If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything, it’s that we must pivot and adapt to current market needs. The convenience store industry took a hard hit, but that didn’t stop us from persevering and adapting to the times.
C-store trends are constantly changing, but there are a few trends that you should be aware of for the remainder of 2021.
Oil Prices Are Reaching Pre-Pandemic Levels
Think back to March 2020. We entered a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown and almost everyone stayed at home all at once. As a result, fewer cars were on the road and we saw gas prices hit a low we hadn’t seen in many years.
Fast-forward to March 2021, and not only has gasoline skyrocketed to pre-pandemic prices, but in certain places, it has surpassed them.
“The price rise comes amid a substantial increase in demand, with the Energy Information Administration reporting that demand increased from 7.53 million to 8.11 million barrels a day,” U.S. News said. That said, as demand continues to increase and more people return to in-person work, the price to fill your car’s tank will continue to rise.
App Based C-Stores
In our technology-driven world, we’re seeing more and more consumers relying on applications to order food in advance or deliver to their homes. 7-Eleven was one of the first to launch 7NOW, a 24-hour delivery system.
Other companies, like Sheetz, are utilizing a “scan and go” feature, where you can scan an item on your smartphone and pay without interacting with a store employee. Others are also using the Skip app.
According to OPIS Net, “Thirty-two percent of shoppers said their smartphone had become a more important shopping tool and that figure was 42% for millennials.” This is partially because of the pandemic, but also because of the convenience of being able to do everything from your phone.
These apps have become our new normal for shopping, and while society is beginning to reopen, this will continue to be a constant in the near future.
The Demand For Self Care Products On The Go
Face masks and hand sanitizer are here to stay. According to C-Store Decisions, so are vitamins. Did you know that vitamins saw an increase in 2.4% of sales since the pandemic hit?
Once the pandemic is behind us, people will still need to protect themselves, which is why Rick Staley, merchandising manager for Tri Star Energy LLC, believes, “Everyone’s shopping patterns have changed due to COVID…We will continue to carry masks and larger inventories of hand sanitizers [because] people will still need to protect themselves.”
It’s become a natural instinct to use hand sanitizer after touching something. As for face masks, while they won’t always be mandatory, they will continue to be part of our everyday life in some way.
Consumers Want To Align Themselves With C-Store Values
Over the past few years, we’ve heard many stories about people wanting to shop at stores that align with their values. Are your products good for the environment? Is your store helping other organizations and people like 7/11’s Project-A-Game program? If not, people may be hesitant to shop at your store.
Jeff Lenard, the VP of Strategy for the National Association of Convenience Stores, says it’s important to keep up with current trends and adapt your business to fit what consumers are looking for. However, you need to approach the trends thoughtfully.
“You have to make that connection that goes beyond doing good, it also has to be good for the business,” Lenard said. “You [need to] add purpose to the business, to the job and to everyday life.”
This is by no means an extensive list of all the trends that will outlive COVID-19. However, as we take a look at what the rest of 2021 has in store, trends and consumer needs will constantly change, and if you’re working with the evolution, you have everything working in your favor.