What Is a Convenience Store?

NACS defines a convenience store as a retail business that provides the public with a convenient location to quickly purchase a wide variety of consumable products and services, generally food and gasoline. While not fixed requirements, convenience stores have the following general characteristics:

  1. While building size may vary significantly, typically the size will be less than 5,000 square feet.
  2. Off-street parking and/or convenient pedestrian access.
  3. Extended hours of operation, with many open 24 hours, seven days a week.
  4. Offer at least 500 stock keeping units (SKUs).
  5. Product mix includes grocery type items and also includes items from the following groups: beverages, snacks (including confectionery) and tobacco.

Decades ago, conveniences stores looked about the same—2,400 square feet of packaged consumer items. Today, companies are approaching markets with different types of stores and different products with an extensive variety of product offerings, in-store seating and fresh-prepared foodservice. 

The NACS research report, "Convenience Store Industry Marketing Strategies and Store Formats," identifies six convenience store formats:

  • Kiosk
  • Mini Convenience Store
  • Limited Selection Convenience Store
  • Traditional Convenience Store
  • Expanded Convenience Store
  • Hyper Convenience Store

This format is less than 800 square feet and intended to provide some additional revenue beyond gasoline sales. A kiosk owner is typically an oil company or petroleum marketer. The site sells items like tobacco, beverages, snacks and confectioneries, and in-store sales are about 10% of revenues. Parking is limited to the pumps and customers are likely commuters and local residents refueling only.

Mini Convenience Store
Usually 800 to 1,200 square feet, this format is popular with oil companies and the emphasis is on gasoline sales. Grocery selection is minimal and foodservice is typcially pre-packaged sandwiches. There is no parking other than at the pumps, although some locations have modest striped parking. Customers are usually people refueling; however, there are stores in urban areas that may not have a fuel offer. 

Limited Selection Convenience Store
These stores range from 1,500 to 2,200 square feet and are often affiliated with an oil company. Both gasoline and in-store sales are important profit centers. They have a broader product mix than the mini convenience store and grocery, although limited by traditional convenience store standards. Foodservice programs are limited to roller grill. Gasoline is the main driver but traditional convenience store patrons are important. Striped parking and extended hours are common.

Traditional Convenience Store
Many convenience stores fall into this category. They are about 2,500 square feet and offer a product mix that includes dairy, bakery, snack foods, beverages, tobacco, grocery, confectionery, prepared foods to go, fresh or frozen meats, gasoline, various services and limited produce items. Most stores have 6 to 12 striped parking spaces or some form of convenient pedestrian access. Most are open 24/7 and are owned by convenience store chains, although oil companies have also built or acquired stores of this size.

Expanded Convenience Store
These stores are 2,800 to 3,600 square feet and can accommodate more shelving for additional grocery products, or room for significant foodservice operations and seating. These stores carry traditional convenience store items. Parking is important with most having about 10 to 20 marked spaces. Hours are extended and these locations attract the typical convenience store customer as well as families, women and seniors.

Hyper Convenience Store
These large stores are 4,000 to 5,000 square feet and offer a variety of products and services by department. For example, stores may offer a bakery, a sit-down restaurant area or a pharmacy. Most of these locations sell gasoline. The number of employees per shift can be large, particularly if there is a small restaurant. The number of parking spaces is substantial and the amount of time the average customer spends in the store can be significant. Hours are extended. Families and senior citizens as well as traditional convenience store customers are patrons. In some locations, stores are mini-truck stops.

According to NACS Constitution and Bylaws, the NACS Definition of a Convenience Store is:

"...a retail business with primary emphasis placed on providing the public a convenient location to quickly purchase from a wide array of consumable products (predominantly food or food and gasoline) and services."

Such operating features are not a required condition of NACS membership.