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Economic Optimism Will Lead Consumers to Drive More This Summer

June 30, 2017

Twenty-nine percent of consumers say they will hit the road more in the coming month.
American drivers are much more likely than in years past to be hitting the roads as summer drive season begins, according to the latest NACS Consumer Fuels survey.

Nearly three in ten (29%) consumers say they will drive more in the coming month, an 11-point jump from a year ago (18% in June 2016), and a record high for the month of June. NACS has conducted monthly surveys related to economic issues since January 2013.

Nearly three in five (58%) gasoline consumers report feeling optimistic about the U.S. economy this month, down 2 points from last month. Consumer optimism has tracked between 57% and 61% for the past seven months. Consumers in the South are most optimistic (62%), though optimism remains high across all regions.

Relatively low gas prices are fueling both consumer optimism and the anticipated increase in driving. Fully four in five (80%) Americans say that gas prices impact their feelings about the economy.

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Fill Up, Fuel Up and Empty the Trash

May 26, 2017

Convenience retailers spend about $600 per store per month for recycling and trash collection programs, or about $1.2 billion industry-wide on an annual basis.   

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Seven in 10 American drivers (70%) say they dispose of trash from their cars while refueling, according to the results of a national consumer study by NACS on attitudes related to trash. And convenience and fuel retailers concur: 56% say that most trash in their trash cans at the fueling island is not generated from the store.

In early April, NACS conducted consumer and retailer surveys to gauge consumer and retailer perceptions about litter and trash leading up to Earth Day on April 22. Retailers say they spend more than $600 per store per month for recycling and trash collection programs, or about $1.3 billion industry-wide on an annual basis. The payoff is worth the expense, as convenience stores continue to grow their foodservice sales, which climbed 12.9% to $49 billion in 2016. The convenience store industry is also working with Keep America Beautiful to provide guidance to its members on best practices for recycling and trash management.

Consumers overwhelmingly say that store appearance is important when considering where to make a purchase: 84% of consumers fueling up say cleanliness of the store is an important factor when considering whether they go inside the store to make a purchase. Litter is also among the most highly cited reasons why people don’t want a convenience store in their community. (Read more on this topic in the February NACS Magazine cover story, “Don’t Be Trashy.”)

And more than 9 in 10 (92%) say that the convenience store they visit the most often tends to be clean, compared to the 85% who say that convenience stores in general tend to be clean.

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Food Quality Factors into Customers’ Gas Station Choice

April 17, 2017

National survey reveals gas prices still key in selecting a station.

After years of fighting negative perceptions about food quality, customers are finally coming around to the idea that many c-stores have fresh, healthy food.

What’s more, Americans are increasingly seeking out fueling locations based on the quality of the food associated with the gas station, according to new national survey results released by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).

The association represents the convenience store industry, which sells 80% of the fuel purchased in the U.S.

While survey results show that gas price is still the primary determinant in selecting a station, an increasing percentage of consumers say that the quality of items inside the store dictates where they buy fuel. In fact, one in seven drivers (16%) say that the in-store offer is driving their fueling decision, a five-point increase since 2015.

A majority (51%) of American drivers still say that the gas price is the reason that they prefer a specific store or chain, but that is a six-point drop over the past two years.

Because of the expanded food and beverage offers at stores, fueling customers also are going inside the store more: 42% of those fueling up also went inside the store, a 7-point jump from two years ago. For those going inside, the most popular reasons were to pay for gas at the register (50%), buy a beverage (45%) or buy a snack (36%). More than one in five (22%) say they used the rest room. Overall, 8% say they bought a sandwich or meal, and that percentage jumps to 13% for younger consumers ages 18 to 34.

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Don’t Let Recent Fuel Margins Make You Complacent

June 17, 2016

By Jon Scharingson, Renewable Energy Group Inc.

The low fuel prices of the past two years have been good news for the convenience stores.

A drop in prices typically leads to increased profitability for retailers, even though many consumers wrongly assume the opposite is true. Also, if a c-store can get someone to the pump, the chances are better that person will go inside the store, where the real money is made.

Smart retailers, however, aren’t making long-term decisions based on what may be a short-term trend. Most know that the fuel market is volatile and that it wouldn’t be wise to develop a business strategy based on $40-per-barrel oil, or even $50 oil.

John Eichberger, executive director of the Fuels Institute, has heard from a few retailers who worry that the healthy fuel margins from the past two years are hiding deficiencies in other elements of their business.

“Are we benefiting so much from higher fuel margins that our other profit centers are not being paid enough attention,” Eichberger asked.

That’s a question c-stores should be asking themselves. They also should be looking at how they can position themselves for long-term health. Here are two steps they can easily take.

  1. Offer diesel fuel. Stores without diesel dispensers are missing out on a growing segment of drivers. In its annual energy outlook, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects diesel fuel consumption in the transportation sector will increase 23% between 2013 and 2040. And, by the way, the EIA also says gasoline consumption will drop 21% in that timeframe. That’s a significant swing — for both fuels. You cannot tap into this emerging diesel market if you don’t have the fuel in your pumps. And if diesel users are not stopping at your store to fill up, they also are not coming inside your store to make a purchase.

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Will Christmas 2015 Bring $2 Gas?

August 5, 2015

Price declines to accelerate from Labor Day through autumn, says GasBuddy.

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — In the second half of 2015, motorists will spend even less on gasoline this year than they did in 2014, GasBuddy experts expect. Before Christmas, as many as 20 states could have average gas prices below $2 per gallon as the national average for December slips to $1.98, according to the fuel-price resource.

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