respondents cited this as one of the top three issues they?ll be watching.

?Fuel margins are usually tight, but fuel is still the key driver for our industry,? said one retailer. Another commented: ?The less fuel costs, the more the customers spend in the store.?

Other top-of-mind issues are competition (cited by 60.8 percent), health care costs and regulation (51 percent), labor issues (37.3 percent), tobacco and electronic cigarette regulation (35.3 percent), healthy eating trends (21.6 percent) and demographic changes (13.7 percent).

?Channel lines are blurring and customers are finding it just as easy to go to drug, mass or grocery stores for immediate-consumption items that are typically offered at a better price [there],? one retailer said of the increasingly competitive retail marketplace.

The CSNews Retailer Forecast Study also asked participants what major initiatives they plan to implement in 2015 to increase sales and profitability. Responses included:

  • Update food offer to be more fresh and appealing;
  • Increase the penetration of healthy snacks in all stores;
  • Be the best at vape and craft beer in my market;
  • Focus on customer service;
  • Remodel older stores;
  • Improve store branding and image;
  • Increase marketing;
  • Loyalty/mobile/iBeacon initiative; and
  • Grow store base to help leverage administrative costs.

In fact, more than half of the retailers surveyed (52.4 percent) said they plan to increase their total store count this year. Less than 3 percent said they intend to decrease store count.

According to the Industry Forecast Study, store counts are projected to increase by a total of 1.3 percent in 2015.

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