What Is a Convenience Store?

The following information is from the NACS research report, "Convenience Store Industry Marketing Strategies and Store Formats," prepared by Gene Gerke of Gerke & Associates, Inc. It describes the characteristics of the different types of convenience stores represented by the data in the report.

In the not too distant past, conveniences store 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. There are mini-convenience stores under canopies, conventional size stores with expanded foodservice, and hyper-convenience stores with an extensive variety of product offerings, in-store seating and fresh-prepared foodservice. The fastest growing segments of the convenience store market are considered by many to be "nontraditional" stores. That is, store formats other than 2,400 square feet, either larger or smaller.

Based on the research report, six formats were identified as representing trends in the convenience store industry. The six convenience store formats are:

  • 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. Gasoline is the focus of this operation with the owner usually being an oil company or petroleum marketer. The store sells fast-moving items found in traditional convenience stores, like tobacco, beverages, snacks and confectioneries. Store sales may be only about 10% of revenues in such locations. Parking is usually only at the pumps. Hours vary depending on the location and the inclinations of the owner. Typical customers are commuters and locals buying gas.

Mini Convenience Store
This store format, usually 800 to 1,200 square feet, is popular with the oil companies and the emphasis is on gasoline sales. However, in such locations the owners view store sales as an important part of the revenue and margin picture. Grocery selection is minimal and foodservice is typcially pre-packaged sandwiches. There usually is not parking other than at the pumps, although some locations do have modest striped parking. Open hours range from 18 to 24 hours. Customers are usually people buying gasoline; 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 they are often affiliated with an oil company. Both gasoline and store sales are important profit centers. They differ from the "mini convenience store" because of a broader product mix and grocery offering, although still limited by traditional convenience store standards. Also, simple foodservice like hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, etc., may be offered. Although gasoline buyers are the main customer, traditional convenience store patrons are important. Striped parking and extended hours are common.

Traditional Convenience Store
Most original convenience stores fall into this category. They are about 2,400 to 2,500 square feet in size and offer a product mix that includes dairy, bakery, snack foods, beverages, tobacco, grocery, health and beauty aids, confectionery, prepared foods to go, fresh or frozen meats, gasoline, various services and limited produce items. Most stores of this size have 6 to 12 striped parking spaces or some form of convenient pedestrian access. Most are open 24/7 and these operations are owned by convenience store chains, although oil companies have also built or acquired stores of this size.

Expanded Convenience Store
These stores are in the 2,800 to 3,600 square foot range and can accommodate more shelving for additional grocery products, or room for significant foodservice operations and seating. In terms of other products and services, these stores usually carry the traditional convenience store items. Parking is important with most having about 10 to 20 marked spaces. Hours are extended and these operations 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. Many 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."

While such operating features are not a required condition of membership, convenience stores have the following characteristics:

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