Skip to main content

Room for Improvement


C-stores are having a harder time retaining store associates, assistant managers

The convenience store industry has come a long way in improving its image as a place where one can find a long-term career that’s rewarding both personally and financially.

Today, the average c-store manager remains in his or her position for seven years, up from 5.6 years in 2011, and the industry turnover rate for store managers is just 10.5 percent. At the industry’s single stores, these figures are even more impressive as the average single-store manager is employed for 9.1 years and the turnover rate is a mere 1 percent. These single-store figures, however, may be inflated by the fact that many single-store owners serve as their own store managers.

While the convenience channel is doing a good job of retaining managers, there is room for improvement when it comes to store associates and, to a lesser degree, assistant managers, according to the Convenience Store News 2013 HR & Labor Study. This exclusive research is conducted every other year and analyzes turnover, benefits, wages, salary and more.

This year’s results show higher turnover rates for both store associates and assistant managers. The industry turnover rate for associates currently stands at 57.5 percent, up from 45.1 percent in the CSNews 2011 HR & Labor Study. Meanwhile, for assistant managers, the current turnover rate is 22.6 percent, up from 18.4 percent two years ago.

With more employees to keep happy, the industry’s chain operators (two or more stores) suffer from far higher turnover rates than single-store owners. For instance, the associate turnover rate for chains is 73.9 percent vs. 41.2 percent for single stores. Likewise, the assistant manager turnover rate for chains is 32.7 percent vs. just 1.7 percent at independent stores.

Wages continues to be the No. 1 factor impacting turnover rates, same as in 2011. In fact, the top four factors impacting turnover rates remain unchanged: wages, dismissal for cause, competition for employees from other businesses and benefits. In this year’s study, however, unpopular shifts (e.g. overnight hours) jumped up two spots to round out the top five.

In regards to wages, the mean starting hourly pay for store associates across the c-store industry is $8.14, up 13 cents from $8.01 in 2011. This starting wage is 89 cents higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25. The industry’s single-store owners are slightly more generous with a mean starting wage of $8.26, compared to $8.02 for chain operators.

Store associates are given their first pay increase about six months after their start date, the study results show. The mean across the industry is 6.5 months. Single-store owners make their new employees wait slightly longer than chains — 7 months vs. 6.1 months for chains.

As for the amount of that first pay increase, though, single stores outdo chains. The mean for single stores is 52 cents vs. 35 cents for chains. Industrywide, the mean is 43 cents, up from 36 cents two years ago. Nearly 90 percent of all respondents said wage increases are tied to performance reviews, with about 62 percent conducting formal reviews. This number is higher for chains, at 84.8 percent. Only about 37 percent of single stores conduct formal reviews.

While the majority of c-store retailers (60 percent) say their pay scale is the same as comparable businesses in the market, more respondents this year indicated they pay less. In 2011, 7.2 percent of respondents said they pay less; this year, that figure rose to 11.7 percent.

Other store-level findings from the 2013 HR & Labor Study include:

  • The total number of associates per store remains relatively steady at 8.6. The average length of stay for an associate is 2.1 years, down just slightly from 2.4 years in 2011. The average length of stay at single stores exceeds chains — 2.5 years vs. 1.6 years.
  • Reliability moved up two spots and is now the No. 1 problem cited by retailers in regards to the quality and integrity of their workforce. Employee theft/shrink, which ranked first two years ago, dropped down to No. 2, followed by basic skills/competence.
  • A greater percentage of c-store retailers are offering a wide range of benefits to both store associates and managers. For associates, the only benefits that saw a percentage decrease this year in terms of retailers offering them were a cash bonus for meeting goals and company stock. For managers, dental and vision insurance were the only benefits that posted a decline this year compared to the 2011 study.
  • The most widely offered benefits are insurance and a 401k plan. Nearly 60 percent of retailers offer insurance to their store associates, up from about 38 percent two years ago, while 74 percent offer insurance to store managers, up from 56 percent. As for a 401K plan, 58 percent offer one to associates and 64 percent do so for store managers. In addition, 83 percent say their 401K plan matches employee contributions.
  • For the most part, c-store operators are relying on the same screening tools to guide their hiring decisions. Looking at 2013 vs. 2011, the only significant jumps were seen in INS checks (up to 15.6 percent from 6.8 percent), education testing (up to 12.5 percent from 4.6 percent), and credit checks (down to 7.8 percent from 17 percent).
  • Store associates undergo an average of 35.8 hours of training. Assistant managers go through 132 hours, while store managers log 222 hours. On-the-job training is utilized by 100 percent of c-store retailers. Additionally, computer-based training is used by 55 percent, and classroom training by 26 percent industrywide.
  • More than 50 percent of c-store retailers have formal programs established to gather employee feedback. Compared to two years ago, more respondents are now moving these programs away from face-to-face meetings toward mobile and digital. The most popular way to garner feedback is through an employee hotline (25 percent), followed by an electronic forum such as a company intranet (14.3 percent). District/headquarters meetings, which topped the list in 2011, now ranks third (10.7 percent).


The CSNews HR & Labor Study also includes an industry salary survey that looks at compensation from the CEO level down to the store manager level. Across every position, the base salary showed an increase in 2013 compared to the 2011 study.

Convenience retail chief executives are taking home record pay. The average compensation (salary plus bonus/commission) for c-store CEOs rose by $20,400, or 9.3 percent, over the last two years. Now totaling $239,700 — of which $187,400 is salary and $52,300 is bonus/commission — this figure exceeds the previous peak of $222,900 achieved in 2006.

One step down in the hierarchy, those holding the president position at c-store companies are earning 11 percent more today than they were two years ago. Average compensation for c-store company presidents stands at $175,700, an increase of $17,500 compared to 2011.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, store managers are earning $40,100 on average — of which $36,500 is salary and $3,600 is bonus/commission. Over the last two years, store managers have seen their total compensation increase by $2,800 or 7.5 percent.

The salary survey also delves into how bonuses and commissions are structured. This year’s study reveals that improved profits are now of utmost concern as the No. 1 basis. This differs from 2011 when improved sales topped the list of criteria. Nearly 74 percent of retailers this year cited improved profits as a top factor, quite a boost from 44 percent two years ago.


The Convenience Store News 2013 HR & Labor Study includes responses from a total of 118 retailers. Respondents represent an average of 66.7 convenience stores, with 41.2 percent operating single stores, 21.8 percent at chains of two to 10 stores, 13.4 percent at chains of 11 to 50 stores, 8.4 percent at chains of 51 to 200 stores and 15.2 percent at chains with more than 200 stores. By region, 31.8 percent of respondents are from the South, 29 percent are from the Midwest, 21.1 percent are from the Northeast and 16.7 percent represent c-stores from the West.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds