Workweek Trips to C-stores Bouncing Back in First States to Reopen 


ALEXANDIRA, Va. — As states enter recovery phases, convenience stores are reaping the benefits of consumers venturing out and resuming their daily routines.

According to the latest weekly report from NACS and PDI on how COVID-19 is impacting consumer behavior, workweek trips in the midday and evening dayparts have almost fully recovered in states that were first to ease stay-at-home restrictions, while the convenience channel as a whole is seeing trips at about 90 percent of year-ago levels.

For the week ended June 7, consumer spending increased in-store as Americans increasingly ventured out. Except for liquor, year-over-year trips increased for every major category.

While sales uptick is typical at the start of the month, significant gains in non-alcoholic packaged beverages and a relatively lower absolute dollar sales contribution to growth from store services suggest this past week's results are not entirely tied to start-of-the month and/or eased restrictions, the report found.

The 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. hours saw a significant increase in traffic, almost completely restoring trips during that time of day to last year's levels. The morning daypart has been steadily regaining ground, sitting at just under 90 percent of prior year trips.

C-stores in states that reopened soonest saw a bigger boost in year-over-year dollars and trips, up 11 percent and off just 3.8 percent, respectively. These states include Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Beer, ice and non-alcoholic packaged beverages drove nearly all of the positive change in year-over-year dollars for the week ended June 7, with increases of 7.7 percent, 33 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.

While packaged beverage dollars have remained positive, the category's trips returned to the black for the first time since the beginning of March. Sports drinks, carbonated soft drinks and bottled water helped power the growth.

The general merchandise category is still a bright spot for the convenience channel, with spend climbing 23.3 percent over the year-ago week vs. a 16.8 percent increase for the week ended May 31.

NACS and PDI also found that for the week ended June 7:

  • Dollar sales growth increased from the prior two weeks: 8.8 percent vs. 3.6 percent for the week ended May 31, and 6 percent for the week ended May 24.
  • Year over year, basket spend inched higher for the week ended May 31 (21.5 percent vs. 19.7 percent), primarily due to an increase in the following categories: lottery/gaming, beer and packaged beverages.
  • Bottled water — which has been lagging for several weeks — has seen a resurgence, with dollar sales up 5.6 percent year over year and trips down only 2.6 percent vs. the prior year. 
  • For the week ended May 31, lottery/gaming increased from 32.4 percent to 36.5 percent.
  • Year over year, trips were down 10.4 percent vs. 13.4 percent for the week ended May 31 and 13.5 percent for the week ended May 24.

Powered by PDI Insights Cloud, the PDI and NACS report provides consumer trip and basket-level data and analysis from 5,500 mid- to large-size convenience retail sites across all key geographic locations. The full report is available here.