The 2014 Category Management Outlook

With the industry facing heightened competition and shrinking margins, CSD offers retail insights, expert analysis and emerging trends from more than 30 key in-store categories.

A CSD Staff Report

While other retail channels have endured sluggish sales and numerous other customer challenges over the past three years, the convenience store and petroleum industry hasn’t missed a beat. The industry continues to expand in sales, profits, number of stores and, even more importantly, it has become an indispensable piece of Americana that millions of time-starved customers cannot live without.

Convenience stores offer speed of service to busy consumers who want to get in and out of the store quickly. These shoppers recognize this channel of trade for its convenient locations, extended hours of operation, one-stop shopping, grab-and-go foodservice, variety of merchandise and fast transactions.

The U.S. convenience store count increased to a record 149,220 stores, a 0.7% increase (1,094 stores) from the year prior, according to the latest NACS/Nielsen Convenience Industry Store Count.

Food for Thought
Food culture in America is constantly changing, and convenience stores are behind much of that change. More than half (53%) of all eating occasions are snacking occasions, which plays right into the industry’s prime directive. On any given day, 10% of non-restaurant eating occasions takes place within an hour of purchasing the food or beverage, according to The Hartman Group’s Eating Occasions Compassdata.

Consumers are four times more likely to go to a convenience store for an immediate consumption occasion, the report found. That the convenience store landscape has been changing for a number of years and now appeals to a wider range of consumers shouldn’t be all that surprising.

For starters, top-quartile chains like Wawa, QuikTrip, RaceTrac and Sheetz, have been wellness-izing their store to offer healthier alternatives to the standard fare one typically associates with the convenience channel.

Convenience stores appeal to a broad cross section of the population looking for everything from a simple beverage to a meal. And because people of all socioeconomic statuses are busy and on-the-go, convenience stores appeal to a variety of consumers.

Historically, core convenience store shoppers have been 18-24 year old males. However, the convenience store demographic is shifting, the report found. Women shop convenience stores for immediate consumption occasions for nearly all the same reasons that men do. Women’s on-the-go lifestyles and efforts to balance work and family make convenience stores an increasingly appealing option. Convenience store features that especially appeal to women, the report said, are:
◆ Family-size food selections;
◆ New product selections;
◆ Quick in and out service.

Millennials represent the largest population segment in the U.S. One in every five household dollars are spent by or on a Millennial. The convenience store channel captures a significant share of their wallets. Millennials’ shopping behaviors also make them an ideal target audience for convenience stores because:
◆ They are more impulsive with spending than older generations;
◆ They make more unplanned purchases;
◆ They seek immediate gratification.

Industry Evolution
The convenience store is increasingly relevant given the demands of modern day living. As such, the channel appeals to a broader range of people, well beyond the traditional core, young male, convenience store shopper. Convenience stores offer a way to multi-task with an  improved and expanded selection of foods, fresh items and household goods, which allow shoppers to pick up pantry staples—or even dinner—while filling their tanks. They are also an oasis for last minute shoppers who need a few things, but can’t be bothered navigating grocery store crowds and parking lots.

In our March Trends Handbook, CSD offers insights, analysis and trending data from across 35 key c-store categories. We hope you use the data to reset your stores and communicate more effectively with your customers. The bottom line is that c-stores appeal to people across many demographics. Tailoring your offerings to your core customers could provide an immediate positive response.

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