Consumer Report: Regional Variations

More than 80% of consumers visit a c-store at least once a month, according to the survey. But the how, when and why vary by region ...

Wide-open Westerners

Self-serve fuel

While 66% of consumers overall visited a c-store at least once a week, only 59% of Westerners did so—in part because there are fewer c-stores in many of the wide-open western states. Westerners were most likely to agree with the statement, “I would like to see more self-serve gas stations near me.”

While this is tied partly to the West’s rural nature, retailers do have an opportunity to target urban centers such as San Francisco and Seattle, where the real-estate costs are higher—but so are the fuel margins. Strong site analysis, automated service options and a small footprint can help further minimize the urban premium.

Northeast’s frequent fliers

Newspapers

C-stores are a planned, anticipated part of Northeasterners’ daily routine, and in fact, consumers in this region skew toward “heavy user” status, visiting at least four days a week. And it’s not necessarily to fill up: Northeasterners were least likely to fuel up at least once a month. One key influence here is the public-transit-centered urban hubs of the region.

It’s no surprise, then, that Northeasterners are also more likely to buy newspapers, books and magazines—reading material for the train—and use ATMs. A store layout that makes these categories highly accessible could yield stronger patronage and sales.

Safety-first Southerners

Security camera

A safe, clean and well-organized store is more likely to win over Southerners, and it is clear why: They prioritize fast service.

Southerners are most likely to say personal safety (such as well-lit stores and unobstructed windows) affects their c-store choice. A well-lit gas canopy and highly visible security such as cameras help step up the safety quotient.

Southerners were also most likely to say touch-free bathrooms would influence their c-store choice. Keep such fixtures in mind next time you’re renovating your restrooms.

Midwestern value seekers

Loyalty card

When asked what a c-store could offer to encourage more  visits, midwesterners were most likely to cite “best overall value.” This could include more coupons or special offers and loyalty and rewards programs, indicated by respondents strongly reporting that such programs would positively influence their c-store choice. They also were most likely to desire a wider variety of c-store items (other than prepared food and beverage).

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Continued: Fresh—and Fast—Food