New York -- U.S. convenience outlets reached record in-store sales in 2013, with sales climbing 2.4% to $204 billion. Combined with gasoline sales of $491.5 billion, overall convenience store sales were $695.5 billion, according to figures released by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS). Convenience stores account for 34.3% of all retail outlets in the United States, according to Nielsen, which is significantly higher than the U.S. total of other retail channels including drugstores.
Convenience store sales in 2013 were led by continued growth in foodservice (2.4%), driven by prepared food and commissary. Motor fuels sales also hit new highs on a per-gallon basis, with sales climbing 0.9% to 132,029 gallons per store per month. While fuels sales per store increased on a unit basis, a 2.9% decrease in gas prices led to an overall 2.1% decrease in fuels sales.
Although the industry again realized strong sales, store-operating costs increased at a faster rate than sales and led to a decrease in industry pretax profits, which fell from $7.2 billion in 2012 to $7.1 billion in 2013.
The biggest increase in costs was wages and payroll taxes. The industry saw a dramatic 19.5% increase in employees, a function of the industry's continuing embrace of foodservice, which requires more labor to manage.
The link between fuels and convenience retailing continues to grow. Overall, 83.7% of convenience stores (126,658 total) sell motor fuels, a 2.7% increase (3,369 stores) over 2013, according to the 2014 NACS/Nielsen Convenience Industry Store Count.
Beyond sales, convenience stores are an important part of the economy. They employed 2.2 million people and generated $174.5 billion in federal, state and local taxes in 2013. Overall, convenience stores sales represent 4.0% — or one out of every 25 dollars — of the entire $17.4 trillion U.S. gross domestic product.
Motor fuels continued to drive revenue dollars, but in-store sales drove profit dollars. Overall, 70.7% of total sales were motor fuels, but motor fuels only accounted for 35.6% of profit dollars. Motor fuels gross margins were 18.5 cents per gallon before expenses, or 5.3%.
Here's how in-store sales were broken down in 2013:
• Tobacco (cigarettes and other tobacco products): 37.0% of in-store sales
• Foodservice (prepared and commissary food; hot, cold and dispensed beverages): 18.0%
• Packaged beverages (soda, alternative beverages, sports drinks, juices, water, teas, etc.): 15.5%
• Center of the store (candy; sweet, salty and alternative snacks): 9.9%
• Beer: 7.9%
• Other: 11.7%
Meanwhile, foodservice was the category that drove profits, accounting for 29.1% of gross profit dollars. Packaged beverages were second, accounting for 19.6% of gross profit dollars. While tobacco products constituted 37.0% of in-store revenue dollars, they accounted for only 18.7% of gross margin dollars.