ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- More than two in three convenience-store retailers (69%) say that in-store sales in the first nine months of 2016 were higher than the same period last year, according to a NACS survey.
And three in five (60%) say that motor fuels sales were higher compared to the nine months of 2015. Only 9% of retailers say that in-store sales were lower, and only 14% say fuel sales were lower during the first nine months of 2016 vs. a year ago.
Strong c-store sales also pushed retailer optimism higher. Nearly three in four (73%) convenience retailers say they are optimistic about their own business prospects in the fourth quarter, up from 68% who said they were optimistic last quarter.
New foodservice offers and the continued growth of craft beer—and growler—sales at convenience stores were cited as factors driving retailer optimism.
Linda Herrera of Grand View General Store, Tetonia, Idaho, said she expects the store’s fresh-food offering to drive sales, and Labrine Voutsinas of Bayshore Breeze Market & Grill, Dunedin, Fla., said she expects beer sales to grow.
And retailers are embracing technology to enhance the experience. Mark Nelson of Dyno’s Convenience Store, Spencer, Iowa, said he expects to increase consumer traffic with a new rewards program.
Retailers said that the holidays in the fourth quarter should help grow sales, as will the good weather and continued low oil prices—if they both happen.
Survey respondents cited the upcoming election as the factor most affecting sales in the fourth quarter.
But retailers were nearly as optimistic about the overall convenience-store industry’s prospects. More than two in three (71%) say they are optimistic about the c-store industry over the fourth quarter, up eight points from the previous quarter. And a majority of retailers (53%) say they are optimistic about the overall U.S. economy, a six-point jump from last quarter.
The quarterly NACS Retailer Sentiment Survey tracks retailer sentiment related to their businesses, the industry and the economy as a whole. A total of 115 member companies, representing 1,728 stores, participated in the September 2016 survey.