Time is money if you’re in retail
Convenient locations and fast service are what consumers say convenience stores provide best in an increasingly competitive retail landscape. Nearly two in three Americans (64 percent) say they live within 5 minutes of a convenience store, according to a new national consumer survey released by NACS. Even in smaller towns convenience stores are nearby: 86 percent of Americans in rural communities say they are within 10 minutes of a store.
Convenience stores sell approximately 80 percent of the fuel purchased in the United States, and nearly half of all gas customers (48 percent) also go inside the store when they’re buying gas for easy one-stop shopping. Whether hot coffee or cold beverages, consumers think drinks first when going in the store: 53 percent say their prime reason to go inside is to buy a beverage.
The time consumers spend in stores also is incredibly fast. Half of all consumers (45 percent) say they are in and out of the store with a purchase in 3 minutes or less.
It’s for these reasons that convenience stores are considered the fastest location to buy something to eat or drink, with consumers selecting convenience stores over fast-food restaurants as the shortest wait times in lines by a 2-to-1 margin (35 percent vs. 18 percent).
NACS consumer surveys also suggest that consumers are looking to save even more time inside the store, with 92 percent of respondents saying they’d be interested in using automatic check-out technologies, and 67 percent saying they’d like to try same-day grocery delivery. Sixty-seven percent of survey respondents said they’d like to pick up their online shopping orders (for example, Amazon or eBay) at a physical c-store location.
“Convenience is in our industry’s name, whether that means a convenient location, fast service, one-stop shopping or 24-hour operations,” said Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives. “But what’s really exciting is how our industry continues to innovate and make things even more convenient and interesting to customers.”
Convenience stores are developing innovations through store design, technology, services and on-the-go food options. And, because the 155,000 convenience stores in the United States represent 34 percent of all brick-and-mortar retail in the country, it’s likely these innovations will be coming soon to communities across the U.S. – and the world.
Convenience retailers understand the value of making first impressions, beginning with a clean and well-lit store. Now, more retailers are enhancing the appearance of a traditional c-store “box” with an overall design strategy. In some cases, that means considering radical reinventions like separating the convenience side from the foodservice side – or even housing multiple food brands under one roof like a food hall.
At the 430,000-square-foot NACS Show expo – the largest in show history, many exhibitors will showcase store design consultancy and solutions; interior and exterior lighting solutions; coolers and refrigeration fixtures; and food prep and equipment from ovens to fryers and steamers, to cook tops to soup kettles, juicers, grills and cook-and-hold units.
Technology is rapidly changing the way convenience and fuel retailers operate their business. In fact, many retailers believe that new technologies can help their core consumers embrace a digital lifestyle, such as artificial intelligence, mobile applications, frictionless solutions, price optimization and staying ahead of the digital consumer’s needs.
Most of all, convenience stores sell convenience, allowing customers to quickly buy what they need and get on with their day in 3 minutes or less. As the need for convenience grows, so are time-saving services such as last-mile delivery services and touchscreen ordering kiosks for customizable foodservice options.
On-The-Go Food Options
Convenience stores sell immediate consumption items: 83 percent of in-store merchandise is consumed within one hour of purchase.
Meeting consumers’ need for snacking on-the-go, exhibitors at the NACS Show expo will showcase items that neatly fit in a car’s cup holder—after all, 8 percent of millennials say they’ve used their car’s cup holder for food over the past month. New product innovations are delivering cup-holder-sized packaging for everything from, literally, soup to nuts and also fresh deli salads and yogurt, confections and mints.
As more healthy-minded consumers rely on protein products to help boost their energy levels throughout the day, many new products hitting c-store shelves satisfy taste buds while packing protein, whether traditional products like cheese, nuts, hard-boiled eggs and jerky or protein-enhanced products, whether beverages, potato chips, snack cakes, cookies and energy bars.
Source: NACS, Association for Convenience and Petroleum Retailing