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C-Store Sales Rebound in Q1

VideoMining reports rise in fuel traffic and pump-to-store conversions
entering store
Photograph: Shutterstock

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Coming out of Memorial Day weekend, it’s clear Americans are on the road again. AAA estimated that 37 million Americans traveled more than 50 miles over the Memorial Day weekend, a 60% increase from last year.

On top of already improving store traffic, that meant continued good news for convenience retailers, according to a new analysis from from VideoMining Corp., a research company that helps retailers and CPG manufacturers optimize retail performance and shopper experience by analyzing in-store behavior using anonymous sensing and artificial intelligence.

“Last year, we reported a very significant drop in the pump-to-store conversion rate, as much as 30% for those who pay at the pump,” VideoMining said in a recent blog post. “In fact, 75% of all fuel buyers drove away without making any in-store purchase, adding to the significant financial challenges to the c-store industry.”

However, first-quarter 2021 is already showing encouraging trends in conversion rates, it said. “The pump-to-store conversion was up by 12.5% for those who pay at the pump. This helped in fuel buyers making up an important contribution of 32% to all in-store sales. Overall, store-traffic-to-buyer conversion rate was also significantly higher in March vs. a year ago (64% vs 59%).”

The improved conversion rates are critical for the c-store industry, VideoMining said, since overall in-store traffic is still down 14% compared to the seasonally adjusted pre-pandemic levels. “But as another sign of return to normal,” it said, “time-of-day traffic patterns are shifting, with an increase [in] store traffic in the peak period of 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.”

Other recent observations by VideoMining, which tracks store traffic from the fuel island, into a store, and through the checkout process.

  • C-store traffic continues to be overwhelming male vs. female. In the first quarter of 2021, 74% of c-store visitors were men, even higher than the 2020 full year average of 71%.
  • Shoppers spent 13.6% more time in a store in the first quarter compared to 2020, perhaps indicating diminishing fear from the pandemic.
  • More importantly, the additional time resulted in more sales. On average c-store shoppers bought more items (2.6 vs. 2.4) and spent more ($9.33 vs. $7.69) in the first quarter vs. the same time in 2019.
  • Emerging categories such as hard seltzers and CBD products helped increase the average basket size, with a solid contribution from beer and snacks. In the first quarter, lottery and candy sales were also up significantly.

“As we approach summer,” concluded State College, Pa.-based VideoMining, “it will be important to track ongoing shifts in shopping and buying patterns that are changing c-store heat maps. Adapting marketing and merchandising strategies to the post-pandemic shopper would be a key to attracting and retaining their interest in the channel.”

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