C-Store Dollar Sales Dip, but Trips Hold Steady

Spend per visit is still healthy, although consumers are watching their wallets, PDI/NACS Insights show.

November 10, 2020

By Kim Stewart

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The U.S. convenience channel is seeing lower growth in dollar sales, driven mainly by a drop in year-over-year spend per trip. Consumers continue to include more items in their baskets but at a lower price point than previous periods when compared with the prior year. Lower spend per trip may be driven by end-of-month impact, as well Halloween promotions. Although trips are still down versus a year ago, they are relatively stable, according to the latest biweekly report from PDI and NACS on how COVID-19 continues to impact consumer behavior.

Convenience stores have seen dollar sales slip year-over-year during the past five weeks (-0.8% for the week ended November 1 vs. +4.6% for the week ended September 27). Spend pre-trip year-over-year has slowly declined, slipping to +14.7% for the week ended November 1. Since early March, inside store sales have been elevated compared with year-earlier periods as consumers pantry-loaded during the early months of the pandemic, but that trend appears to be waning.

On a dollar basis for the four-week period ended November 1, the biggest category movers were packaged beverages (+10.2% vs. +6.4% for the four weeks ended September 27), cold dispensed beverages (-23.1% vs. -29.9% the prior four weeks) and cigarettes (+0.7% vs. +2.1% the prior four weeks).

Trips still haven’t fully recovered to pre-COVID-19 levels, but they are holding steady overall, averaging -12.2% year-over-year during the past five weeks. The packaged beverage, cold dispensed and hot dispensed categories experienced the biggest improvements, with trips increasing by several percentage points in all three areas. Packaged beverages trips were at -0.8% for the four-week period ended November 1, compared with -4% for the four weeks ended September 27; hot dispensed beverage trips were at -29.3% vs. -24.7% ,and cold dispensed beverages were at -26.2% vs. -31.3% in the prior four-week period.

Trips in the key weekday morning rush daypart stood at about 80%, and the other weekday dayparts were just under 90% of prior year’s trips, giving up progress made during late summer.

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.