STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — A new report found that convenience store sales were buoyed by nonfuel trips.
Despite record-high gas prices, inside sales at convenience stores have remained stable, according to VideoMining's C-Store Shopper Insights (CSI) Tracker. The average weekly sales per store for all nonfuel products in the first quarter of 2022 was $53,704, which is on par with the same period in 2021 when gas prices were much lower.
However, c-store traffic is still below pre-pandemic levels. In-store traffic for the first quarter of this year was down 17 percent relative to the first quarter of 2019, while the total store sales was up 2 percent for the same period.
Nonfuel Trips Drive Sales
When it comes to consumers shopping for just essentials, convenience stores have benefited from not being too dependent on fuel customers for in-store sales.
The CSI Tracker found that a majority of the in-store sales in the channel came from customers who were not on a fuel trip. Nonfuel customers accounted for 72 percent of all in-store sales in 2021. This number varied based on the store location, but was as high as 80 percent for some well-run stores with wide foodservice options.
The company also noted that the pain at the pump will likely not help improve pump-to-store conversions. In the fourth quarter of 2021, the conversion rate for fuel customers was only 26 percent with 74 out of 100 fuel customers driving away without making any in-store purchases.
Shifting Trip Missions
C-store visits are highly mission-driven, with each trip usually serving a primary need. In order to help retail operators understand consumers' primary c-store trips and how it has evolved over the years, VideoMining's CSI Tracker program utilizes nine trip missions:
- Caffeine Boost
- Meal Building
- Grocery Shopping
VideoMining's CSI Tracker program grouped all c-store trips based on the trip missions to analyze how the share of each trip mission has changed over time, especially over the long term.
Using the trip mission framework, CSI Tracker compares the recent period, Q1 2022, with a corresponding pre-COVID times such as Q1 2019, to identify some key behavioral shifts beyond the pandemic.
Growth is Fueled by Alcohol Trips
According to the insights, the alcoholic beverage category is a highlight for retailers. The Alcohol trip mission had a solid gain of 15 percent in its share of store trips, with other trip missions like Refreshment, Meal Building and Snacking all posting strong gains in the comparison across three years (first quarter of 2022 vs. first quarter of 2019).
Tobacco was among the trip missions that declined.
Some of these shifts in trip missions are based on emerging long-term trends — beyond the impact of pandemic — affected by consumer demands, store transformations, and new product innovations. For example, some of the alcohol trip growth can be attributed to sustained demand for Beyond Beer or Ready-to-Drink alcoholic beverages, which have become popular with younger consumers, including women, according to VideoMining.
Attracting More Convenience Trips
The combined effect of shifts in trip missions was an overall increase in the number of units purchased on each trip — increasing 8 percent from Q1 2019 to Q1 2022. As a result, the 23.4-percent increase in basket size across the same period was not based purely on inflation, VideoMining said.
According to the company, travel appetite and gas prices will have some impact on the channel, and convenience retailers can continue to do well if they attract diverse trip missions with targeted innovations and marketing rather than just focusing on the pump-to-store conversions.
Pennsylvania-based VideoMining helps retailers and consumer packaged goods manufacturers optimize retail performance and shopper experience by decoding in-store behavior using anonymous sensing and artificial intelligence.