By Sarah Hamaker
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Walk into any convenience store, and you’ll notice something different in each one. Some stores emphasize packaged beverages or the beer cave, while others focus on foodservice or grab-and-go, with offers often localized to a specific region. That attention to detail is most evident in how retailers stock their general merchandise category.
“General merchandise consists of everything from cellphone accessories to batteries to school office supplies,” said Jayme Gough, research manager, NACS. “In 2020, many retailers added COVID-19-related items, including masks and hand sanitizer, which boosted sales for the category starting in April 2020. Going into 2021, sales stayed high but dropped below 2019 levels starting in May as COVID-19 concerns continued to wane and consumers bought fewer masks and hand sanitizer.”
The Hub Convenience Stores stocked personal protective equipment early in the pandemic. “But here in North Dakota, they just weren’t in high demand,” said Jared Scheeler, owner of the five-unit chain based in Dickinson, North Dakota, and NACS chairman. “Even though we were prepared, we sold through 10% of our supply of PPE items, so we have no plans to proactively prepare for another wave of COVID.”
Last year, the general merchandise category grabbed 1.93% of inside-store sales, down from 2.06% in 2020, according to the NACS State of the Industry Report of 2021 Data. “This tracked with data showing sales dropping below 2020 monthly figures for all but four months of the year,” Gough said.
See how the category performed last year and how c-stores are utilizing this small but mighty category in “Nothing General About It,” in the September issue of NACS Magazine.
Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and NACS Magazine contributor based in Fairfax, Virginia. Visit her online at sarahhamakerfiction.com.