STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Convenience stores saw the average number of weekly in-store shoppers decline 14% in 2021 from the pre-pandemic weekly average in 2019, despite a modest recovery from 2020, according to research by VideoMining. Major factors that negatively impacted in-store traffic included the continued work-from-home trend and high gasoline prices.
Despite the drop in in-store traffic, average weekly sales per store for the convenience channel increased 4% from 2019, according to VideoMining’s C-Store Shopper Insights Tracker. This is partly the result of inflation and partly because convenience store shoppers want to buy a range of in-store products, which is up to $58,456 in sales per store per week, excluding fuel.
Shoppers are now very comfortable visiting and shopping at convenience stores based on their general behaviors, such as spending more time (more than three minutes) shopping in-store, VideoMining reported.
Observed changes in travel behaviors and missions in the convenience store channel include the to eat lunch daily segments gain a significant share of trips in 2021 compared to the previous year. This is largely due to more of the workforce beginning to return to the office and resume their morning commutes. This was particularly beneficial for product segments such as coffee, energy drinks and pre-packaged foods, all of which saw outstanding morning performance.
According to the C-Store Shopper Insights Tracker, food and beverage category shares increased year over year, while tobacco and alcohol missions declined. Key growth categories included soft drinks such as sports drinks (+24% share) and water (+13%); snacks such as cereal bars (+15%), meat snacks (+12%) and candy (+9%); as well as fresh food options such as roller grill (+13%) and pre-packaged food (+6%).
Gains in these segments reduced the dominance of those that weathered the pandemic, including cigarettes (-7%) and beer (-6%).
As fuel prices continue to rise, in turn affecting overall store traffic, the good news for operators is that a majority (72%) of convenience store visitors in 2021 were non-fuel shoppers.
The conversion rate trend for 2021 highlights specific opportunities in the convenience channel, particularly to improve pump-to-store conversion rates for fuel shoppers who pay at the pump, which were nearly 26% lower conversion rates in 2019, VideoMining found. Further opportunities to improve in-store conversions abound, especially as the channel’s shopper dynamics continue to change. Last year, the proportion of young shoppers at convenience stores increased further, with Gen Z and Millennials now making up more than 53% of the shopper base.
In-depth analysis of product segments also revealed patterns that indicate shifts in shopper preferences, such as a shift from traditional beers to hard seltzers and ready to drink cocktails. As such, even as store heatmaps continue to turn redder after the pandemic-induced blues, there are plenty of opportunities to refine merchandising and marketing strategies to better connect with the convenience store shopper. today and improve in-store performance.
State College-based VideoMining helps retailers and consumer packaged goods companies optimize retail performance and experience by decoding in-store behavior.