More Than Half of Consumers Are Shopping C-stores Less During Pandemic

Don Longo
Editorial Director Emeritus
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NATIONAL REPORT — More than half of consumers (52 percent) say they are shopping at convenience stores less during the pandemic than previously, while only 14 percent are shopping more, according to a new, exclusive shopper study conducted by Convenience Store News on changes in shopping frequency and behavior in the convenience channel during the pandemic.

Changes in daily routines due to the coronavirus pandemic and related COVID-19 business shutdowns and restrictions is the main reason why consumers are shopping less at c-stores these days.

Consumers also say they’re shopping less at convenience stores because they are:

  • Trying to consolidate or make fewer shopping trips overall (40 percent);
  • Not buying gasoline/fuel as often (38 percent);
  • Not traveling as much for leisure (34 percent);
  • Not eating out as often (33 percent);
  • Don’t feel safe shopping at convenience stores (29 percent); and
  • Choosing to shop at online stores/sites (24 percent).

Of the 14 percent of consumers who are shopping at convenience stores more during the pandemic, more than one-third (38 percent) attribute their increased trips to changes in their daily routine due to COVID-19 and/or their choice to shop for groceries at a smaller store.

Also, among those who have increased their shopping at c-stores during the pandemic, curbside/pumpside pickup and contactless payment options are a big draw 18 percent increased their c-store shopping because their preferred store offers curbside/pumpside pickup, and the same percentage increased visits because their store offers contactless payment options.

Generation X shoppers are more likely than the other age groups to have increased shopping at c-stores because they are the only store open where they live, and because their preferred store offers pickup services. Baby boomers are more likely to have increased shopping at c-stores because they feel shopping there is safe. Millennials are more likely to cite that they are consolidating their shopping trips, while Generation Z shoppers are more likely to cite that they are shopping convenience stores more for carryout or delivered foodservice items.

Comparing shopping occasions before the pandemic vs. during the pandemic, the breakfast and morning snack times are seeing the largest increase of shoppers stating that they “rarely” or “never” purchase from c-stores during these occasions. Meanwhile, lunch and dinner are seeing small bumps in the percentage of shoppers stating that they “regularly” purchase from c-stores during these occasions. Changing work routines and limited foodservice options are probable reasons for these shifts.

Looking at where else c-store customers are spending their dollars, four out of 10 shoppers are using online grocery stores/websites such as Amazon/Amazon Fresh, Peapod and Instacart more now than before the pandemic. Just 28 percent of all respondents said they do not shop online grocery stores/websites.

The survey was fielded among 504 convenience store shoppers nationwide. In order to qualify, shoppers were required to be over 18 years old, reside in the U.S., and have shopped at c-stores during the COVID-19 pandemic. A mix of those who have shopped c-stores more, same or less were included.

About the Author

Don Longo
Don Longo is Editorial Director Emeritus of Convenience Store News. Read More