Inflation, high gas prices and work-from-home trends depress c-store traffic
Rajeev-sharma-1
Rajeev Sharma
April 5, 2022

VideoMining C-store Shopper Insights (CSI) Tracker Report

The average number of weekly in-store buyers in convenience stores was down 14% in 2021 compared to the pre-pandemic weekly average in 2019, even after a modest recovery relative to 2020 (Source: VideoMining C-Store Shopper Insights Tracker).

Continued work-from-home trends and high gas prices had a negative impact on in-store traffic. Despite the depressed traffic, the average weekly sales per store for the convenience channel was actually 4% higher relative to 2019. This was partly due to inflation and partly due to the healthy appetite of c-store shoppers for buying a range of in-store products, adding up to $58,456 in sales (excluding fuel) per store per week.

The overall behaviors of the shoppers, e.g. spending more time shopping in-store (over 3 minutes), also indicated that shoppers are now very comfortable visiting and shopping convenience stores.

There has certainly been “shifts” in behaviors and trip missions in the channel. Breakfast gained significant share of trips in 2021 compared to the previous year, largely as more of the workforce began returning to the office and once again commuting in the mornings. That was a boon to categories like Coffee, Energy Drinks, and Prepackaged Food, which all performed exceptionally well in the daypart.

The shares for food and beverage categories were up year-over-year while tobacco and alcohol trip missions were down. Key growth categories included refreshing beverages like Sports Drinks (+24% share) and Water (+13%), snacks like Cereal Bars (+15%), Meat Snacks (+12%) and Candy (+9%) as well as fresh food options like Roller Grill (+13%) and Prepackaged food (+6%). Their gain reduced the dominance of categories that held up through the pandemic like Cigarettes (-7%) and Beer (-6%).

As we continue to monitor the high fuel prices, which undoubtedly impacts the overall store traffic, the good news is that a majority (72%) visitors to c-stores in 2021 were non-fuel buyers.

The conversion rates trends for 2021 highlight specific opportunities in the channel, especially for improving “pump-to-store” conversion rates for fuel buyers who pay at the pump, which was nearly 26% below the conversion rates in 2019.

There were plenty of other opportunities to improve in-store conversions, especially as the shopper dynamics of the channel continued to shift. For example, 2021 saw further gains in the proportion of younger shoppers in c-stores, with Gen Zs (18-26 years) and Millennials (27-41 years) now making up more than 53% of the shopper base.

The in-depth analysis of the product segments also revealed patterns that indicate shifts in shopper preferences, for example, moving to hard seltzers and ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails from traditional beers. So even as store heatmaps continue to turn more “red” after the pandemic-driven “blues” there are plenty of opportunities for fine-tuning merchandising and marketing strategies to connect better with today’s c-store shopper and boost in-store performance.

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