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    C-Store Trips are Down. Now What?

    We’ve talked about the changes in the way c-store customers shop quite a few times.  What you may not be aware of is the fact that in the past four years, overall consumer trips to any retail location have steadily declined.  Even during the holiday quarters, trips are down three trips per household.  While overall, studies show that these numbers are being driven by the ways that younger generations spend their money (or don’t spend their money), there is more that you should understand about the traffic decline before making any decisions about the future of your c-store.

    What were the reasons?

    The number of trips consumers are making to convenience stores has decreased almost 28% since 2015, even though economy and overall living conditions in the country have seemed to improve in that time.  However, there are several factors that experts believe affected c-store trips, especially in 2017:

    • Gas prices increased by 12.8%
    • Low-income households’ basic cost of living increased by 22%
    • Online sales have increased four times faster than in-store sales
    • Hispanic customers are visiting convenience stores and other retail stores much less due to political instability

    What can you do?

    If you want to maximize your c-store traffic and keep growing your business, you need to be willing to cater to today’s consumer and pay close attention to the competition, even the larger chains.

    If you don’t believe that your store can be successful, it won’t be.  Instead of sticking to what you are used to, you should be willing to find ways that you can improve your business and bring customers back inside.

    Try these ideas:

    • Give customers more reasons to visit your store besides just buying products.
      • Try adding solutions like an ATM or maybe even gaming.
    • Get creative with your advertising
      • Don’t miss any chance to get a customer’s attention. Try social media, radio ads, new outside and inside signage.
    • Make your store a destination
      • Enhance the experience inside your c-store with simple yet valuable additions like WiFi for customers, a tv screen inside, bathroom upgrades, a new foodservice/dispensed beverage option, etc.
    • Change your prices
      • Customers love a good deal. Don’t be afraid to offer special pricing on items you know customers will come in for.

    Key metrics from last year show that fuel sales increased by about 15%, while the sales from inside c-stores only increased by 1.7%.  Industry leaders suggest you focus on bringing more customers inside, rather than assuming you’ve lost your customers forever.  Because 70% of c-store consumers are considered low income, you should be paying special attention to the reasons these people might come into your store.  Make sure customers know they can spend their SNAP benefits at your store, and stay on the lookout for solutions that could help make their lives easier.


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