While the price of gas was what consumers most noticed at convenience stores in 2013, they also say that they have increasingly noticed stores offering prepared and healthy food options in the past year, according to a consumer survey released by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).
A majority of consumers (56%) say overall gas prices overall in 2013 were noticeably higher or lower, depending upon where the consumer lives. There were significant regional variations, with 26% of consumers in the Midwest saying that gas prices in December are lower than a year ago, while 45% of consumers in the South saying that gas prices are higher than a year ago.
Customers at the pump have taken particular notice of more opportunities for savings and discounts. One in three (32%) consumers say that they saw more stores offering loyalty card discounts, and one in five (18%) say that they saw more stores offering discounts for consumers who paid by cash, which reduces swipe fee expenses.
Consumers also noticed that stores increasingly offering alternative fueling options: 8% of consumers say that they saw more stores offer diesel fuel and 7% say that they saw more stores offer alternative fuels like E85 or natural gas.
Inside the store, consumers say that they saw more stores offering food options of all types. One in five consumers (20%) say that they saw more stores offer prepared foods and 11% say that stores offered more healthy options like salads, nuts and fruits. Consumers also noticed changes to the store itself; 15% say that they saw more stores remodeled in order to improve their attractiveness.
Younger consumers were much more likely to notice these improvements at convenience stores, and they also were much more likely to shop more. Nearly one in five (17%) of consumers 18 to 34 say that they bought more items inside a convenience store than last year.
“Gas prices will always be top of mind with consumers but many are looking beyond the price and selecting where to stop based on what’s inside the store,” said NACS Vice President of Strategic Industry Initiatives Jeff Lenard.
The consumer results are from a nationwide survey commissioned by NACS and conducted by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates LLC. For this survey, 801 consumers were surveyed from Dec. 3-5, 2013.