The U.S. convenience store sector is comprised of large chains like Circle K and 7-Eleven along with many independently owned retail outlets. Although business from consumers going to-and-from work and school has dropped off considerably, the coronavirus pandemic has spurred more visits from consumers who are trying to avoid large, busy supermarkets that contribute to longer visits, more touch points, and more handling of food.
Not only does the c-store (convenience store) satisfy the need for a quick stop to pick up food, drink and household items like laundry soap and toilet paper, consumers often take advantage of fueling up their vehicles, too.
At the same time, in rural areas the c-store serves as an important alternative to driving long distances to a larger retail outlet.
According to Dafna Gabel, vice president of insight and strategy at PDI, a global provider of ERP, fuel pricing, supply chain logistics, and marketing cloud solutions for the convenience retail and petroleum wholesale industries, c-stores are emphasizing the “convenience” proposition of c-stores to meet new demands in the marketplace.
For starters, c-stores are enhancing their offerings in several ways, including a broader choice of foods; offering foods for specific meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner); and adding more frozen foods, which is a growing segment in c-stores.
In addition, c-store operators are also responding to the contactless trend, Gabel says.
A recent survey from convenience store industry association NACS finds that of 77 member companies (representing 2,796 stores) polled:
- 40 percent say they have introduced or increased contactless payment options inside stores, and 62 percent say fewer customers are paying by cash; and
- 33 percent of stores have introduced or expanded curbside pickup, 29 percent have increased a drive-thru element to their operations, and 21 percent increased delivery
Despite the challenges associated with the coronavirus pandemic, C-stores have an opportunity to meet consumers’ needs while simultaneously boosting their attractiveness to a growing number of leisure travelers who are hitting the road instead of flying, and are looking for a quick, easy and contactless transaction in a store stocked with an enticing selection of food, beverages and other products.