Spending in C-Stores Is on the Upswing

The candy and non-alcoholic packaged beverage categories see solid growth.

May 19, 2020

By Kim Stewart

ALEXANDRIA, Va.— The convenience channel is shaking off its pandemic slowdown as consumers are shopping at c-stores more and continuing to spend more as states loosen restrictions on commerce, recreation and discretionary travel, according to the latest weekly report from PDI and NACS on how COVID-19 is impacting consumer behavior.

Dollar sales rose 8.6% for the week ended May 10, compared with the year-ago week as the decline in trips continued to slow, and spending per trip increased 25.4% over the year-ago week.

Looking at the nine states that lifted restrictions at the end of April and the beginning of May, dollar sales rose 6.9% for the week ended May 10, compared with the year-ago week. While trips continue to increase week over week, following the initial boost of last week, improvement slowed a bit during the week ended May 10. Basket spend growth versus a year ago continues. 

Spending tied to first of the month pay/benefits is still helping boost in-store categories. Packaged beverages, which turned the corner a week earlier, improved along with candy (up 4.8% and 8.4%, respectively, over the year-ago week). Salty snacks also showed upward momentum, but the category is still trailing other categories in its recovery rate. The alcohol and tobacco categories are still going strong. 

Here are some key insights for the week ended May 10, 2020:

  • Spend per trip increased for the week (+25.4 vs. +22.9% vs. for the week ended May 3, reflecting multiple factors such as the start of the month, Cinco de Mayo celebrations and a likely more positive consumer outlook in states lifting restrictions. 
  • The year-over-year decline in trips continued to slow (-13.4% vs. -16.1% for the week ended May 3).
  • Lottery and the general merchandise categories continued to experience growth, similar to last week. 
  • The other tobacco products category was up 11.5% year-over-year but remained relatively unchanged vs. the prior week.

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.