Convenience retailers in the US said in-store sales grew in 2020, with almost twice (59%) as many reporting an increase in in-store sales than a decrease (30%), according to a new NACS survey of convenience store owners.
However, convenience stores experienced a decrease in fuel sales and commuter traffic throughout the pandemic.
The study found that store owners adjusted their offering to include more take-home meals and grab-and-go meal solutions.
Around 49% of respondents said they focussed on pre-packaged ready-to-eat meals, while 41% added more prepared foodservice meals and 24% offered more ready-to-heat take-home meals.
According to sales figures from the NACS CSX database, ready-to-eat and ready-to-eat meal options saw double-digit year-on-year growth from April through November 2020.
The survey found that retailers also extended their offer around more in-demand products, with 39% offering more cleaning and toiletry items and 34% focussing on grocery items.
Damon Goodmanson at II Sonz LLC, which operates the Arivaca Mercantile, said, “We exist in a small community (Arivaca, Arizona), where the nearest gas and grocery is over 35 miles away. During the pandemic, we were able to stay open and (mostly) stocked, and our community was infinitely appreciative of that.”
Convenience stores also found some traditional items in short supply, with more than two in three (69%) of the respondents saying that cleaning items/toiletries were in short supply.
They also experienced challenges in coin circulation as well as a lack of qualified candidates for jobs.
In addition, 48% said they experienced a shortage of alcoholic beverages.
Packaged beverages such as bottled water, soda, energy drinks, and teas were also in short supply, the survey found.
The survey found that retailers were more pessimistic (41%) than optimistic (24%) about footfall in the first quarter, but were more confident about sales in the following quarters.
Around 67% of retailers believe that business performance is likely to improve by the fourth quarter as more Americans will receive a COVID-19 vaccination by the end of the year.
Retailers plan to continue to support local schools and hunger relief programmes, and focus on wellness programmes for the community.