Thirsty Customers Lift C-Store Trips

Packaged beverages see improvement amid little overall change in shopper behavior, PDI/NACS Insights show.

September 01, 2020

By Kim Stewart

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Trips to U.S. c-stores showed modest improvement during the two-week period ended August 23, helped by upticks in packaged beverages and salty snacks. Cold dispensed beverages and foodservice continue to lag behind the rest of store but are seeing some gains, according to the latest biweekly report from PDI and NACS on how COVID-19 is impacting consumer behavior.

The continued downward trend in trips amid the ongoing pandemic slowed during the two-week period ended August 23, down -11.3% year over year, compared with -13.4% for the two weeks ended August 9. The improvement helped counter a slight slip in weekly basket spend (dollars per transaction) on a year-over-year basis, compared with the prior two-week period (+19.7% vs. +20.9% for the two weeks ended August 9). Overall, the “new normal” continues with fewer trips and larger spend versus the prior year.

Packaged beverages’ trips returned to positive territory during the latest two-week period (+0.6% vs. -2.1% for the prior two weeks), and beer remained in the black (+2.5% vs. +0.9%). Cold dispensed beverages’ trips improved (-27.8% vs. -32.4% for the two weeks ended August 9) but still has lots of ground to recover.

The weekday dayparts are seeing small fluctuations week on week, and the overall morning rush continues to trail other dayparts. The lunchtime daypart (11 a.m. to 2:59 p.m.) edged up to 91% of prior year trips, but the weekday morning rush (7 to 9:59 a.m.) fell to 83% of prior year traffic from 85% for the two weeks ended August 9.

Here are some additional insights for the period ended August 23, 2020, compared with the two-week period ended August 9: 

  • Dollar sales growth strengthened (+6.1% vs. +4.8%).
  • Cigarettes’ trips improved (-10.3% vs. -11.1%).
  • Other tobacco products’ trips remained relatively flat (-8.7% vs. -8.9%).
  • Salty snacks’ trips increased (-12.5% vs. -14.8%).
  • Foodservice trips improved (-23.5% vs. -25.1%).

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.