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COVID-19: C-Store Industry Update

Over the past few weeks, we have all faced new and unprecedented challenges. During this time, we wanted to assure you that we’re here for you as a resource. Our Koupon Insights team has been closely monitoring COVID-19 developments and how it’s impacting the convenience store channel.

The following insights are based on convenience channel transactional purchase trends during a 4-week period from February 23 to March 22, 2020, compared to the relevant 4-week period in 2019. 

In a time when consumers are dramatically adjusting behavior in response to COVID-19’s impacts, c-store retailers continue to deliver on their essential value proposition of convenience. Here’s a glimpse of our key findings thus far:

  • The historical strong growth rate in fuel sales has given way to a decline
  • Inside store trips and sales are down while basket sizes are trending up
  • Alcohol, Household, Tobacco and Automotive are up while Beverage, Candy, Food and Snacks are down
  • Every category has subcategories which are growing, reflecting general and COVID-19 influenced trends
  • Demand impacts are broadly consistent but more pronounced in geographies where containment and shelter-in-place initiatives have been in place for the entire period.

Today’s post highlights a few key trends in inside sales:

Inside Sales Trends Year over Year
Inside sales trends are declining in recent weeks. The decrease in total trips is partly being compensated for with a larger basket size. This indicates that with a new pattern in trip behavior consumers are spending more.

This table illustrates how consumer behavior plays out differently by category. The third column identifies each category’s historical contribution to total in-store sales, providing context on the importance of each category to in-store sales. 

When we present this data graphically, deeper context around relative performance and basket size becomes clear:

Household and Alcohol are growing both trips and sales, reflecting modest stockpiling tied to additional trips in these categories. Meanwhile, Tobacco and Automotive are growing sales with fewer trips contributing to the larger average baskets we are seeing overall.

Amongst other large inside categories, Beverage, Food and Snack are down both in sales and trips. Interestingly, Beverage is particularly down in average basket size which contributes to lower sales. We will explore this category in another post to discuss what is causing this.

Despite the changes we’re witnessing, convenience retailers remain open for business and continue to be a key channel for trial and conversion. We will continue to monitor trends, share additional insights, and keep you informed over the near term.

Powered by nearly 5 billion consumer transactions, Koupon Insights brings consumer insights to retailers and brands.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for more insights!


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