C-Store Foot Traffic: Regional, Seasonal Trends, and Essential Car Services
The expansion of traditional convenience store (c-store) categories into both the retail and quick-service restaurant (QSR) sectors has been met with an impressive response from c-stores themselves. They have not only managed to keep pace but have also evolved into appealing destinations in their own regard. Today, c-stores offer more than just the convenience of picking up basic necessities. They have transformed into multifaceted hubs where customers can indulge in a diverse range of experiences. For instance, many c-stores now boast specialized coffee offerings, elevated their food options to compete with established quick-service restaurants and expanded their product range to include a selection of grocery items. This strategic move acknowledges the changing lifestyle of consumers who increasingly seek convenience in their shopping experience.
C-Stores’ Continued Success
The data on convenience-store visits provides intriguing insights into consumer behavior trends. When we compare the first half of 2023 to the same period in 2019, there’s a notable surge in visits, with an impressive increase of 15.9%. This significant uptick suggests a substantial shift in consumer preferences towards utilizing convenience stores as their go-to retail destinations.
However, when we examine the year-over-year figures for 2023, the growth appears to taper down to a still respectable 4.4%. This more modest increase compared to the surge seen from 2019 to 2023 can be attributed to the outstanding performance of convenience stores in 2022. It seems that the industry experienced an exceptional year in 2022, potentially due to a combination of factors such as evolving consumer needs, strategic business initiatives, and external market conditions. This stellar performance in 2022 likely set a high baseline for the industry, making it challenging to achieve the same level of growth in subsequent years. It’s not uncommon for industries to experience fluctuations in growth rates, and the convenience store sector is no exception. Despite the slightly lower year-over-year growth in 2023, the fact that visits are still on an upward trajectory indicates that convenience stores continue to be a favored choice for consumers. This sustained growth demonstrates the resilience and adaptability of the industry, as well as its ability to meet evolving consumer demands and preferences.
The Effects of Inflation
The increasing popularity of convenience stores (c-stores) is closely tied to the economic factor of inflation. When prices across various sectors are on the rise, consumers tend to look for ways to enjoy small, affordable indulgences without straining their budgets. In this context, c-stores emerge as an attractive option. By offering these types of products at reasonable prices, c-stores have tapped into a consumer need for accessible and cost-effective indulgences. This is particularly important during times of inflation, when consumers may be more price-conscious and seeking ways to make their dollars stretch further.
The Necessity of Fuel Services
Even as convenience stores (c-stores) expand their offerings to include groceries and fast-food concepts, they have managed to retain their fundamental identity as favored fuel stops. While convenience stores have evolved to encompass a wider range of offerings, they have adeptly retained their core identity as essential fueling outlets. Their strategic locations, focus on efficient fueling, and commitment to providing amenities and services tailored to drivers ensure that they continue to be a pivotal part of the road-travel experience. Regional Dominance: Unraveling the Largest C-Store in Each State
Analyzed by statewide visit shares of leading chains during the first half of 2023, Placer.ai identified the most popular c-stores in different regions. Specifically for the southern region of the U.S, Buc-ees holds the honor of highest visits in Texas while Love’s dominates New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama. Notably, Circle K remains the largest in the state of Louisiana.
C-Stores vs. Gas Stations Seasonally
The study that tracked monthly visits to both convenience stores (c-stores) and gas stations provides valuable insights into consumer behavior patterns. The comparison was made against a baseline established in January 2019, serving as a reference point for understanding trends over subsequent years. In both 2019 and 2021, there was a clear correlation between visits to c-stores and gas stations. This suggests that consumers tended to visit these two types of establishments in tandem, likely due to their interconnected nature. People often refuel their vehicles at gas stations and take advantage of the convenience store offerings while there.
The pattern observed in both years included summer peaks and winter dips. This is a common trend in consumer behavior, influenced by factors like weather conditions, travel habits, and seasonal activities. During the summer months, people tend to engage in more travel and outdoor activities, leading to increased visits to both c-stores and gas stations. Conversely, in winter, there is typically a decrease in travel, resulting in lower foot traffic
Car Service Location or Standalone Destination?
C-stores have undergone a remarkable evolution in recent years, prompting a critical question: Are they primarily travel stops or have they transitioned into destinations of their own? While convenience stores undoubtedly retain their historical role as travel stops, their evolution into comprehensive retail outlets with diverse product offerings, dining options, and enhanced customer experiences has blurred the lines between travel stops and destinations. For some, especially those with distinctive offerings or strong community ties, they have unequivocally become destinations in their own right. Ultimately, the distinction between the two depends on the individual store’s strategy, offerings, and the experiences they offer to their customers.
In conclusion, c-stores have evolved far beyond their conventional role. They are now versatile establishments that cater to a wide range of consumer needs and preferences. From specialty coffee to quick dinners and grocery essentials, c-stores have successfully diversified their offerings, solidifying their position as indispensable destinations for modern, fast-paced lifestyles. This adaptability and commitment to meeting evolving consumer demands have played a pivotal role in positioning c-stores as thriving and competitive players in today’s retail landscape.
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