PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — In 1969, there were 11,000 convenience stores nationwide, with approximately $2.3 billion in sales, according to the Convenience Store News Industry Report from that year.
Fast forward to 2019 and there are approximately 153,237 convenience stores operating in the United States, with $661.4 billion in sales. Convenience stores account for more than one-third of the total brick-and-mortar retail universe in the U.S., according to Nielsen.
So, what will the next 50 years bring for convenience retailing? To help answer this question, Convenience Store News tapped leading c-store industry authorities.
Here is what 40-year industry veteran Maurice Minno, founder of MPM Group, had to say:
What are your thoughts on the future of the convenience store industry?
I see massive change driven by who our customers are and what they seek.
The preponderance of driverless vehicles (commercial delivery, as well as passenger vehicles) will result in new technology-enabled, full-service refueling forecourts with dedicated alternative fuel vehicle lanes for speedy and unencumbered access and return to the highway.
Alternative fuel vehicle popularity will result in the reinvention of the traditional c-store forecourt to the forecourt-of-the-future. The forecourt will evolve to a newly created design that enables the speedy access and refueling/recharging of customers’ alternative fuel vehicles. The change will be dramatic not only in the reduction of the number of traditional fuel pump islands in favor of new recharging islands for electric and other alternative fuel vehicles, but also in the new forecourt technologies that will be deployed for efficiently monitoring forecourt traffic, as well as electronic virtual charging for customer use. New data reporting and analysis systems will be developed in full support of the reinvented forecourt.
A new generation store-of-the-future will also emerge. It will develop from customer behavior shopping patterns that focus on meeting customers’ human daily convenience needs. This store will be an updated definition of convenience shopping. It will provide multifaceted customer solutions via a diverse produce, experience and services offer. It will be restaurant-patterned in terms of image, services and format, yet with exciting, fresh-dominated food and beverage offers that engage customers with immersive and dynamic in-store experiences.
Binding the store and its various elements together will be the branded c-store retailer’s unique approach and capability to customer experiential services, customer marketing reach to loyal customers, and in-store merchandising – of not only the product offers, but also of the various new customer services and interactive experiences showcased.
The key to success for this new business format will be a design that is innovatively ever-changing. The store will be anchored by the c-store retailer’s proven branded concepts, while being enhanced with individual pop-up showcase stores, such as financial, dining, grocery, social and entertainment, and new retailer product and service showcases.
Who will the c-store industry leaders be in the next 50 years?
The iconic c-store retail brands — Wawa, Sheetz, QuikTrip and others like them — will continue to grow, prosper financially, outperform the industry, innovate their retail business models and freshen their offers, while remaining top-rated by customers and industry peers.