BOSTON – Consumers stopped for gas on the weekends more than on weekdays in this year's second quarter, according to mobile app GasBuddy's recent analysis of foot traffic in the convenience-store and gas station industry. The study examined more than 24 million consumer visits to fuel and convenience retailers from April 1 to June 30 to convey behavioral shifts that drive foot traffic.
Included in the report is GasBuddy’s top c-stores ranked by foot traffic. Each store is given a footfall ratio, which equals average footfall per location over average footfall for the industry. A brand on par with the industry average would have a ratio of 1.0.
"The second quarter is always exciting since consumers hit the road for summer activities," said Frank Beard, convenience store and retail trends analyst for GasBuddy. "There was a big shift for the busiest times at the pump, moving from midweek in [the] first quarter to the weekend in [the] second quarter. Since there are still a few months of summer left, retailers should prepare for these 'weekend warriors' by emphasizing their fresh, grab-and-go offerings."
Here are five insights from GasBuddy’s report …
1. Winners repeat
GasBuddy split its store rankings into four categories based on total store count. The top brands in each section also triumphed in this year’s first-quarter foot traffic report. They include:
- 1,000 or more locations: Speedway, 2.40
- 250 to 999 locations: Costco, 5.19
- 50 to 249 locations: Thorntons, 4.21
- 30 to 49 locations: Ricker's, 3.88
Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco dominated foot traffic in the second quarter by gathering more than five times the industry average, as well as improving its ratio by 1.57 points compared to this year’s first quarter. Speedway, Thorntons and Ricker’s also saw increased foot traffic, accumulating 0.45, 0.90 and 0.71 more points than in the first quarter, respectively.
2. Showdown in the Northeast
Wawa Inc. and Cumberland Farms each secured the highest average foot traffic in five states, the most of all brands throughout the country. These brands are also in the same region: They took the top spot in 10 of the 15 states in the Northeast, outpacing chains including Sheetz, Pride and Exxon.
3. Crunched for time
Time spent in stores remained identical compared to the first quarter. More than half (52%) of c-store and gas station visits lasted less than 5 minutes in this year’s second quarter, while merely 11% lasted more than 15 minutes, said the report.
Friday afternoons and evenings—especially around 5 p.m.—were the busiest hours for fuel and convenience retailers, the report said. Saturdays at noon also saw high foot traffic, as did Wednesdays and Thursdays.
4. Holiday travels
GasBuddy examined road trips of at least 400 miles taken during Memorial Day weekend (May 25-28) to further reveal foot traffic trends. Gas stations as a whole reeled in 45% more foot traffic during this holiday compared to the previous weekend (May 18-21). Marathon Petroleum Corp. and BP America Inc. saw the most increases, both garnering 67% more foot traffic throughout the weekend compared to the previous one.
The report also analyzed foot traffic in areas other than gas stations, such as coffee shops, restaurants and hotels—the latter of which experienced a 100% uplift in visits for Memorial Day compared to the prior weekend.
5. In-store experience is key
Consumers prioritize a quality shopping experience now more than ever. Gas stations with above-average ratings in the GasBuddy app gathered more foot traffic than the industry average, while brands with below-average ratings had significantly fewer visits, according to the report. GasBuddy analyzed these differences in areas such as customer service, cleanliness, restroom quality and outdoor lighting. Stations with above-average outdoor lighting captured about 35% more traffic than below-average competitors.