Strong Economy Credited With Increase In Sales At C-Stores In 2018

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ALEXANDRIA, VA – In-store sales at U.S. convenience stores increased in 2018, according to store owners surveyed by NACS. Overall, according to the report, 84 percent of retailers said that in-store sales increased for the year and 62 percent reported that fuel gallons sold increased.

The trade association, which represents store owners, notes strong sales in 2018 are one reason for an increase in optimism about business prospects for 2019 among retailers, with 85 reporting they are upbeat about prospects for the first quarter, the highest measure of optimism for the first quarter in the past five years.

In addition, retailers said the industry’s offer of convenience continues to resonate with customers, noting specifically a mobile app for customers to order food for pickup at Win Win Fillin’ Station, in City of Industry, CA, and home delivery at Timewise Food Stores, in Houston.

The strong in-store sales were led by foodservice growth, with 68 percent of retailers reporting increased sales, and continued strong sales growth of better-for-you items, which were called out by 62 percent of respondents.

Beverages were a big seller in 2018 as well, according to survey response, with specialty beverages selling well at Compass Group North America’s stores, in Charlotte, NC, and water and energy drinks pushing overall sales higher at Fast Break Stores, in Klamath Falls, OR. Another noteworthy sales driver were healthy food items, according to Romeoville Mobile, in Lockport, IL, and fresh salads and other healthy options contributed to a strong year at Landhope Farms, in Kennett Square, PA.

Convenience stores sell nearly 80 percent of the fuel purchased in the U.S. and conduct an estimated 165 million transactions a day, according to NACS, making the industry a good indicator for trends related to travel and consumer spending.

Some Concerns for 2019

However, the report reveals retailers are not fully confident about the overall economy moving into 2019, with only 62 percent indicating they are optimistic about the economy, the lowest percentage in 11 quarters.

Given the tight labor market, retailers also noted labor issues are the biggest threat to their businesses.

Top concerns cited for 2019 are:

  • Labor issues (59%)
  • Regulations/legislation (47%)
  • Economic concerns (41%)
  • Competition from other convenience stores (39%)
  • Competition from other formats (29%)
  • Potential decrease in driving/increase in gas prices (19%)

Despite these concerns, retailers reported they remain upbeat that 2019 could be a repeat of 2018 for sales — as long as the economy stays relatively strong.

“In a booming economy, I see things continuing to trend upward. We offer great food, great customer service and a clean environment in which to shop. Most of all, customers appreciate us,” says Gay Simpson, with Dutchtown Tiger Mart Inc., in Baton Rouge, LA. C&ST