The Latest Industry News Around COVID-19

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The Latest Industry News Around COVID-19

By Convenience Store News Staff Report - 03/16/2020

GoPuff Expands as Demand for Essential Items Increases During Virus Outbreak

As the demand for essential items increase during the COVID-19 outbreak, digital convenience retailer goPuff is expanding its services.

In addition to its current delivery portfolio of 170-plus locations, the Philadelphia-based operator is piloting new market launches and expanded delivery zones in six new locations: Columbus, Ohio; Buffalo, N.Y.; Portland, Ore.; Pensacola, Fla.; Manchester, N.H.; and Houston.

The move comes less than two weeks after goPuff launched the Health Care Support Initiative, a commitment of $1 million in orders to hospital employees working on the frontlines of the COVID-19. The commitment is in the form of digital credits for use on delivery of goPuff's wide range of essentials, including cleaning supplies, home needs, over-the-counter medications, food and drinks.

Read more here.

C-store Chains Launch Free Meal Programs for Local Families in Need

Multiple convenience store operators are lending a helping hand to those who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As consumers face job losses, furloughs and reduced hours, retailers are kicking off programs to give away free meals to children and families during the crisis.

Care packages, free lunches and meal bags are available at Daily's, Mirabito and Sheetz locations.

Read more here.

Pilot Co. Debuts Push4Points Program to Reward Professional Truck Drivers

From April 1 through June 30, professional drivers can activate Push4Points in the Pilot Flying J mobile app to earn up to four points per gallon on every diesel fueling transaction.

"As our country continues to navigate this difficult time, the resolve and dedication of the trucking industry and professional drivers continues to amaze all of us,"  said Jimmy Haslam, CEO of Pilot Co. "Our team has been working hard on our new Push4Points program and now, more than ever, we want to help drivers save money while they are away from their families and working overtime to supply our country. Thank you, drivers, for all you're doing to help keep our country moving.

Push4Points enables professional drivers to earn more points faster and reach maximum earnings after just six fills.

Read more here.

More Than Half of Convenience Retailers See Their Grocery Sales Rise Amid COVID-19 Crisis

As customers increasingly turn to their local convenience store for essential items amid the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers are seeing an increase in sales.

More than half of c-store retailers (52 percent) reported that their grocery sales increased, according to a national survey of U.S. convenience store owners conducted by NACS, the trade association that represents the convenience and fuel retailing industry.

C-stores are known for traditionally selling immediate consumption items — 83 percent of all products sold at a store are consumed within an hour — but they have pivoted to providing items that can be brought home. Fifty-two percent of operators said they are adding more cleaning/toiletry items, 31 percent are emphasizing ready-to-heat meals and 28 percent are showcasing multi-pack/bulk items.

Read more here.

International Dairy Deli Bakery Association Cancels Annual Trade Show

The International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA) will not hold its 2020 trade show, previously scheduled for May 31-June 2 in Indianapolis, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although IDDBA leadership previously hoped to put on the annual event, conversations with show exhibitors, attendees, and government and industry leaders made it clear that cancellation was in the best interest of attendees' health and safety.

"Our hearts go out to all those with family and friends battling this virus," said IDDBA President and CEO Mike Eardley. "Global impacts and hardships that our members, community and industry continue to face while carrying the daunting responsibility to keep food on our tables during these difficult times, has been unlike anything I have seen in my lifetime of being in this business."

Planning for the 2021 IDDBA Show, to be held June 6-9 in Houston, is already underway.

N.J. Fuel Retailers Association Calls on Governor to Temporarily Allow Self-Service

To help slow the spread of COVID-19, the state of New Jersey should temporarily suspend its prohibition on self-service gasoline, according to the New Jersey Gasoline, Convenience, Automotive Association (NJGCA).

A survey of NJGCA members found that their primary concerns include:

  • Employees that work as gas attendants do not feel safe having contact with customers who may be infected with coronavirus, as it is impossible to maintain a six-foot distance while interacting with drivers during the fueling process.
  • Many drivers have the same concerns as gas attendants and do not want to break the six-foot social distancing guideline.
  • It is becoming more difficult to staff gas stations as the virus continues to spread.

Read more here.

Pump N Pantry Closing Some Stores, Making Others Fuel-Only to Stop Coronavirus Spread

Pump N Pantry is doing its part to slow and ultimately stop the spread of Coronavirus by closing some stores and making other fuel-only:

  • As of March 26, all nine convenience stores across the state closed at 7 p.m. One location on the Tunkhannock Hunter Highway reopened Friday, March 27 with limited hours of 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. for gasoline and diesel self-service only.
  • The Pump N Pantry in Montrose will remain open 24 hours for gas and diesel service. The store’s drive-thru window for all items, including food, will also remain open all day.
  • The Tunkhannock Mile Hill, Lenox, Lake Winola, Mansfield, Tioga and Leroy stores will remain closed to all business, including gasoline and diesel.

Couche-Tard Announces Emergency Measures Against COVID-19 Pandemic

Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., with its subsidiary Circle K, is enhancing its response to the spread of COVID-19 by enacting emergency measures to support both customers and employees.

This includes significant in-store safety measures, additional financial and healthcare measures for hourly store employees on the frontlines, and free beverages for first responders, health care workers and store employees.

Read more here.

Convenience Channel Helps Fuel First Responders & Medical Personnel

Convenience store retailers across the country continue to take steps to support their communities during the COVID-19 crisis. Multiple companies have announced policies of free beverages for first responders and other essential workers, as well as enhanced safety procedures for stores.

GPM, Love's, RaceTrac and Wawa all recently announced complimentary beverages for customers in uniform or with relevant ID.

Read more here.

C-store Chains Close Stores After Workers Test Positive for COVID-19

Convenience stores remain open, taking enhanced steps to offer safe environments for their customers. However, retailers have made the decision to shutter locations for deep cleaning after employees contracted the novel coronavirus.

According to news reports, Pennsylvania-based Wawa Inc. and Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.'s Circle K temporarily closed locations within the past few days.

"Wawa will always remain transparent, especially in times of uncertainty, and we continue to take immediate action to protect our customers and associates. It is our policy and public health guidance to close stores for professional deep cleaning and disinfecting after being notified of an associate with a confirmed case of COVID-19," the company said in a statement on March 28. "We are notifying our customers of temporary closures in stores for precautionary cleaning and sanitizing. We will continue to provide more information as we have it, including when the store will reopen."

Read more here.

Altria Joins NATO in Asking FDA to Extend PMTA Deadline

With approximately six weeks to go until premarket tobacco applications (PMTA) for deeming products are due, there is a push for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to move the date back.

On March 25, Richmond-based Altria Group Inc. sent a letter to the agency asking that the May 12 PMTA deadline be pushed back eight weeks as the country continues to the deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Bloomberg Law.

The National Association of Tobacco Outlets also sent a similar letter to the FDA.

A spokesman for the FDA said the agency received numerous inquiries from the industry expressing concern about the impact of COVID-19 on the May 12 deadline and is having internal discussion on how to address the issue.

Read more here.

7-Eleven Implements Social Distancing Measures

To slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), 7-Eleven Inc. is implementing social distancing measures in its franchised and corporate stores.

The convenience retailer will begin installing plexiglass sneeze guards for the front sales counter in its 9,000-plus U.S. locations. Installations will begin at stores in areas hit the hardest by the pandemic and expand to include all other locations over the next two weeks.

In addition to the new checkout barriers, 7-Eleven has taken preventative steps against COVID-19 by:

  • Enhancing its standards and procedures for hygiene, handwashing, sanitation, food handling and preparations in stores, and increased the frequency of cleaning high-touch surfaces.
  • Securing necessary cleaning supplies, hand sanitizers, masks and gloves for franchisees, their employees, and corporate associates.
  • Installing high-quality floor decals that instruct customers to practice social distancing in stores. 
  • Waiving the delivery fee for all 7NOW orders made now through April 30. Customers also have the option of contactless delivery, whereby the driver will leave the order at the door.

Read more here.

Thorntons Thanks Its Local Communities With Limited-Time Fuel Discount

From now through March 31, Thorntons LLC is offering a fuel discount of 10 cents per gallon across its network. All customers are eligible for the savings at any location.

The retailer is also inviting all first responders and health care workers to stop into any Thorntons convenience store through March 31 for a free small coffee, cappuccino or fountain drink as a thank you for serving Thorntons' communities during this challenging time as they cope with COVID-19.

Read more here.

More C-store Industry Retailers Give Raises & Bonuses to Employees Amid COVID-19 Crisis

As many workers across the United States are staying home, convenience retail employees continue to keep convenience stores going. In turn, many c-store chains are recognizing their efforts with increased wages, bonuses and other perks.

Casey's General Stores Inc., Enmarket, Pilot Co., RaceTrac and Sheetz Inc. are the latest retailers to make moves to help their team members get through the COVID-19 crisis.

Read more here.

RaceTrac Petroleum Installs 'Night Pay Box' Pass-Through Window

Atlanta-based RaceTrac is equipping locations with a "Night Pay Box" pass-through window. Intended initially to be used during late-night shifts, the window allows customers to purchase in-store items without entering the convenience store.

The Night Pay Box is also available at all hours for those guests who do not wish to enter the store, but still may want an item from inside. Guests can simply approach the window and ask the RaceTrac team member to select their items for them and pay, with limited contact.

Another option is to call ahead to place an order to be paid for and picked up at the Night Pay Box.

A list of location addresses and phone numbers is available here.

7-Eleven Waives Delivery Fees Through April 30

As retailers and consumers alike navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, 7-Eleven Inc. is waving delivery fees for all orders made through its 7NOW delivery app.

Now through April 30, customers can activate free delivery by applying the promotion code "FREE4U" upon checkout. They will also have the option for contactless delivery, whereby the driver will leave the order at the door.

"7‑Eleven is a neighborhood store known for convenience, and we believe it's our responsibility to help shoppers get what they need, where and when they need it, especially during this unprecedented pandemic," said 7‑Eleven President and CEO Joseph DePinto. "As citizens do the right thing by social distancing, quarantining, or sheltering in place, we want to make it easy for them to access essential food and household items."

Read more here.

National Confectioners Association Cancels 2020 Sweets & Snacks Expo

The National Confectioners Association (NCA) has canceled the 2020 Sweets & Snacks Expo, scheduled to take place May 18-21 in Chicago.

"We are extremely disappointed not to be able to offer the experience, inspiration, insights and connections so many in our community have come to rely on in association with the event, but the health and welfare of our community is our top priority," NCA President and CEO John Downs wrote in a letter to registrants. "As restrictions and recommendations on mass gatherings continue to build in cities and states across the country, including those issued in the state of Illinois and in guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it became clear that cancellation of the show was the only path forward to protect the well-being of our community."

The NCA has a schedule of distance learning events planned for June, July and August as part of its Sweet Insights Unwrapped series.

"Please know how much we appreciate being part of this community. The cancellation of the Sweets & Snacks Expo is disappointing, but our enthusiasm for the confectionery and snack industries is stronger than ever thanks to the outpouring of support and encouragement we have had this month from exhibitors and retail customers alike," Downs said.

An event cancellation FAQ is available here.

Giant Eagle's GetGo Stores Adding Plexiglass Dividers at Checkout

As social distancing continues to be a vital element in slowing the spread of COVID-19, Giant Eagle Inc. is modifying the checkout areas in its GetGo, Giant Eagle and Market District convenience store, supermarket and pharmacy locations by installing pieces of plexiglass to each register and customer service counter.

The retailer also has temporarily paused the use of reusable bags and installed floor indicators and signage at checkout lanes, visually indicating appropriate social distance between guests.

"These are just a few examples of the steps we are taking to safeguard the health and wellbeing of both our team members and guests," said Dan Donovan, Giant Eagle spokesperson. "We are not wavering in our commitment to providing an unparalleled guest service or a future free of single-use plastics, but rather are asking our guests to take this opportunity to help us promote the safest shopping experience possible."

Read more here.

QuikTrip Offers Parking Lot Pickup Service as COVID-19 Spreads

As consumers continue to practice social distancing, QuikTrip Corp. launched On-Lot Pickup at 25 stores in the Tulsa, Okla., area.

The Tulsa-based convenience store chain is letting customers skip the line and will deliver items to the vehicles. Customers must place their orders through the QT mobile app, as KTUL.com reported.

"Six months ago, we began designing this new convenience to make the customer experience as pleasant and efficient as possible," said QuikTrip Digital Marketing Manager Mattie Garrison. "Our customers all have varying preferences and goals for their visits to QT, and we hope this option will accommodate many who aren’t able to come inside for a visit."

Participating locations are listed in the QT mobile app.

Exclusive Research Shows Coronavirus Pandemic Is Driving Grocery Shoppers to Convenience Stores

Among the many change-of-life impacts of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, convenience stores are seeing an increase in shoppers who typically would go to supermarkets for their grocery needs. 

Fifteen percent of shoppers said they are more likely to shop at convenience stores for groceries due to the pandemic, according to a new study conducted by Convenience Store News’ parent company, EnsembleIQ. Fielded March 13-15, the survey was conducted among 1,001 primary household grocery shoppers in the United States.

 

Poll: How Is COVID-19 Impacting Your Business?

As the situation unfolds, Convenience Store News would like to give our audience the opportunity to share their own firsthand perspectives on COVID-19.  Please take a moment of your time to answer a quick four-question survey so that CSNews can assess how COVID-19 is affecting the convenience channel in the areas of supply chain fulfillment, store operations, workforce management, and revenue. We will share results and insights from the survey on our website in the near future. 
 
 

Gas Prices in 29 States Drop Below $2 a Gallon

Atypical gas prices during the COVID-19 crisis prompted the national average gas price to drop to $2.12 per gallon as of March 23. On average, this puts pump prices at 50 cents less than they were one year ago, reported AAA.

In the past week, crude oil prices fell to $22 per barrel, the lowest price since 2002.

Read more here.

U.S. Restaurant Customer Transactions Decline Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic spreading throughout the country, more people working from home and social distancing guidance in place, U.S. restaurant customer transactions declined by 8 percent in the week ending March 15 vs. a year ago, according to a new report from The NPD Group.  

In the prior week ending March 8, the quick-service restaurant (QSR) chain "breakfast wars" helped to drive a 4-percent increase in total U.S. restaurant customer transactions compared to same period a year ago, according to NPD's CREST Performance Alerts, which provides a rapid weekly view of chain-specific transactions and share trends for 70 quick-service, fast-casual, midscale and casual dining chains. 

QSR chain customer transactions, which represent the bulk of U.S. restaurant transactions, declined by 7 percent in the week ending March 15. The full-service segments of casual dining and midscale/family dining saw transaction declines of 22 percent and 24 percent, respectively.

"The U.S. restaurant industry situation remains very fluid and the most recent week read of customer transactions reflects performance before mandated on-premise restaurant closures were implemented in multiple states," said David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. "Some of the areas I'll be watching closely in the coming weeks are delivery capacity, the pizza category, and third-party delivery platforms like DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber Eats."

Terrible Herbst Adds Water Stations Across Nevada's Clark County

Several Terrible Herbst convenience stores have added water stations across Clark County, Nevada, amid decreasing supply of bottled water.

According to a company Facebook post, customers can bring any refillable 1-, 3- or 5-gallon container to a participating location to fill up at a hylyte alkaline WaterStation for 40 cents, $1.20 and $2, respectively. A station locator is available here.

Terrible Herbst operates more than 160 convenience stores.

Convenience Store Chains Support Workers With Raises, Bonuses & Paid Time Off

As the convenience channel navigates the tumultuous waters of COVID-19, retailers are supporting the efforts of their employees with raises, bonuses and paid time off. Among the operators making such moves are 7-Eleven Inc., Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, Wawa Inc. and Yesway.

7-Eleven and Yesway enhanced their employee emergency sick leave and paid time off policies, respectively, while Love’s and Wawa increased their hourly wages.

Read more here.

C-store Retailers Hiring Thousands to Serve Customers During COVID-19 Crisis

Many businesses across the United States have hit the pause button as the country deals with the rise of COVID-19 cases. However, convenience stores remain open for business and are looking to add to their employee count as the channel navigates its new normal.

Among those c-store retail chains hiring more employees are GPM Investments LLC, Kwik Trip Inc., Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores, 7-Eleven Inc. and Thorntons LLC.

Read more here.

TA and Petro Stopping Centers Remain Open, Committed to Serving Drivers

TravelCenters of America Inc. (TA) will keep its travel centers open as sites for essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic, Managing Director and CEO Jonathan M. Pertchik announced.

"At TA, we are working hard to keep our travel centers open for business to support the critical work of professional drivers as they transport vital goods around the U.S., and all of our customers who need our goods and who utilize our services," he said. "It is important to note that our business is an exception to some of the general stay-in-residence and retail/restaurant closing requirements. Federal, state and local governments are so far allowing our travel centers to remain open as ‘Essential Services’ to support commerce, the local backfilling of shelves with essentials, and ensuring that goods reach those in need throughout the U.S."

Pertchik noted that although it is too early to quantify the business and financial impact the crisis will have on the company, TA has seen elevated year-over-year diesel fuel sales volumes in March, "indicating to us that the U.S. supply chain remains intact and functioning under these unprecedented circumstances. We value our customers, employees and investors, and are confident we have the right team in place to navigate TA through these challenging times.”

A list of, and updates to, TA's available services and amenities can be found here.

NACS Details 2020 State of the Industry Summit Virtual Experience

This year's NACS State of the Industry (SOI) Summit has been recast as a virtual, on-demand experience that will be available for viewing beginning April 14. The 2020 NACS SOI Virtual Experience will include nearly a dozen sessions analyzing industry performance, trends and economic forces in a new era of "anytime, anyplace convenience," according to the association. 

The virtual offering will also feature a special session looking at how coronavirus (COVID-19) is shaping consumer demands for convenience, in addition to informative sessions that will explore how to take the headwinds of retail disruption, technology and changing consumer need-states and turn them into tailwinds to accelerate innovation and win customer trips.

"In this virtual experience format, we realize one of the most powerful benefits of the live State of the Industry Summit — networking with industry friends and peers — cannot be replicated. We’re excited to bring new virtual collaboration, interactive questions and discussions to the 2020 SOI Summit Virtual Experience. Each session will be accompanied by interactive discussion boards, an 'ask the presenter' question-and-answer forum, and opportunities to engage with other attendees on your thoughts and ideas for each presentation," said NACS Vice President of Research Lori Stillman.

Complete topic details and speaker bios, along with registration details, can be found here.

Conexxus Cancels 2020 Annual Conference

Conexxus has decided not to hold its 2020 Annual Conference, scheduled to take place April 26-30 at Loews Ventana Canyon in Tucson, Ariz. 

"The health, safety and well-being of our members, conference participants and staff is of paramount importance. We believe it is in the best interest of everyone to cancel the conference and do our part to help our attendees remain healthy," the organization said, adding that the decision to cancel its flagship event "was not taken lightly."

This will be the first time Conexxus has not held an annual conference or meeting live since it began 17 years ago.

"The annual conference is eagerly awaited by industry participants as the only technology conference dedicated to the convenience and fuel retailing sector, focusing on new technologies and technology standards to improve business processes, reduce costs, and increase profitability," Conexxus said. "It has always been an excellent opportunity to meet with industry experts, hear about industry trends and cutting-edge new technologies and how they affect our businesses."

For more information and to view an initial FAQ document, click here.

Altria CEO Willard Temporarily Steps Aside After Contracting COVID-19

Altria Group Inc. Chairman and CEO Howard Willard is taking a temporary leave of absence after contracting COVID-19. In connection with his leave of absence, the company's board of directors tapped Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer Billy Gifford to take over Willard's authority and responsibilities until the chief executive returns.

Altria is also temporarily hitting the pause button on operations at its Philip Morris USA (PM USA) Manufacturing Center in Richmond, Va. The company made the move "out of an abundance of caution" after a second PM USA employee tested positive for COVID-19.

The company expects work at the manufacturing center to take a two-week break, though PM USA will continue to monitor the evolving situation.

Separately, some John Middleton Co. domestic operations will also be suspended for two weeks due to COVID-19 related supply chain constraints.

Read more here.

Homeland Security Recognizes C-stores as Essential Businesses

The Department of Homeland Security released updated COVID-19 guidance identifying the essential critical infrastructure workforce during the ongoing national emergency. Among them: convenience stores.

Earlier this week, NACS sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security urging the agency to designate c-stores and their suppliers and distributors as critical businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its updated guidance, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recognizes the following key businesses as essential:

  • Retail fuel centers, such as gas stations and truck stops, and the distribution systems that support them;
  • Retailers that sell food and beverage products;
  • Restaurant carry-out and quick-serve food operations;
  • Food manufacturer employees and their supplier employees; and
  • Employees and firms supporting food, feed and beverage distribution, including warehouse workers, vendor-managed inventory controllers and blockchain managers.

For the complete list of essential businesses, click here.

Service Plazas Along Pennsylvania Turnpike Reopen

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission reopened all 17 of its service plazas starting Friday, March 20. Beginning at 7 a.m., restrooms inside all service plazas will be open 24 hours a day. The outdoor portable toilets will remain in place at the service plazas for approximately one week.

There will be a few changes. According to the commission, limited food options will be available from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for takeout only on March 20. Thereafter, food will be available starting at 7 a.m. for all service plazas except the North Midway and Valley Forge locations, which will serve food 24 hours a day.

All service plazas will have limited staffing for the safety of the employees of HMS Host and 7-Eleven Inc., which operate the PA Turnpike service plazas. Fuel and all convenience stores inside the service plazas will continue to remain open 24 hours a day.

NACS Shifts Annual SOI Summit to Virtual Experience

NACS, the association representing the convenience and fuel retailing industry, is moving away from its in-person SOI Summit and focusing its efforts on a virtual offering this year.

"We are committed to keeping you fully informed and are currently exploring solutions that will simultaneously enable us to deliver the benchmarking data, analysis and emerging trends you have come to rely on from NACS, while strictly adhering to the guidance of the health agencies we are aligned with," wrote Lori Buss Stillman, vice president of research at NACS.

"It remains our commitment to deliver you timely, valuable industry content in a manner which does not jeopardize the personal safety of our members and employees," she continued. "We are working quickly alongside our partners to lock in as many details as possible this week with the goal of informing all registered attendees of the status and specifics regarding the new virtual offer."

NACS' SOI Summit is scheduled for April 8-9, and the association is coordinating the best dates and times with the event's speakers. Attendees with prior commitments will have the option to download materials from the event.

Retailers and suppliers with immediate registration questions can contact Amy Ashley-Burke at (703) 518-4239 or [email protected]

Six Key Consumer Behavior Thresholds Emerge Around Coronavirus

Correlating COVID-19 news events, such as public health announcements and government press conferences, lead way to identifying six key consumer behavior threshold levels.

In the eight weeks since China confirmed its first case of COVID-19 and the outbreak began to spread globally, Nielsen recorded record-breaking sales of health-safety products, as well as a ripple effect triggering broader consumer purchase behaviors.

The six threshold levels, based on early indicators across markets (though at different times as the virus outbreak evolves at different rates in different geographies), are:

  1. Proactive Health-Minded Buying
  2. Reactive Health Management
  3. Pantry Preparation
  4. Quarantined Living Preparation
  5. Restricted Living
  6. Living a New Normal

"As patterns begin to emerge in response to news events of this nature, it will be imperative for companies to learn from these scenarios, so they can sustain growth even in times where COVID-19 has uprooted people's lives," said Scott McKenzie, Nielsen Global Intelligence leader. "These patterns will help provide leading and trailing indicators to those trying to understand how people will respond as developments continue to play out at different times in different countries."

Read more here.

Tell Us: How Is the Coronavirus Affecting Your Business?

Convenience Store News would like to hear from you about how the coronavirus is impacting your business. Please tell us about any experiences you think might be valuable for us to share with the Convenience Store News audience. Also, let us know the industry information you're seeking at this time.

Share your experiences here.

C-stores Cease Self-Serve Food & Beverages Due to Coronavirus

Multiple convenience store retailers are suspending their self-serve food and beverage offerings. Kwik Trip/Kwik Star, Kum & Go and 7-Eleven no longer offer self-service for areas such as the roller grill, bakery case, hot prepared food, coffee bar and beverage fountain.

Certain products are shifting to an employee-served model or being sold prepackaged.

Read more here.

CDA Calls on Trump to Include Convenience Channel Among Critical Businesses

The Convenience Distribution Association (CDA) is urging the Trump Administration to include convenience stores and their wholesale distributor partners on lists of critical businesses in the event of a federal shutdown. The association also provided information to state associations to contact their governors and state emergency management personnel with that same message.

"Convenience stores are critical in this time of need as they provide essential services and products in communities. This includes critical fuel availability for healthcare and medical professionals, first responders, delivery workers and everyone else who needs to travel the roads. Without convenience stores selling fuel, for example, supply chains and deliveries will be disrupted," the CDA stated.

"When disasters or emergencies occur, convenience stores, most of which offer 24-hour operations, remain in operation as long as they can without putting their own employees' safety and wellbeing in harm's way. This means making sure fuel, food and other necessities are available for emergency workers and customers in need," the association added, noting c-stores sell roughly 80 percent of all fuel sold in the United States.

According to the CDA, 93 percent of Americans live within 10 minutes of a convenience store — including 86 percent of those in rural communities.

"People are able to quickly acquire critical items in their own neighborhood, thus limiting their need to travel to other locations or larger stores," the association pointed out.

C-stores provide essential items and services to consumers, including:

  • Quick and easy access to cash from nearly one-third of all U.S. ATMs;
  • Over-the-counter medicine (more than $2.5 billion in annual sales);
  • Milk ($1.4 billion);
  • Bottled water (47 percent of all individual bottles — excluding packs);
  • Electronic Benefits Transfer: 111,816 c-stores are authorized to redeem SNAP benefits, which comprise 45 percent of all SNAP-eligible stores.

"In countless rural and urban communities designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as 'food deserts,' convenience stores are the community grocery store, drug store and community hub, serving those who would otherwise be left behind," CDA stated. "The small format and quick transaction time means most stores are a manageable size to clean regularly (the average convenience store is 2,951 net square feet) and consumers are in and out of the store in under four minutes on average."

Truckstops & Travel Plazas Remain Open to Serve the Need of Truckers Transporting Goods

In the midst of the uncertainty of COVID-19 coronavirus, truckstops and travel plazas are staying open to serve the needs of truckers transporting goods.

Travel centers and truckstops across the United States continue to provide food, fuel and other essential amenities needed by professional drivers, including showers, said NATSO, the association representing the travel plaza and truckstop industry.

"Truck drivers are depending on truckstops and travel centers as they deliver food and life-saving supplies. Our members are committed to doing their part during the nation's response to this emergency," said NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings. "As the nation confronts the coronavirus outbreak, the country's travel centers and truckstops are committed to remaining open and serving America's drivers. Fuel retailers are 'essential' businesses that must remain open even if other 'nonessential' businesses are forced to close."

Read more here.

Acosta Offers Additional Services to Brand Partners

Acosta Sales & Marketing is stepping up to help its brand partners weather the international crisis to ensure minimal disruption to business by offering additional services at no charge for as long as the coronavirus continues to be a widespread threat.

With many consumer-packaged goods manufacturers cancelling business travel and large gatherings and meetings out of concern for their employees' safety, the disruption can be costly for manufacturers who cannot travel to perform essential headquarter and selling services, such as selling new products, negotiating promotional programs and conducting category reviews, Acosta stated.

With highly qualified associates aligned to retailer headquarters and stores in all markets across North America, Acosta is prepared to conduct these important services at no cost on manufacturers’ behalf without traveling — even if the services are not part of the company’s existing work with the brand.

In addition to the no-cost offerings above, Acosta is reaching out to its retail partners to offer supplementary incremental support in an effort to contain further outbreaks, such as cleaning and sanitizing hard surfaces, to ensure the health and safety of their employees and shoppers.

QSRs, Coffee Shops Shift to Takeout Service Only

Multiple foodservice and beverage operators across the United States are adjusting their service by limiting patrons to takeout, drive-thru and delivery orders in order to encourage social distancing.

Starbucks, Dunkin' and McDonald's USA are closing dine-in operations and shifting to a to-go model only. Customers can walk in to order food for takeout or place advance orders for pickup via mobile app, as well as use the drive-thru or a delivery service where available.

Read more here.

Pennsylvania to Close State-Owned Wine & Liquor Stores

Approximately 600 state-owned wine and liquor service centers will shut down at 9 p.m. on March 17, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board announced. Online sales ceased the prior day.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf previously ordered state-owned stores in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties to close due to "confirmed evidence of risk."

Liquor Control Board Chairman Tim Holden stated that fighting the public health crisis must take priority.

Read more here.

Dollar General Dedicates First Hour of Operations to Senior Customers

Dollar General Corp. is putting seniors into focus as it amends its hours of operation. In addition to closing one hour earlier to allow employees to clean and restock store shelves, as well as for their health and wellbeing, the discount retailer is encouraging the first hour of operation to be dedicated solely for the shopping needs of senior customers, who are one of the groups most vulnerable to the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The retailer wants to provide these at-risk customers with the ability to purchase the items they need and want at the beginning of each day to avoid busier and more crowded shopping periods, Dollar General stated. Other customers are encouraged to plan their shopping trips outside of this window of time.

"In keeping with our mission and our ongoing commitment to serve our communities, we are dedicating the first hour of each day to seniors. We appreciate our customers' understanding of our decision and request they visit our stores later in the morning to allow at-risk populations the ability to purchase the items they need at affordable prices," said Todd Vasos, Dollar General's CEO. "During these unprecedented times, Dollar General is diligently working to meet the ongoing needs of our customers and communities. We are proud to live our mission and provide customers with everyday low prices on the household essentials that are used and replenished most often."

Normal operating hours by individual store locations are available here.

Kwik Trip Offering Free Delivery to Help Customers Practice Social Distancing 

La Crosse, Wis.-based Kwik Trip Inc. is waiving the delivery fee on any order of more than $8 purchased through its delivery partnership with EatStreet. The change came on March 16 as U.S. consumers began to limit their interactions, with COVID-19 cases continuing to spread.

"These are largely unprecedented times, and we want to make it as easy as possible for everyone to get the items they need without having to take on additional costs," said David Jackson, Kwik Trip's digital marketing and loyalty manager.

Read more here.

Pump Prices Plummet Across the Nation

During this uncertain time of COVID-19, gas prices are declining despite increasing demand and decreasing U.S. stock levels.

For the most recent week, gas price averages in 35 states decreased by double-digits, pushing the national average to $2.25, the cheapest price point of the year.

"The national gas price average is 13 cents cheaper on the week and nearly 20 cents less than the beginning of the month. These are significant decreases in just seven and 16 days," said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson. "AAA expects gas prices to continue trending cheaper, with the high likelihood of the national average hitting $2 per gallon before the end of March."

The top 10 largest weekly decreases nationwide were: Ohio (27 cents), Kentucky (21 cents), Michigan (21 cents), Wisconsin (21 cents), Indiana (19 cents), Illinois (19 cents), Oklahoma (15 cents), Iowa (15 cents), Maine (15 cents) and Minnesota (15 cents).  

Read more here

Amazon Creates 100,000 New Positions, Temporarily Increases Wages

As employees face an uncertain few weeks, with retail stores either closing or cutting back their hours and some restaurants closing their dining rooms and moving to takeout and delivery options only, Amazon is looking to boost its payroll.

The ecommerce retailer is opening 100,000 new full- and part-time positions across the United States in its fulfillment centers and delivery network. The company is taking this step "to meet the surge in demand from people relying on Amazon's service during this stressful time, particularly those most vulnerable to being out in public," the company announced on its blog.

"We also know many people have been economically impacted as jobs in areas like hospitality, restaurants and travel are lost or furloughed as part of this crisis. We want those people to know we welcome them on our teams until things return to normal and their past employer is able to bring them back," the company said.

In addition to the 100,000 new positions, Amazon is increasing its hourly wage by $2 per hour from its current rate of $15 or more, depending on the region, through April in the U.S. The company is taking similar wage increases in the United Kingdom and many European Union countries.

Read more here. 

C-stores Remain Committed to Meeting Customer Needs Amid Coronavirus 

As lawmakers across the country take steps to flatten the curve of COVID-19, convenience store retailers are assuring they are in this together. 7-Eleven Inc., Sheetz, Crosby's and Stewart's Shops are among the retailers addressing latest concerns.

In messages to its customers and associates, the convenience store chains stressed their enhanced cleaning measures, and precautions they are taking to ensure they can continue to meet customers' needs. For example, Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz established an advisory board of senior leaders and experts in the field of sanitation and food safety, and Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven is temporarily discontinuing the use of personal cups for hot and cold dispensed beverages. 

Read more here.

Core-Mark Cancels All Trade Shows & Events Through April 30

Convenience distributor Core-Mark International is cancelling all in-person trade shows scheduled for March 13 through April 30. In lieu of a physical presence, the company will transition to a "virtual show" format, which will enable customers to capitalize on the benefits of the activity without introducing themselves to unnecessary health risks, according to the company.

"While it is unfortunate that we must cancel some activities, we are taking these steps to ensure the health and safety of our customers, vendors and all employees involved," said Scott McPherson, Core-Mark president and CEO. "We will continue to closely monitor this situation across our entire geographic footprint, and will work with the appropriate local, state and federal agencies and other entities as the situation evolves."

For a complete listing of the trade shows affected, click here.

U.S. Restaurant Transactions Rose Last Week

The 24/7 news cycle around the coronavirus didn’t deter Americans from patronizing restaurants last week. U.S. restaurant customer transactions for the week ending March 8 were up 4 percent compared to the same period a year ago, according to market researcher The NPD Group. 

Looking at the various segments of the industry, quick-service restaurant (QSR) chains experienced their highest gain in a four-week period, growing transactions by 4 percent in the week ending March 8. However, midscale/family dining chain transactions declined by 3 percent, and casual dining restaurant chains saw transactions drop by 5 percent during the same timeframe.  

“In these uncertain times, we are monitoring trends to detect possible disruption in the market but, thus far, the QSR sector has been resilient,” noted David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “In good and bad times, consumers are always looking for convenience and value and they get that at QSR restaurants.”

C-store Retailers Taking Precautions to Protect Customers

Many convenience store retailers are taking exceptional precautions and educating both workers and customers about how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that has nearly paralyzed the nation.

Among the actions being taken, retailers are stepping up their cleaning, personal hygiene and sanitizing procedures; providing checklists to help store associates follow proper safety procedures to prevent the spread of the virus; and sending physical and digital notices to their customers about efforts to protect their health and well-being.

Read more here.

Gas Prices Decline Driven by Lower Crude Oil Demand

With convenience stores selling roughly 80 percent of the gasoline purchased in the United States, one byproduct of the coronavirus is being reflected in prices at the pump. According to AAA, a recent decrease in crude oil prices has been driven by the growing impact of the virus.

"The market continues to worry that the impact of the virus will lead to a reduction in global economic growth and global travel, with crude demand expected to decrease," AAA said. "Until it appears that the international public health threat from the virus decreases and China's industrial sector recovers from the impact of the virus on production, crude prices are likely to continue facing downward pressure."

Read more here.