Tracking the Trends

An otherwise tough year for convenience stores was balanced out by strong retail fuel margins from the unprecedented drop in wholesale fuels prices during the fourth quarter of 2008, according to National Association of Convenience Stores’ (NACS) 2009 State of the Industry report. However, credit card fees continue to take a toll on industry profitability.

Role of Technology Expanding

Whether it’s PCI compliance, overcoming high credit card fees or getting more out of a current point-of-sale (POS) system, investing in technology has never been more important for c-stores. With PCI compliance deadlines looming, many operators are still not up to speed on what they need to do, or how to do it. The Payment

Prepaid Sales Surging

Whether it’s phone cards, credit cards or prepaid gaming cards being promoted by 7-Eleven, prepaid sales are hot, and retailers would be wise to get in on the action. For example, c-store operators with a high number of ethnic customers could capitalize on the growing reloadable cell phone card market. The top destinations for overseas

High Margins Propel General Merchandise

The general merchandise/novelty category provides retailers with a unique opportunity to capture customers’ personal interests in a high-margin item. Novelty has evolved into a core category because retailers can anticipate 30-60% margins on novelty products. With such strong profit potential, chains in major markets can earn about $35,000 a year per store from the novelty

Products, Packaging Key to HBC

Private Label Predicament Private label categories are increasing across all product categories, including HBC. While consumers still want the brands they know and trust, in today’s economy many are looking for a more optimally priced equivalent. In the first aid category, private label sales are up 10% compared to last year, according to Nielsen for

Variety Spicing Up Salty Snacks

Salty Statistics According to a study by The Nielsen Co. that outlined c-store trends, pretzels and popcorn sales saw strong growth during the 52 weeks ended March 21, 2009, with sales for pretzels up $164 million, a 10.1% increase. Popcorn sales totaled $119 million, a 14.3% increase from the previous year. Potato chips lead the

Strong Outlook for Confections

Candy Shopper Insights Repositioning candy to the highest traffic aisle in the store could significantly boost sales, according to the “Convenience, Candy & Profit” study conducted by Kit Dietz, of Dietz Consulting. Other key findings include: • Keeping core brands in stock at all times. • Improving in-store product placement. • Understanding and responding to

Demand Grows for Packaged Sales

Given current level of public concern over health issues, it’s hardly surprising more c-stores are increasing offerings of prepackaged goods, including sandwiches and baked products. Even with prepackaged sandwiches, “stores need to be vigilant against contamination of any kind,” said environmental specialist and HACCP-Plus President Marsha Robbins, who added store employees must also be attentive

Flexibility Boosts Chicken Sales

Did You Know? Results from the 2008 Consumer Market for Chicken 1,000 Household Survey found that 23% of respondents had purchased rotisserie chicken in four weeks prior to the survey. Consumers with an income of $75,000 or more are the most likely purchasers of rotisserie chicken (31%). Those with an income of $30,000 to $39,999

Pizza Palates Changing

Fast Facts About Pizza • Americans eat approximately 100 acres of pizza each day, or about 350 slices per second. • Pizza is a $30 billion per year industry. There are approximately 69,000 pizzerias in the U.S. Approximately three billion pizzas are sold in the U.S. each year. (Source: Blumenfeld and Associates) • Pizzerias represent

New Products Power the Roller Grill

Tough times call for creative measures. The stagnant economy and hefty cigarette taxes have more c-store chains expanding their foodservice segments and adding more roller grill items to provide a greater array of hot food options at a value price to sustain loyal customers. “Customers automatically associate c-stores and roller grills. It’s been a source

Competition Heats Up for Coffee

Did You Know? Data released by the National Coffee Association shows the market penetration for coffee has surpassed that of soft drinks, reversing a 20-year pattern. Fifty-seven percent of American adults drink coffee daily versus 51% for soft drinks. Coffee drinking among 18-24 year-olds also jumped 6%, the fourth year in a row for such

New Products, Fuel Dispensed Beverages

The cold frozen dispensed category is undergoing some major changes these days, with many c-stores adding milkshakes and even energy slushees to their offerings. The additions continue to make the cold and frozen dispensed category one of the hottest in the convenience store industry. “We’ve had great success with using energy drinks like Monster, Rock

New Flavors, Demand Drives OTP

Despite the SCHIP bill and mounting state taxes, smokeless tobacco products have experienced a strong year packed with innovation, new flavors and increased consumer demand. According to the NACS 2009 State of the Industry report, smokeless tobacco sales surged 6.1% to $2.96 billion last year. The average c-store totaled $1,703 per month in smokeless sales

Wild Ride Continues for Cigarettes

Once again, cigarettes dominated in-store sales, accounting for nearly one in every three dollars spent in stores, but cigarette gross margins continued to plummet, falling to 15.3%. These low cigarette margins dropped the category to third in terms of gross margin contribution (16%) behind foodservice (23.9%) and packaged beverages (16.6%) Margins promise to continue falling

Mixed Results for Carbonated

The U.S. refreshment beverage market contracted by 2% in 2008, according to Beverage Marketing Corp., making last year the first volume downturn on record. Nonetheless, beverages still performed better than many other industries, such as automobiles and the financial sector. Several beverage types continued to shine, including carbonated soft drinks in many parts of the

Light Boost to Beer

Despite tough economic times, sales of beer and wine remain constant even though many consumers continue to “trade down the box,” according to Dan Roane, category manager of alcoholic beverages for Circle K’s Southeastern stores. “The below premium beer segment is doing much better than it has in years,” Roane said. “We actually are seeing

A Shot of Energy

Did You Know? Energy shot sales have doubled to $423 million, according to a report released last month by Zenith International. Other key findings from the “2009 Zenith Energy Shot Drinks” report include: • Energy shot drinks present traditional energy drinks with new distribution channel opportunities, such as the health and nutrition sector. • Living

Burst of Energy

Did You Know? By the year 2001, the U.S. energy drink market had grown to nearly $8 million per year in retail sales. Over the next 5 years, it grew an average of more than 50% per year, totaling over $3 billion in 2005. Diet energy drinks are growing at nearly twice that rate within

Bottled Water Holds Strong

Proprietary Brands Prosper With consumers seeking less expensive options, private label sales are increasing across all channels, but struggling in c-stores, where they brought in $3 billion in sales, but were down 3.3% compared to last year, for the 52 weeks ended Feb. 21, 2009. In contrast, Wal-Mart’s private label sales were up by 10.8%,

Taking Convenience to a New Level

The milkman is making his rounds in Mountain Top, Penn. Good2Go is enhancing its convenience offering by providing residents the option of having fresh, all-natural and organic products delivered directly to their front doors. When partners Awais Ahmad, V.J. George and Thomas Job opened the store in September 2008, they had no idea how popular

Dipping Into New Profits

In a market plagued by high taxes, declining gross margin profits on cigarettes and the likely possibility of FDA restrictions on tobacco, retailers more than ever need to manage the tobacco category more closely. It’s no secret that the smokeless category has been growing, with big year-on-year gains in new product sales, flavors and line

The Many Hats of a Marketing Manager

As the sales and marketing manager for Jaco Oil Co., which runs 53 Fastrip stores in California and Arizona, Fred Faulkner’s job is a busy one. Faulkner holds the responsibility of buying for all categories, selecting in-store equipment from deli cases to fountain machines, shaping the deals for purchases, creating the point-of-sale for promotions and

Equipment Key to Driving Food Sales

Convenience store operators in search of faster cooking times and longer holding times are finding foodservice equipment that can help. But which pieces, at what price points, with what sort of ROIs and in what sort of configuration remain questions that must be weighed and answered. For an industry whose core competency isn’t food, and

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