Mom-and-pop C-stores Shouldn’t Fear Amazon

Don’t think automation can replace the human connection.

January 06, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Convenience stores are the ultimate small business, with nearly two-thirds of convenience stores independently owned and operated, according to NACS. Self-automation is quickly becoming the standard for the industry, like the self-ordering kiosks at Wawa and Sheetz and Panasonic’s machines that can scan multiple items at once. Competitors like Amazon Go offer shoppers an even easier way to buy groceries.

That might lead some to predict the demise of mom-and-pop convenience stores, but history proves that these independent operators should weather the technology storm just fine, the Washington Post reports. “Technology will be redefining convenience,” says Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president for strategic industry initiatives.

But that doesn’t mean it will drive smaller stores out of business. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, gas stations had to contend with high oil prices, along with new self-service pumps that changed the way gas was sold. Some said the industry wouldn’t survive, but it did—and it thrived as operators adapted to the new environment.

“Convenience stores have thrived because they meet the demand for immediate consumption with the average experience at your typical store being about three minutes,” Lenard said. “But I would think that anybody competing with Amazon better be paying attention.”

Today will be no different. New technology is transforming the convenience store industry, but smart business owners are already looking into ways to make technology work for them. As Lenard said, the “inconvenience” store industry is not a place any retailer wants to be.