Younger Consumers Ready for C-Store Cannabis, Automation

A new report says these trends are opportunities to differentiate and capture new customers.

January 10, 2020

SAN DIEGO—Convenience stores are in a transitional moment and must focus on younger consumers when considering the most important issues of the day, according to TrendSource’s 2019 Convenience Store Industry Report. Two of the biggest trends shaping the channel—in-store cannabis sales and frictionless checkout technology—will both pivot around generational differences as older consumers prove relatively more resistant than younger ones, TrendSource said.

“As convenience stores enter the next decade, market research will become increasingly important to ensure new initiatives are properly implemented in order to stay ahead in a very competitive landscape,” said Sarah Rowlett, TrendSource vice president of business development, in a press release.

One particularly salient issue facing c-stores relates to cannabis products. Though laws have yet to entirely coalesce, savvy operators should already be preparing for a world in which cannabis-derived products, particularly CBD products, will appear on c-store sales floors. The only resistance to c-store cannabis products seems to come from the silent generation, where opposition to cannabis remains firm, but in every younger generation from boomers all the way to the youngest respondents there is comfort if not enthusiasm.

But most major food and beverage manufacturers are slow to integrate CBD into products after regulatory warnings, the Food Institute reports. Kellogg Co., Monster Beverage, Starbucks, PepsiCo and Red Bull have toyed with CBD in drinks and food items. “It was all gas on one foot from the consumers' interest,” said Mike Luce, co-founder of High Yield Insights. “Now there's a very strong foot on the brakes from the FDA.”

Issues surrounding in-store automation similarly break along generational lines, with younger consumers proving far more interested in and comfortable with frictionless checkout and other technological innovations. Older consumers, particularly in the silent generation, expressed concern about automation obviating in-store employees—they are uncomfortable with machines taking jobs away from people. While millennials similarly expressed concern about this potential, the majority proved willing to overlook this so long as automation makes their in-store experience more convenient.

For more on CBD and cannabis retailing, see the NACS Daily four-part series on the “The Future of Cannabis in Retail.” Stories include:

NACS Cannabis Pop-Up Explores New Frontier

Cannabis by the Numbers

High Need for Education

Cannabis Entrepreneurs Face Regulatory Hurdles