BOSTON – Nearly half (45%) of consumers spent five minutes or less at every convenience-store or gas-station visit during this year’s third quarter, according to mobile app GasBuddy’s recent analysis of foot traffic in the c-store industry. Thirty percent of customers spent five to 10 minutes, 12% spent 10-15 minutes and 14% spent at least 15 minutes.
Boston-based GasBuddy’s study examined more than 20 million consumer visits to more than 100 fuel and convenience retailers between July 1 and Sept. 30 to convey behavioral shifts that drive foot traffic. To be considered a “visit,” a consumer must have been within 30 meters of a fuel pump for between two and 30 minutes.
- Click here to read GasBuddy’s second-quarter foot-traffic insights.
GasBuddy gives each store 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. It splits the rankings into four subcategories based on store count, including 1,000 locations or more, 250 to 999 locations, 50 to 249 locations and 30 to 49 locations.
“Summer months have historically been a busy time for gas stations; however, what is unique is the increase in the amount of time spent per visit, proving that gas stations go far beyond fuel,” said Frank Beard, c-store and retail trends analyst for GasBuddy. “While the size of car tank remains relatively the same, what’s happening inside the store has gotten more robust, including food options that can compete with quick-service restaurants.”
Here are five foot-traffic insights from GasBuddy’s third-quarter survey …
And the winner is …
Costco dominated the rankings for brands with 250 to 999 locations. The warehouse club garnered a footfall ratio of 4.74, the highest of any brand in any category. Following Costco were Pilot and Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, which amassed ratios of 3.45 and 2.95, respectively.
Ricker's took top honors for stores with 30 to 49 locations with a ratio of 3.56. The c-store chain was followed by Buc-ee’s and On the Run St. Louis, which finished with ratios of 3.42 and 2.45, respectively.
Footfall by state
Wawa and Pilot both had the highest footfall ratio in five states across the country, the most of any c-stores or gas stations in any category. Cumberland Farms—which took top honors in footfalls by state last year—and Costco tied for second place, each claiming the highest footfall in four states. Speedway had the highest footfall ratio in three states, good for third place.
The lunch rush is real
GasBuddy’s location data revealed that the noontime lunch hour was the busiest time of the day for fuel and convenience retailers, claiming 8% of all visits. The single busiest time was Friday at noon, followed by Friday at 5 p.m., Saturday at noon, Friday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at noon.
On the contrary, 8 a.m. was the slowest time of the day, and that remains steady Monday through Friday.
Kindness goes a long way
Customer service ratings played a major part in footfall ratios. Gas stations and c-stores with above-average customer service ratings experienced 32% more visits than those with below-average ratings, according to GasBuddy. The same applies for ratings regarding outdoor lighting, cleanliness and overall customer experience.
Weekend getaways are essential
Many consumers opted for a weekend of travel to cap off the summer, which benefited some gas stations and c-stores. GasBuddy analyzed the trips of long-distance travelers—those who traveled at least 400 miles between Aug. 31 and Sept. 3—to reveal key points of interest. Gas stations saw a 24% average visit increase, led by BP America (30%), Phillips 66 (27%) and Murphy USA (26%).