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C-store sales on the rise in 2018

Fresh, healthy items bolstered sales across convenience stores for the first half of 2018, a move that is earning them more shelf space.

More than three in four (79%) convenience retailers said in-store sales increased over the first six months of 2018, compared to the same time last year, according to the quarterly “NACS Retailer Sentiment Survey,” from the National Association of Convenience Stores.

These sales increases were helped in part by fresh and healthy items, a factor that is pushing retailers to dedicate more store space to these items. This merchandise includes health bars (45% of retailers added or significantly expanded over the first half of 2018), fresh fruit/vegetables (41%), packaged salads (37%), and nuts/trail mix (35%).

“Fresh salads and smoothies, along with burgers and fries, seem to be the big winners so far in 2018 — the full spectrum of pleasure food vs. healthy options,” said Dennis McCartney, director of operations at Landhope Farms, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

Another healthy product that helped drive sales during the first half of 2018 was water. In fact, 54% of stores added flavored/enhanced waters, and 52% increased regular bottled water offerings. Looking ahead, 46% of retailers expect bottled water sales to increase, as well as sparkling bottled water (42%). Lower-calorie teas and coffees also were cited by 42% of retailers.

When it comes to gas, more than half (56%) of c-store retailers said their fuel sales increased compared to last year. Only 19% said fuels sales declined.

Retailers said that summer sales growth will be fueled by generally low gas prices, warm weather and strong consumer confidence. With these factors in place, retailer confidence has soared, with a record 86% of convenience retailers indicating they are optimistic about their business prospects over the third quarter. This is up three points from last quarter, and tied for the highest measured since NACS debuted the retailer sentiment survey in 2015.

Convenience retailers also are optimistic on a broader economic level. Approximately three in four retailers are optimistic about the economy (74%), and the convenience store industry (77%), according to the data.
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