When history looks back on 2009 it will not be generous. The U.S. economy was, and to a certain degree, remains locked in the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Unemployment is high and the value of the dollar and consumer spending are at near-record lows.
While this is bad, it could have been a lot worse for U.S. convenience stores—a lean, battle-tested industry that has learned to survive the onslaught of competition stealing market share both in-store and at the pumps. For many operators the recession is just another obstacle they’re forced to overcome. In fact, among many retailers there is a certain degree of optimism that this industry has matured and will be a dominant force across all retail channels as the economic situation brightens.
“The majority of convenience retailers today are optimistic about their prospects in 2010; whereas, the same cannot be said about the U.S. economy,” said David Bishop, a principle with Balvor Inc. “This positive outlook reflects the fact that the convenience industry is largely comprised of enterprising business owners, who are more apt to take advantage of opportunities when others see only the challenges.”
Several key categories, such as tobacco—which faced its most difficult legislative year since 1998, foodservice, energy drinks and coffee, all posted sales increases in 2009. Other core categories, such as beer, bottled water, isotonics and carbonated soft drinks suffered modest declines, virtually all attributable to the reduction in consumer spending.
CSD’s 2010 Category Management Handbook, which follows on the pages ahead, offers a category-by-category look at sales, current trends and what convenience store operators can expect in 2010.