C-Stores Lean Into Food Retailing

The future is EVs, fresh food and healthier choices, new report says.

April 15, 2021

Convenience Store and Fuel Station

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—During the pandemic, convenience stores experienced a myriad of changes that necessitate a more omnichannel- and food-focused approach to operating, according to a recent report by industry analysts.

The report, led by U.K.-based retail adviser Scott Annan, is part of a series titled "The Shape of Food Retailing in the New Normal" and notes that rising demand for electric vehicles, the acceptance of online ordering and the growing focus on healthy and fresh foods threaten to destabilize the c-store industry.

“The global fuel and convenience industry is at a crossroads,” Annan said in a news release. He noted that “future opportunities are plentiful for those retailers who recognize that our needs for mobility and food remain interconnected.”

The report includes insights from global retail leaders, among them Henry Armour, NACS president and CEO.

For several years, convenience stores have embraced fresher and healthier foods, bringing c-stores into closer competition with grocery stores. Some major brands, such as Giant Eagle and Hy-Vee, have developed their own c-store formats to provide consumers with a quick stop for meals and groceries, including juices, fresh foods, salads and more.

The report argues that fueling dollars, which have declined in recent years, will continue to shrink as the use of EVs rises. The recent announcement by GM that it will transition to selling only zero-emission vehicles by 2035 is just the latest sign that retail fueling is changing. Major fuel companies have acknowledged that consumers will primarily charge their EVs at home, which would could reduce the regular traffic c-stores have relied on for decades, even as fuel retailers are adding EV charging stations.

The report noted that "retailers who pivot their roadside investment to EV re-charging without a strategic investment in fresh food and relevant local services will be disrupted and even disintermediated.”

In addition to Annan, the report’s authors include convenience retail analysts Frank Beard and Dev Dhillon, marketing professor Sabine Benoit and former bp Head of Global Retail Darryl Burchell.

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