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U.S. convenience store sales in 2021 could top pre-pandemic levels

Convenience store retailers are bullish about their sales for 2021 but concerns persist.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of convenience store retailers expect 2021 year-end in-store sales to be better than 2020 and 67% expect sales will top sales in 2019, according to a NACS retailer member survey conducted in September 2021. Only 11% of retailers expect their 2021 sales to fall below year-end 2020 sales and only 13% said sales will be lower than 2019.

While retailers are seeing strong sales that have returned to pre-pandemic levels, concerns remain. Seventy-five percent of retailers said they are concerned about the labor shortage and finding qualified candidates and 60% are concerned about supply chain shortages.

[Read More: Survey: Supply chain disruption affecting store construction/remodels]

Fuel Sales
Retailers are also optimistic about fuel sales. Sixty-seven percent said fuel sales will be higher in 2021 than in 2020, while 16% estimate that they will drop, compared to 2020 sales. Opinions are more divided around 2021 fuels sales compared to those in 2019: 36% said that sales will surpass totals from 2019 while 39% say they will decrease.

The optimism related to 2021 sales is led by the return of the morning customer. Fifty-three percent of the surveyed retailers said morning daypart sales increased compared to 2019 and 47% said lunch daypart sales increased. The only time period that did not see a significant increase in sales compared to 2019 were late night hours; with only 24% of retailers saying they saw an increase in sales.

EV Charging
Convenience stores, which sell an estimated 80% of the fuels purchased in the country, also are looking at the viability of EV charging at their locations. One in four (25%) retailers said they currently have an EV charger in at least one location and 36% said they are likely to install chargers within the next two years.

However, concerns remain about demand: 40% of retailers said there are not enough customers in their market to make EV charging viable. And 25% said that installing charging ports is too expensive; 14% said their stores are not in optimal areas where EV owners charge their cars. The space required to install chargers also was cited as an impediment by several retailers.

The NACS Retailer Survey was conducted in September 2021 by NACS Research. Overall, 61 retailer members, representing a cumulative 1,525 stores, participated in the survey.

NACS is the leading global trade association dedicated to advancing convenience and fuel retailing. The U.S. convenience store industry, with more than 150,000 stores nationwide selling fuel, food and merchandise, serves 165 million customers daily and had sales of $548 billion in 2020.

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