General Merchandise/HBC

Convenience Stores Outperform Overall Retail Over the Past 12 Months: Report

C-stores now ‘transforming into some of the most exciting dining and tourist destinations in the country,’ Placer.ai says
c-store
Photograph: Shutterstock

Convenience stores are no longer just a pit stop, but instead are the destination.

This finding is from foot traffic analytics firm Placer.ai, Santa Cruz, California, in its new report C-Stores: From Convenient Stops to Go-To Destinations, which outlines the growth and increasing popularity of this retail channel.

Between April 2023 and March 2024, convenience stores experienced consistent year-over-year visit growth outperforming overall retail, the report said.

placer.ai

In February, the segment held the lead at 8.2% compared to overall retail at 5.7%. And average visits for the year between April 2023 and March 2024 per location on an industry-wide basis grew by 1.8%, compared to the year prior.

“C-stores have been one of the fastest growing sectors in the retail industry, led by several chains that are redefining the category,” R.J. Hottovy, head of analytical research at Placer.ai, told CSP.

Rather than the stale cups of coffee of old, convenience stores are now considered a dining and tourist destination, as retailers in this space are upping their game with gourmet coffees, elevated breakfast offerings and more.

The data shows that customers are receptive to these innovations, helping drive the segment’s success, Placer.ai finds.

“Chains like Wawa and Sheetz have elevated their food offerings while implementing features like mobile ordering and pickup windows to better compete with [quick-service restaurant] QSR chains,” Hottovy said.

And within this growing segment, some brands are distinguishing themselves and outperforming category averages, including Ankeny, Iowa-based Casey’sSalt Lake City-based Maverik, Lake Jackson, Texas-based Buc-ee’s, and York, Pennsylvania-based Rutter’s, the report finds.

c-store visits

“Casey’s, for example, saw the average number of visits to each of its locations increase by 2.3% over the same time frame—while Maverik, Buc-ee’s and Rutter’s saw visits per location increase by 3.2%, 3.4% and 3.9%, respectively,” the report said. 

Casey's and Maverik's have leaned into the morning daypart while emphasizing value, helping to drive strong visit trends, Hottovy said.

In first-quarter 2024, 16.3% of visits to Maverik and 17.5% of visits to Casey’s took place between 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., compared to just 14.9% of visits to the wider convenience-store category, the report said.

Convenience stores in general have a smaller footprint in square footage, but Buc-ee’s has been able to buck that trend.

Earlier this month, Buc-ee’s opened a 74,000-square-foot convenience store in Hillsboro, Texas.

As one of the top destination stores in retail, Buc-ee’s combines a unique merchandise assortment, upscale experiences and interactive marketing to drive visit trends, Hottovy said. The megastores attract a much greater share of weekend visits than other convenience store chains, the report noted.

“In the first quarter of 2024, 39.6% of visits to Buc-ee’s took place on the weekends, compared to just 28.3% for the wider c-store industry,” it said.

Another convenience store embracing a larger-store format is Rutter’s, proving that bigger can be better in the c-store space, the report noted.

Following the December 2023 remodel of the Rutter’s in York, Pennsylvania, the location experienced a 15.6% year-over-year visit growth in first-quarter 2024 compared to a chainwide average of 7.6%, said the report.

Looking to what lies ahead, Placer.ai said that convenience stores are now “transforming into some of the most exciting dining and tourist destinations in the country.”

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