C-Store Gain Traction with Convenience and Expansion

Convenience or C-stores offer a good business model: convenient locations, a mix of merchandise, and smart pricing. With their rise in recent years, some are beating out other retailers, according to another GlobeSt.com report.

Many aren’t quite as well known as the big examples such as 7-Eleven and Circle K yet have clout in their area and a growing presence that may make them household names.

Placer.ai took a recent look into how four C-store chains are succeeding at a time when some shoppers have become more cautious given the overall economy. One strategy for their collective success is their similarities of being conveniently located and sharing many categories of merchandise, but also their slightly different preferences that play to regional traditions such as favorite foods and habits. This recipe helps each cater to localized markets and also to those driving through the area, the Placer.ai report said.

But one trend to watch that may affect sales and future growth is that current expansions and mergers of different chains may keep increasing and eventually cause some not to play together as nicely when in the same areas. Here are the four to pay heed to:

Wawa. This chain, headquartered in the greater Philadelphia area, has experienced more visit growth, partly due to its ability to attract shoppers from the QSR space. Since Q1 2019, its share of total visits to the entire C-store category has gone up to 17.6% from 12.8% in the second quarter of this year. Another reason, the Placer.ai report says, is that it keeps innovating and providing new levels of convenience. Example: its latest format represents a fully digital store where customers place all orders on an app or on in-store touch screens, saving time waiting.

Maverik. Recently, this chain acquired another C-store, Kum & Go, which offers it the opportunity to diversity its audience, one way to grow. But it has others. It plans to expand into Montana. This year the Salt Lake City-based chain has outperformed other C-stores in monthly year-over-year visitor growth. The report cites it as one of the strongest C-store chains emerging from the pandemic.

Buc-ee’s. This chain posted the strongest summer visit peaks this year, but it also had elevated visits for several years. Based in Lake Jackson, Texas, Buc-ee’s’s growth has performed better than the wider C-store space almost every month since a January 2019 baseline. One exception was April 2020, a peak of the pandemic. Described by Southern Living magazine as a “sprawling chain of gas stations/convenience stores/mega marts that boast the best kolaches, tasty barbecue, and cleanest restrooms in the country is a fixture in the South,” its stores also are said to have freshly roasted nuts and a fresh soda bar.

Sheetz. This is another C-store that has been on an expansion rampage of late. It plans to open its first Michigan location by the end of 2024 and is building a $145 million distribution facility to help it growth. And its growth is not hurting sales at existing stores. Founded 70 years ago, it’s based in Altoona, Penn. Throughout this year, it has experienced positive visits per venue growth and outperforming the wider C-store space. One reason for its reputation: it is said to sell gasoline at better prices. And with prices having gone up and done—and now up, that can be a big magnet.