by Mike Cummings, Sr. Principal
March, ## 2023
Convenience stores serve a variety of needs and continue to evolve. Full disclosure – I am a fan of C-stores, both in my daily life and when I am on the road going to jobsites. There are more than 150,000 C-stores in the US, and it is a half-trillion-dollar annual industry. They may or may not sell fuel. C-stores are evolving from the traditional “cokes and smokes” to becoming a destination and not just a place for gas and a cup of coffee. C-stores come in all kinds of sizes from small walk-up non-fueling locations to the biggest in the world like Buc-ee’s.
Most convenience stores fulfill a variety of needs so they can be difficult to categorize. Among the primary needs that C-stores can fulfill:
Travel centers are generally large facilities with convenient auto and diesel fueling, large restrooms and lots of drinks and snacks. Many have a restaurant incorporated. Travel centers offer a welcome stop on road trips to stretch your legs and refuel. Other amenities that you might find at a travel center include:
- dedicated truck and RV parking areas
- Pet relief area (I had no idea so many truckers travel with a pet)
- Expanded food choices.
Fueling convenience stores
The primary function of some C-stores is to sell fuel, with an assortment of snacks and beverages. Many times, these may be the only fueling option in town or within miles.
Grocery convenience stores
The primary function of some C-stores is to be the local grocery store; these may be the only grocery option within miles. These stores will also have an assortment of snacks and beverages, and other convenience items, and may also sell fuel. Grocery is now the third most common category purchased at convenience stores, falling just below snacks and candy, according to data from NRS.
Urban convenience stores
These small, non-fuel locations are normally seen on an active, pedestrian street and cater to people living or working nearby. I was quite surprised to encounter these types of C-stores while traveling internationally. One in Beijing on the ground floor of a high-rise office building features a steam table serving lunch to workers in the office building.
As I said, most convenience stores fulfill a variety of needs and fit within multiple categories. The good news is that there are still many opportunities for new locations within all types of C-Stores. And for new types of stores. Will the “lessons learned” during the Covid pandemic lead to evolution of C-stores or even new types of C-Stores?
Mike Cummings, Sr. Principal