OPINIONCompany News

A New President and Congress

Liberal-leaning, perhaps, but plenty of room to benefit
Photograph: Shutterstock

WASHINGTON — President Trump is in the final ticks of his four-year presidency, and Democrats are days away from controlling all three levers of power, but with only the thinnest of majorities.

For those fearing a far-left counterpunch to the Trump era, I expect some in the party will try but will gain more headlines than traction. The stunning results in Georgia will accelerate Biden’s cabinet appointments and give Democrats control of the legislative agenda absent Mitch McConnell’s brakes.

Climate change, foreign policy, especially as it relates to Russia and possibly China, and a new COVID-19 stimulus package will immediately ascend on the legislative priorities. And first and foremost will be a federal and state-aligned distribution plan to get the country vaccinated over the next four to six months and, with better health, to tackle our economy.

As it relates to the c-store channel, one area to see a significant policy shift is carbon emissions. Where Trump appointed a coal guy to run the EPA, Biden campaigned on making the nation’s electricity production carbon-free by 2035 and for the U.S. to achieve net-zero emission by 2050.

This will mean major investments in public transportation, alternative energy sources (solar and wind) and in electric cars, coupled with consumer incentives to trade up to cleaner vehicles.

As long as the transition from fossil to clean is reasonable, this could be a boon for the c-store channel. Several chains, led by Kum & Go, Sheetz and Spinx, have invested in EV charging stations, and over the past couple of years, more players have lined up, including Giant Eagle’s GetGo, Wawa, Casey’s General Stores and Hy-Vee.

Put simply, expect our channel’s tepid investment to ramp up swiftly as a new, cohesive energy policy emerges.

Additionally, it’s a near certainty that Congress will revive a new stimulus deal that gives up to $2,000 to households struggling through the economic chokehold triggered by the pandemic. While the final aid package may be less to win over centrist Democrats and moderate Republicans in the Senate, the convenience-store channel is primed to benefit from any deal.

A recent study by think tank Brookings forecasts it will take the country at least two full years to return to 2019 economic numbers. In 2020, consumer spending fell by more than one-half trillion dollars compared to 2019. Areas like transportation, restaurants and gyms saw precipitous declines.

But even in these troubling times, two segments saw growth: consumer durables and food and beverages (off-premise consumption), a.k.a. on-the-go retail formats.

So, while there will be plenty to debate against the new administration and Congress, there will also be fresh opportunities for the convenience channel to parlay into greater sales and a redefined forecourt for years to come.

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