Convenience Retail Was Redefined 60 Years Ago Today

Self-serve fueling changed the convenience retailing industry and retail overall.

June 10, 2024

According to the NACS State of the Industry Report® of 2023 Data, as reported in the latest issue of NACS Magazine, only about one in three retailers were profitable when fuel margins are removed from profits.

And those margin dollars can be traced back to an event that happened 60 years ago today: The modern launch of self-serve gas at a c-store in Westminster, Colorado.

On June 10, 1964, that Colorado store only sold 124 gallons of gas to a dozen or so customers, but selling fuel would never be the same.

Back then self-service was hardly the norm. After all, the first self-serve grocery store, where customers picked items instead of handing over a list to a clerk, didn’t exist until 1916. But in 1964 the time was ripe and the possibilities for self-service fueling were fertile.

The advent of self-serve fuel also revolutionized retail overall, leading to the introduction of self-serve food and beverages and even the self-checkout options that are ubiquitous today.

Today, fuels are a significant component of the c-store offer, accounting for 67.3% of overall sales dollars.

In this week’s NACS Convenience Matters podcast, “60 Years of Selling Gasoline,” we talked to industry icon John Roscoe, who launched self-serve fuel in 1964.

Roscoe was also there for many other pivotal moments in our industry’s history, including the creation of NACS in 1961, which he discussed in the Convenience Matters episode, “What Are The Biggest Events in the C-Store Industry’s History?

More on the launch of self-serve fueling can be found in The History of Self-Fueling. This, and other resources in the NACS Fuels Resource Center, provides resources to both retailers and the general public that explain the fuel industry.