Houston, Texas, June 10, 2013 — Consumers are finding value in convenience stores as evidenced by a modest 2% gain in consumer traffic, which led to an increase of nearly 6% in dollars compared to the same quarter a year ago, according to The NPD Group, a leading global information company. NPD’s convenience store (c-store) research reports that visit frequency grew quarter-over-quarter to 6.1 visits in a 30-day period for the average conventional c-store shopper.
Traffic gains in the first quarter were concentrated at traditional c-stores, which experienced a visit growth of 9 percentage points over a year ago, while visits to major oil and small c-store chains declined 5.0 points and 1.1 points, respectively, reports NPD’s Convenience Store Monitor. Rising gasoline prices in the quarter, $3.37 per gallon at the beginning of the quarter and $3.74 per gallon at the close of the quarter, contributed, as is historically the case, to a c-store penetration decrease. Close to half the U.S. population (48.8 percent) reported a c-store visit in the past 30 days, down slightly from a year ago and also from the last quarter of 2012, when penetration was 49.5 percent.
Rewards and loyalty programs are gaining more traction among traditional and major oil chain shoppers, 7 percent of conventional c-store shoppers now cite rewards or store loyalty as a reason for chain selection. With the addition of 5 percent of shoppers who give coupons/discounts/sales/promotions as a chain selection reason, 1-in- 10 c-store shoppers now select a store for deals.
“Right now, consumers are generally a little less sour, but there is not a lot of consumer exuberance,” says David Portalatin, NPD c-store industry analyst. “They still feel financially shaky and are cautious about what they spend, which is why c-store rewards and loyalty are increasing in popularity. As discounts become the new normal, and consumers continue to seek them, conventional convenience retailers will have to offer overall value for the experience in the coming months to entice repeat visits and overcome consumer spending hesitations.”