January Put C-Store Performance on Solid Footing

Retailers see uptick in consumer spending and trips, partly due to lottery jackpots, PDI/NACS Insights show.

February 09, 2021

By Kim Stewart

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Consumer spending at U.S. convenience stores in January accelerated, resulting in sales gains that topped those carved out in December 2020 and the third quarter of 2020, thanks to higher spend and increased trips in all dayparts except for the morning rush, according to the latest monthly report from PDI and NACS on how COVID-19 is affecting consumer behavior.

Although the convenience channel isn’t entirely out of the woods in terms of recovering the trips lost since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic last March, the improved performance is a good start to 2021.

For the four weeks ended January 31, dollar sales increased to +10%, compared with +2% for the four weeks ended January 3, 2021.

Trips year-over-year improved three points to -10.2% for the most recent four-week period versus -13.2% for the prior four weeks. The late-evening daypart from 7 to 10:59 p.m. was the biggest beneficiary, with trips up 6.3 points over the prior four-week period. The morning rush, which was once so integral to c-store inside sales performance, has stubbornly remained at 85% of prior year trips for the 7 to 9:59 a.m. time slot since late November.

Spend per transaction, which has been a bright spot for the convenience sector throughout much of the pandemic compared with pre-pandemic levels, climbed to +22.5% for the four weeks ended January 31, compared with +17.5% for the prior four-week period.

Also an encouraging sign: Most categories improved year-over-year in terms of dollars and trips. Lottery/gaming saw a double-digit jump that can be tied to record jackpots in January, up 20.9 points from -16.8% for the four weeks ended January 3, to +4.1% for the four weeks ended January 31.

In January, the winning ticket for a $1 billion prize Mega Millions jackpot was sold at a Kroger grocery store in Novi, Michigan. The winning ticket for a $731 million Powerball jackpot was sold at Coney Market, a convenience store in Lonaconing, Maryland, and three other $1 million Powerball winners from the same drawing purchased their tickets at convenience stores/gas stations in New Jersey, including 7-Eleven, Exxon and Wawa.

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.