ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Harried consumers seeking to complete their holiday shopping say that they will rely more on convenience stores this year for quick snacks, stocking stuffers, party items and cash from ATMs, according to a consumer survey released by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).
One in three consumers say that they plan to buy snacks and other food items from c-stores more often (32%) and that they plan to buy coffee and other beverages from c-stores more often (31%) while shopping this holiday season.
Younger consumers, those 18 to 34, are most likely to grab a quick snack or beverage at c-stores, with a majority expecting to buy snacks (52%) or drinks (51%) more often at c-stores while shopping this holiday season.
"Convenience stores sell 80% of the gas purchased in the country, and we are increasingly seeing customers filling up at the pump and then grabbing a quick snack or drink inside to save time and avoid additional stops, especially with the compressed holiday shopping season this year," said NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives Jeff Lenard.
Snackers will see an impressive array of healthy choices in stores over the holidays, with 98% of c-stores selling health bars, 96% selling nuts or trail mix, 72% selling fresh fruit or vegetables and 67% selling yogurt, according to a December 2013 NACS retailer survey.
Retailers also say that they have significantly expanded their healthy choice selections in 2013, with 49% adding or expanding their health bar selection and 39% adding or expanding their fresh fruit and vegetable selection. Water is also popular, with 67% of retailers stocking more nutraceuticals/enhanced waters and 61% stocking more bottled waters.
In addition to purchasing quick snacks and drinks as part of their holiday shopping excursions, consumers say that they will be increasingly using c-stores to purchase holiday gifts or related items. More than one in five consumers say that when it comes to making purchases at c-stores, they will be buying more gift cards more often (23%), small presents or stocking stuffers more often (21%) and more small items like tape and batteries more often (22%). Younger consumers are most likely to purchase these items at c-stores: more than one in three of those 18 to 34 say that they will be buying gifts cards (38%), small presents (38%) and small items like tape and batteries (37%) at c-stores more often this holiday season.
"Lottery tickets are always a popular stocking stuffer or office gift, and with the current Mega Millions jackpot now at $400 million we are definitely seeing an increase in sales for what could potentially be an amazing holiday gift," said Lenard.
C-stores also will be a popular destination for those planning holiday parties. One in five consumers (21%) say that they will be shopping more often at c-stores to pick up items like wine, beer and snacks that they need for parties that they are attending or hosting. More than one in three consumers age 18 to 34 say that they will be buying more items from c-stores for parties this holiday season, with 39% stocking up for parties that they are hosting and 37% buying items for parties that they are attending.
"Convenience stores serve more than half of the U.S. population--160 million customers--on a daily basis. They offer consumers that quick and hassle-free break from holiday shopping, and consumers are increasingly taking advantage of this convenience as part of their shopping experience," said Lenard. "Younger consumers, in particular, are filling their one-stop shopping needs by filling up their cars, grabbing a snack or gift and getting what they need to quickly get on their way."
And c-stores are a place where consumers are planning to get more cash to continue their shopping sprees--22% of consumers say that they will be visiting ATMs at c-stores more often this holiday season.
The consumer results are from a nationwide survey commissioned by NACS and conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates LLC. For this survey, 801 consumers were surveyed from Dec. 3-5, 2013. The NACS retailer survey was conducted Dec. 3-10 and is based on responses from 128 member companies.
Founded in 1961 as the National Association of Convenience Stores, NACS is the international association for convenience and fuel retailing. The U.S. convenience store industry, with more than 149,000 stores across the country, posted $700 billion in total sales in 2012, of which $501 billion were motor fuels sales. NACS has 2,100 retail and 1,600 supplier member companies, which do business in nearly 50 countries.