Snacks & Candy

Pandemic Shopping Patterns Take Toll on C-Stores

Double-digit growth in other channels could be sign of permanent changes
pandemic shopping patterns
Image courtesy of IRI

CHICAGO — As grocers luxuriate in double-digit center-store sales growth spurred by the coronavirus pandemic, new data from IRI suggests much of that growth came from the convenience-store channel.

“Grocery is leading traditional channels in dollar sales growth,” the company said in its “COVID-19 and Navigating the Path Ahead” report. “During COVID, grocery gained center-store share predominantly from convenience.”

IRI data shows the grocery channel’s center-store dollar sales grew an astonishing 92% in mid-March as the pandemic hit compared to the previous year and by 39% in late April. The growth comes as consumers made 10% more center-store shopping trips during the period, according to the report, and c-store’s share of center-store sales declined from 12.9% to 9.0%. C-store dollar sales of center-store products dipped 2% in mid-March, declined as much as 21% in late March, and settled down 10% in late April.

“Channel switching occurred [and] opened up opportunities,” the report said. “There will be COVID long-lasting in-store impact.”

The report shows overall c-store sales declined 1.6% during the period, package food and beverage sales declined 4.7% and center store dropped 12.1%. Meanwhile, grocery sales grew 33.0% overall, food and beverage up 32.5% and center store up 39.9%. Other channels with double-digit growth included online (up 49.7% overall), dollar stores (up 31.8%), club stores (plus 21.5%), military (plus 15.0%) and mass merchandisers (up 11.0%).

IRI is a Chicago-based market research firm.

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