Upswing in Holiday Traffic Expected at Convenience Stores

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Malls will not be the only brick-and-mortar retailers to see a stream of customers this holiday season. Convenience store registers will be doing their fair share of ringing, too.

According to a consumer survey released by NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, one in three consumers say they plan to buy snacks and other food items from convenience stores more often (32 percent) and they plan to buy coffee and other beverages from convenience stores more often (31 percent) while shopping this holiday season.

Younger consumers, aged 18 to 34, are the most likely to grab a quick snack or beverage at c-stores, with a majority expecting to buy snacks (52 percent) or drinks (51 percent) more often at convenience stores while shopping this holiday season, the survey found.

"Convenience stores sell 80 percent of the gas purchased in the country, and we are increasingly seeing customers filling up at the pump and then grabbing a quick snack or drink inside to save time and avoid additional stops, especially with the compressed holiday shopping season this year," said NACS Vice President of Strategic Industry Initiatives Jeff Lenard.

Snackers will find an impressive array of healthy choices in c-stores over the holidays, with 98 percent of stores selling health bars, 96 percent selling nuts or trail mix, 72 percent selling fresh fruit or vegetables, and 67 percent selling yogurt, according to a separate retailer survey conducted this month.

Retailers also indicate that they have significantly expanded their healthy choice selections throughout this entire year, with 49 percent adding or expanding their health bar selection and 39 percent adding or expanding their fresh fruit and vegetable selection. Water is also popular, with 67 percent of retailers stocking more nutraceuticals/enhanced waters and 61 percent stocking more bottled waters.

Snacks and drinks are not the only convenience store items on holiday shopping lists. More than one in five consumers say when it comes to making purchases at convenience stores, they will be buying gift cards more often (23 percent), small presents or stocking stuffers more often (21 percent) and more small items like tape and batteries more often (22 percent) this holiday season.

Younger consumers are most likely to purchase these items at convenience stores: More than one in three of those aged 18 to 34 say they will buy gifts cards (38 percent), small presents (38 percent) and small items like tape and batteries (37 percent) at c-stores more often this holiday season.

"Lottery tickets are always a popular stocking stuffer or office gift, and with the current Mega Millions jackpot now at $400 million, we are definitely seeing an increase in sales for what could potentially be an amazing holiday gift," Lenard added.

Convenience stores also will be a hot spot for holiday party supplies. One in five consumers (21 percent) say they will be shopping more often at c-stores to pick up items they need for parties -- like wine, beer and snacks. More than one in three consumers aged 18 to 34 say they will be buying more items from c-stores for parties this holiday season, with 39 percent stocking up for parties they are hosting and 37 percent buying items for parties they are attending.

"Convenience stores serve more than half of the U.S. population -- 160 million customers -- on a daily basis. They offer consumers that quick and hassle-free break from holiday shopping, and consumers are increasingly taking advantage of this convenience as part of their shopping experience," Lenard said. "Younger consumers, in particular, are filling their one-stop shopping needs by filling up their cars, grabbing a snack or gift, and getting what they need to quickly get on their way."

In addition to making purchases, 22 percent of consumers say they will be visiting ATMs at convenience stores more often this holiday season.

The consumer results are from a nationwide survey commissioned by NACS and conducted by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates LLC. For this survey, 801 consumers were surveyed from Dec. 3-5. The NACS retailer survey was conducted Dec. 3-10 and is based on responses from 128 member companies.

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