U.S. Convenience Store Sales in 2021 Could Top Pre-Pandemic Levels

NACS retailer members are optimistic about sales at year-end, but concerns persist around labor and product shortages.

October 04, 2021

C-Store Sales Rising

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Convenience store retailers are bullish about their sales for 2021: Three in four convenience retailers (74%) expect year-end in-store sales to be better than 2020, and 67% expect in-store sales will top sales in 2019, according to a NACS retailer member survey conducted in September 2021.

Only 11% of retailers expect their year-end in-store sales to fall below year-end 2020 sales, and 13% say sales will be lower than 2019.

Retailers are also optimistic about fuel sales: 67% say they will be higher in 2021 than in 2020, while 16% estimate that they will drop, compared with 2020 sales. Opinions are more divided around 2021 fuels sales compared with those in 2019: 36% say that sales will surpass totals from 2019, while 39% say they will decrease.

The optimism related to 2021 sales is led by the return of the morning customer: 53% of retailers say morning daypart sales increased compared with 2019, and 47% say lunch daypart sales increased. The only time period that did not see significant growth in sales compared with 2019 was late-night hours; only 24% of retailers say they saw an increase in sales during this period.

While retailers are seeing strong sales that have returned to pre-pandemic levels, concerns remain: 75% of retailers are concerned about the labor shortage and finding qualified candidates, and 60% are concerned about supply chain shortages.

Convenience stores, which sell an estimated 80% of the fuels purchased in the U.S., also are looking at the viability of EV charging at their locations.

One in four (25%) retailers say they currently have an EV charger in at least one location, and 36% say they are likely to install chargers within the next two years. However, concerns remain about demand: 40% of retailers say there are not enough customers in their market to make EV charging viable, 25% say that installing charging ports is too expensive, and 14% say their stores are not in optimal areas where EV owners charge their cars. The space required to install chargers also was cited as an impediment by several retailers.

“The survey results confirm that our industry’s resilience and ability to pivot has helped carry us through some very difficult times. I am also optimistic about our industry’s future—and look forward to finding new solutions at the NACS Show this week in Chicago,” said NACS Chairman Kevin Smartt, who operates 48 Texas Born (TXB) and Kwik Chek stores across Texas and Oklahoma.

The NACS Retailer Survey was conducted in September 2021 by NACS Research. Overall, 61 retailer members, representing a cumulative 1,525 stores, participated in the survey. NACS Research conducts quarterly custom research with retailer members to identify key priorities and opportunities across the convenience and fuel retailing landscape.

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