Workweek Trips to C-Stores Are Almost Back

In the first states to reopen, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. dayparts are at 98% of year-ago levels, PDI/NACS Insights show.

June 16, 2020

By Kim Stewart

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Workweek trips in the midday and evening dayparts have almost fully recovered in states that were the first to ease stay-at-home restrictions, while the convenience channel as a whole is seeing trips at about 90% of year-ago levels, according to the latest weekly report from PDI and NACS on how COVID-19 is impacting consumer behavior.

Spend increased for the reporting week ended June 7 as Americans increasingly ventured out, and consumers spent more in stores. Year-over-year trips increased for every major category except liquor.

While sales uptick is typical at the start of the month, significant gains in non-alcoholic packaged beverages and a relatively lower absolute dollar sales contribution to growth from store services suggest this past week’s results are not entirely tied to start-of-the month and/or eased restrictions.

The 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. hours saw a significant increase in traffic, almost completely restoring trips during that time of day to last year’s levels. The morning daypart has been steadily regaining ground, sitting at just under 90% of prior year trips.

C-stores in states that reopened soonest saw a bigger boost in year over year dollars and trips—up 11% and off just 3.8%, respectively. These states include: Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Beer, ice and non-alcoholic packaged beverages drove nearly all of the positive change in year over year dollars for the week ended June 7 (up 7.7%, 33% and 1.3%, respectively). While packaged beverage dollars have remained positive, the category’s trips returned to the black for the first time since the beginning of March. Sports drinks, carbonated soft drinks and bottled water helped power the growth.

The general merchandise category is still a bright spot for the convenience channel, with spend climbing 23.3% over the year-ago week, compared with a 16.8% increase for the week ended May 31.

Here are some additional insights for the week ended June 7, 2020: 

  • Dollar sales growth increased from the prior two weeks (+8.8% vs. +3.6% for the week ended May 31 and +6% for the week ended May 24).
  • Basket spend inched higher year over year (+21.5% vs. +19.7% for the week ended May 31), primarily due to an increase in the lottery/gaming, beer and packaged beverage categories.
  • Bottled water, which has been lagging for several weeks, has seen a resurgence, with dollar sales up +5.6%  year over year and trips down only -2.6% vs. the prior year. 
  • Lottery/gaming increased (+36.5% vs. +32.4% for the week ended May 31).
  • Trips improved from the prior two weeks (-10.4% year over year vs. -13.4% for the week ended May 31 and -13.5% for the week ended May 24).

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.