Holiday Spending Buoys C-Store Channel

The July 4th bump has since trailed off as trips remain depressed, PDI/NACS Insights show.

July 21, 2020

By Kim Stewart

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—On-the-go Americans helped boost convenience store sales during the recent Independence Day holiday, but the momentum wasn’t enough to pull trips out of the pandemic-related doldrums during the first two weeks of July, according to the latest biweekly report from PDI and NACS on how COVID-19 is impacting consumer behavior.

For the two-week period ended July 12, year-over-year dollars were +6.7%, compared with +6.4% for the two weeks ended June 28, but were short of gains in May and June.

Basket spend continues to outpace the year-ago period, up about 20%, helped by a 26.5% one-day increase on July 4. Trips, however, still lag the year-earlier period by about 10%, holding back dollar sales growth, and the critical morning daypart remains stuck at about 85% of year-ago trips. The persistent drop-off in trips continues to put a question mark over a full recovery for the convenience retailing channel, especially with COVID-19 cases flaring up in several states, making another round of restrictions on discretionary travel and nonessential business likely.

In the packaged beverages category, non-alcoholic drinks turned in a strong performance, likely driven by consumers on holiday outings. For the week ended July 5, dollars in the category were up nearly 11% year over year, compared with a 6.7% increase the prior week.

The foodservice category, which has been especially hard hit during the past few months, saw trips improve, but the category’s performance still lags well behind overall store trip trends. Meanwhile, beer, cigarettes and other tobacco products—which previously enjoyed lockdown-related stock-up trips this past spring—experienced declines (down 2.2%, 9.3% and 6.2%, respectively). Packaged sweet snacks, cold dispensed beverages and frozen dispensed beverages all remain well below year-earlier trips (down 30.6%, 27.2% and 19%, respectively).

Here are some additional insights for the period ended July 12, 2020: 

  • Dollar sales growth edged higher from the prior two-week period but fell short of June’s gains (+6.7% vs. +6.4% for the two weeks ended June 28 vs. +8.4% for the two weeks ended June 14).
  • Weekly basket spend increased year over year (+20.4% for the week ended July 12 vs. +18% for the week ended July 5 vs. +19.1% for the two weeks ended June 28).
  • Trips fell from the prior two weeks (-10.5% vs. -11.1% for the two-week period ended June 28).
  • Packaged beverages’ trips increased year over year (+1.8% vs. -0.3% vs. for the two weeks ended June 28).
  • Foodservice trips remain in the red year over year but are improving (-22.6% vs. -25.2% for the two weeks ended June 28).
  • Beer trips contracted slightly year over year (+2.2% vs. +2.9% for the two weeks ended June 28).

Powered by PDI Insights Cloud, the report provides consumer trip and basket-level data and analysis that will enable essential businesses around the United States to deliver what their customers want and need right now. The report combines consumer buying data from 5,500 mid- to large-size convenience retail sites across all key geographic locations.

Click here to read the free two-page summary, and click here to get the full report from PDI, including category sales analysis.

Kim Stewart is editorial director of NACS and editor-in-chief of NACS Magazine.