Chicago, July 11, 2014 – Blame the weather and rising gas prices for the decline in visits to convenience stores in the first quarter of 2014, according to The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Traffic to convenience stores decreased by 3.5 percent in the first three months of the year compared to same period last year, reports NPD’s convenience store research.
The good news is that those who did visit convenience stores in the winter purchased slightly more (1.4 percentage points) fuel and products than in the same quarter last year, finds NPD’s Convenience Store Monitor, which continually tracks the consumer purchasing behavior of approximately 50,000 convenience store shoppers in the U.S. Loyalty was also a benefactor of the severe winter weather, which discouraged consumers from making multiple stops. The first quarter of 2014 showed a 2.2 percentage point increase in consumers stating they typically visit one convenience store whereas multi-chain user visits declined by 2.6 percentage points. To further show the importance of loyalty, 9 percent of consumers, 2 percentage points more than same quarter last year, chose convenience store chains because of a rewards or loyalty program.
In addition to building customer loyalty, the importance of product selection and quality was apparent in the early months of the year, according to NPD. There was a 3.4 percentage point increase in consumers choosing a convenience store chain based on its product selection, and a 1.6 percentage point increase in selecting a chain based on its product quality. Food prepared on site also had gains (2.4 percentage points) as a reason to visit a specific convenience store chain.
“Aside from the adverse effects of the weather on traffic, the first quarter shed light on the continuing importance of loyalty, product selection and quality, and foodservice to convenience store consumers,” said April Moffa, NPD convenience store industry analyst. “Time will tell in the quarters ahead whether or not visits will improve.”