Trips See Modest Uptick But Spend Growth Slips

Packaged beverage sales improve, candy and alcohol hold steady, but salty snacks lag, PDI/NACS Insights show. 

June 02, 2020

By Kim Stewart

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The U.S. convenience channel marked a slight increase in trips for the week ended May 24, compared with the prior week but still has ground to recover from the year-ago week, according to the latest weekly report from PDI and NACS on how COVID-19 is impacting consumer behavior. The uptick is likely a result of purchases made leading up to Memorial Day, as well as continued easing of stay-at-home restrictions. Spend per transaction slipped from the week earlier.

Packaged beverages for the week ended May 24 improved in dollar sales compared with the prior week (+3.7% vs. +1.3% for the week ended May 17), when spend in the category marked a decline after two consecutive weeks of gains. The alcohol, candy, salty snacks and tobacco categories all remained relatively unchanged compared with the prior week’s performance, although lottery/gaming and store services marked declines. Growth of small categories like frozen food and non-edible grocery have not slowed indicating some adopted behavior is still here to stay. 

Foodservice and other c-store mainstays of refreshment continue to be in the red as in-store dining, self-serve coffee and fountain drinks and roller grills remain shut down in many locations across the country. Food prepared on-site, packaged sweet snacks, commissary and cold/hot/frozen dispensed beverages all are still in negative territory in terms of dollar sales, transactions and trips.

Excluding the morning daypart, trips are at 90% of prior-year totals. Trips in the crucial 7 to 9:59 morning rush stand at 80% of prior year trips as many people haven’t yet resumed their pre-pandemic travel routines. This marks an improvement over the week ended May 17, when morning-rush trips were at 75% of the level they were during the year-earlier week.

Here are some key insights for the week ended May 24, 2020: 

  • Spend per trip increased year over year but fell from the prior week (+22.6% vs. +24.8% for the week ended May 17), due in part to the continued decline in high-spend store services like money orders, which peak at the beginning of each month.
  • Trips inched higher from the prior week, indicating that the year-over-year decline is slowing (-13.5% vs -14.8% for the week ended May 17).
  • Dollar sales fell marginally from the prior week (+6% vs. +6.3% for the week ended May 17).
  • Average basket size continued to contract ($9.54 vs. $9.64 for the week ended May 17).

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.