Convenience Retail’s Common Threads

By Emma Tainter   read

What does the convenience industry have in common with a quilt? Well, a lot apparently.

March 11, 2024

us-map_380x254.jpgBefore starting at NACS in January 2023, I used to work in a rural county in Virginia where the center of town was a convenience store (I won’t include the name of the store here, but I bet a few possibilities popped into your head), where I would treat myself to lunch once a week.

I was always impressed at how their food was fresher and a better value than the big-name QSR down the street. I would see the same people there every week; office workers from the county office, construction workers, and I all stood waiting for our order to be called, sending a friendly wave at each other as we picked up our food and left.

Of course, I didn’t work for NACS during this time, and it wasn’t until I applied and accepted a position here that my viewpoint changed; I stopped looking at that store as a convenient place to run out for a quick lunch, but as something much bigger and more complex.
The cigarettes that the county office worker purchased contributed to the average of $43,195 of per store, per month sales in 2022. This amount wasn’t quite enough to beat prepared food sales—$44,878 per store, per month—leading to a shakeup of the top 10 most profitable convenience categories (and there might be another shakeup looming on the horizon).1

The construction worker purchasing his energy drink (a subcategory that made up 25.2% of packaged beverage sales in 2022) in the morning for a pick-me-up later in the day was fueling the trend that packaged beverages are most likely purchased between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.2

When I saw the deal on my loyalty app for a free dessert as I purchased fuel, I didn’t need to be told twice. I finished filling up my car and headed right on inside (did you know that, according to NACS Convenience Voices, 91.1% of customers could be lured in-store with the promise of a promotion, and that I am one of those customers?)

When you look at the fabric of the industry, you can see a large swath that blankets the entire United States. It’s a vibrant and colorful pattern that reflects the diversity of convenience stores. If you take a magnifying glass to the industry, you can see the threads of financial and performance data, the colorful array of merchandise, and the stiches—the people—weaving everything together.

Many of my colleagues and peers (and perhaps you reading this right now) have likely had this realization already, and with just a year under my belt here at NACS, I’m aware that I can hardly be considered a veteran of the industry. But I’m sure you can appreciate the excitement about the prospect of industry-evolving data, insights, and trends.

If you’ve made it to the end and through my metaphors, thank you. My NACS research colleagues and I will be at the NACS State of the Industry Summit in Chicago in just a couple of weeks, and we’re excited to share the newest data to help drive your business forward.

See you there!

Emma Tainter is the research analyst and writer at NACS. If you need her between now and the State of the Industry Summit on April 3-5, she will be in a conference room with the rest of the NACS Research team drowning in data and coffee.