QuikTrip Tops C-Store Popularity Survey

Highest-rated retailers excel in cleanliness, friendliness, food quality, says Market Force

BOULDER, Colo. -- QuikTrip is where consumers prefer to stop for gasoline, food and other conveniences, according to a new study by Market Force Information provided to CSP Daily News. QuikTrip was voted the most popular convenience store chain among the more than 7,600 study participants, followed by Wawa, RaceTrac, Speedway and ARCO/ampm.

The study was designed to uncover which c-store chains consumers frequent the most, as well as why they prefer one to another. Market Force first calculated the favorites based on total votes, and then factored in the number of locations for each chain for a weighted view of the results.

Of the 45 chains studied, 7-Eleven and Shell initially amassed the highest number of votes, which can be attributed to the fact that they have more than 10,000 locations in North America; however, when viewed as a calculation of votes per location, Tulsa, Okla.-based QuikTrip ranked first (see graph 1 under File Attachments below).

Market Force found that consumers place a high value on the customer experience--from appearance to amenities--when visiting a c-store. Store cleanliness, in particular, plays an important role in their decision about where to stop and shop. When asked what they like most about their favorite c-store chain, consumers named cleanliness more than any other factor. Friendly service ranked second, amenities ranked third, coffee quality was fourth and great service was fifth.

"The top-five factors relate to fundamental customer experience, and that's no surprise to the best players in the industry," said Janet Eden-Harris, chief marketing officer for Market Force. "Convenience store customers are on the go and in a hurry, but they will proactively drive to a store that provides a pleasant environment--clean, friendly, great food and service. The payoff for convenience store operators is that consumers shop longer and spend more. If stores can excel in these areas, they'll see customers make a point to return again and again" (see graph 2).

Market Force also wanted to find out how the chains fared in the areas that matter most to consumers, and what drives them to frequent one c-store over another. When it calculated the top chains according to attributes such as cleanliness, amenities and atmosphere, QuikTrip and Wawa dominated across the board, ranking first and second in every category.

Overall-favorite QuikTrip, which invests in its employees and institutes creative customer service techniques, was the clear leader in the friendliness and great service categories. It also ranked first for cleanliness, amenities and atmosphere. Wawa was lauded for the quality of its coffee, and RaceTrac performed consistently well in all of the attributes, securing a third-place spot in four of the six categories. Speedway, ExxonMobil and Casey's General Stores also outperformed many of the other chains studied in these key areas.

"QuikTrip has done an exceptional job differentiating itself in customer service. Its focus on delivering a welcoming and efficient customer experience led it to stand out in satisfaction-driven categories including friendly associates and great service," said Eden-Harris. "Given its success in these areas, it was little surprise to see QuikTrip claim the title of most popular convenience store chain" (see graph 3).

Prepared and fast-food sales are steadily increasing in c-stores across the United States and Canada, and store operators are taking note by expanding their food and seating options. In addition, product selection and pricing are growing in importance and present a sizeable opportunity for store operators to stand apart from the pack.

When Market Force looked at food and product attributes for the top-rated c-store chains, QuikTrip and Wawa ranked first and second in nearly every category, with Wawa only dropping in promotions. Speedway took the top spot in promotions with 36%, followed by QuikTrip with 35%, RaceTrac with 26% and Wawa with 22%.

QuikTrip was a clear leader in merchandise selection (48%) and in and merchandise prices (35%). It slightly edged out Wawa in food quality and fell second to Wawa in food selection.

Casey's General Store and RaceTrac performed consistently well in most categories, with RaceTrac placing in the top five across the board. ExxonMobil made a showing in the merchandise prices category and BP for promotions (see graph 4).

More than a quarter of consumers are willing to drive past competitors to shop at their favorite c-store brand, and 17% said that they always choose their favorite brand over other competitive brands, even if the competitor's price is a little lower. This is all especially true for QuikTrip, Wawa, Speedway, RaceTrac and ARCO/ampm. And 48% of survey respondents said they would drive past a competitor to shop at QuikTrip, 46% said they would do so for Wawa, 35% for Speedway, 34% for RaceTrac and 28% for ARCO/ampm (see graph 5).

Market Force conducted the survey in April 2013 across the United States and Canada. The pool of 7,633 respondents reflected a broad spectrum of income levels, with 60% reporting household incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Respondents' ages ranged from 18 to over 65. Approximately 52% were men and 48% were women, and nearly half have children at home.

Boulder, Colo.-based Market Force is a global customer intelligence solutions company for multi-location businesses, including major retailers, restaurants, grocery and c-stores, financial institutions, entertainment studios and consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies.