Retailers Rate Business Conditions

CSP's annual survey reflects rosiest outlook in years

Samantha Oller, Senior Editor/Fuels, CSP

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- Convenience store retailers are preparing for the new year with the rosiest outlook in years, according to CSP's 2012 Outlook Survey.

The exclusive survey, in which 189 retailers participated, shows nearly 60% of respondents described current business conditions as "good" or "excellent," and more than 57% expect business conditions will show "great" or "some" improvement in 2013.

About 42% of respondents described "flat" business conditions, and nearly 15% considered them "poor." In 2012, the flat faction fell to 36%, while those seeing poor conditions shrank to 5.2%. Meanwhile, 10.6% rated conditions as "excellent," the highest percentage in the survey's eight-year history.

But for the majority of retailers, business is far from gangbusters; in fact, the majority of 2012 respondents rated them as simply "good," and for some retailers, it depended on which month you measured. Others cited good growth, compared to a low baseline the year prior.

"Inconsistent is probably the best word to describe current business conditions," said one survey participant who described conditions as "flat." "Strong months [are] followed by flat months."

"You have different categories tugging in different directions," said Scott Hartman, president and CEO of Rutter's convenience stores, York, Pa. Hartman also cited flat business conditions. "You have cigarettes tugging to the negative side, and have been and will continue in terms of the sales growth opportunity. … The growth areas for us are certainly foodservice, beverages and coffee. There's a sort of tug and pull--which will do better; which will do worse? Overall, I feel like our net sales should be up but not like they used to be."

That said, among most Outlook Survey participants, expectations for 2013 are rosier than in previous years. More than 57% of this year's participants expect "some" or "great" improvement in 2013, compared to about 45% in the 2011 survey. Fewer retailers expect stasis in 2013, with less than 26% anticipating conditions to "remain the same," the lowest percentage in the survey's history.

"Every day is a struggle, but it's a good struggle," said Fran Galle, owner of Neon Deli in Middletown, Conn. "Every day you try your best, every week you try to introduce a new SKU and try to live up to customers' expectations."

To read the full report from CSP's 2012 Outlook Survey, see Related Content below.