CHICAGO — Convenience-store sales are starting to recover from strong declines in late March and April.
At the start of May, c-store sales exceeded the previous year by about 5% following six weeks of declining or flat demand, according to market research firm IRI’s CPG Demand Index. That moved up slightly to 6% above previous year’s sales for the week ending on May 10.
The demand index provides a metric for tracking changes in spending on consumer packaged goods (CPG) in c-stores across the United States. It measures weekly changes in consumer purchases against the year-ago period to compare what is happening now to pre-COVID-19 levels.
After panic buying due to the spread of the coronavirus took place around March 15, sales started dipping below last year’s trends, according to the index. By the week ending on March 29, CPG purchases were 8% below what they were the previous year in c-stores.
“The good news for convenience is that it’s starting to make its way back,” said Joan Driggs, vice president of content and thought leadership for Chicago-based IRI.
The convenience channel also had the highest price inflation compared to the year prior for the eight weeks ending on May 3, up about 7% compared to the same time in 2019.
Here is a look at how categories fared at the start of May. This slideshow will be updated as trends shift.
Week ending May 3
For the week ending on May 3, demand for edible and fresh food in c-stores was soft, but the total CPG category was buoyed by nonedibles, which grew about 6% compared to pre-COVID levels, according to IRI.
Total beverages in c-stores dipped to more than 20% below where sales were the previous year in middle to late March as people were forced to stay at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19; however, for the week ending on May 3, alcohol and drink mixes were up 31% and 28%, respectively, in c-stores.
Customers are looking for a quick in-and-out when it comes to their alcohol purchases and may be less inclined to get it from grocery stores due to coronavirus concerns, Driggs said. She said c-stores can offer cocktail bundles to help draw in consumers.
Beauty, grooming supplies and personal cleansing items were also selling well, along with household cleaning items.
Week ending May 10
The total CPG Demand Index for c-stores was up about 6% for the week ending on May 10 compared to last year, and up slightly from the previous week. This shows that the slump in sales is over and consumers returning to stores as states start to open for business, according to IRI.
Beverage alcohol continues to lead convenience sales, up 32% from a year ago. While cigarettes and beer were major drivers in c-stores in the past 10 weeks, customers went to other channels for snacks, IRI said.
Personal cleansing was also up 71% compared to the previous year’s growth, and up dramatically from the previous week, according to IRI.
Week ending May 24
Demand for alcohol in c-stores has slowed compared to previous weeks, according to IRI data for the week ending on May 24. However, the alcohol category in c-stores is still up about 23% from where it was the year prior.
Beauty continues to be the best performing category in the c-store channel, despite deceleration from the prior week, according to IRI.
Home care showed elevated demand, up 20% from a year ago, compared to the week prior, driven by household cleaning and laundry sub-categories.
Demand for all edibles is still slightly lower, about 3%, compared to a year ago; however, it has been steadily increasing or staying flat since the week ending on March 22.
Total nonedible has stayed steady over the past few weeks. The week ending on May 24 saw about 5% more growth compared to the previous year.
Week ending June 7
Total demand for CPG in c-stores showed a moderately elevated demand compared to the year ago growth for the week ending on June 7, 2020, according to IRI.
Beverage alcohol—up 27% versus the previous year—continued to significantly outpace the rest of the total edible department.
Baby care showed significant increase in demand (up 5%) in c-stores compared to the week prior when it declined 25% versus the previous year.
Week ending July 5
The refrigerated category reached year-ago growth levels for the first time since mid-April, driven by refrigerated beverages, which were up 9% from last year, according to IRI data for the week ending on July 5.
Total CPG demand in c-store remained stagnant compared to the week prior, up 4% versus year-ago growth. This continued to mark the lowest demand compared to the previous year since the week ending on April 26.
Beauty showed stronger demand than any other category in the c-store channel, according to IRI.