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Foodservice Sales Growth Driving C-Store Sales Higher

A majority of convenience-store retailers report sales have increased so far this year, and they are optimistic about their business prospects for the remainder of 2017, largely because of the growth in food sales, according to a survey of U.S. retailers from the National Association of Convenience Stores.

Three in five convenience-store retailers say that in-store sales in the first nine months of 2017 were higher than the same period last year, compared to 20% who say sales thus far were lower.

Three in four retailers say they are optimistic about how their business will perform leading into the fourth quarter. While retailers attributed several reasons for both strong sales and optimism, an increased emphasis on fresh food sales was most often cited. Pride C-Stores in Columbia City, Ind., is placing a greater emphasis on prepared foods, Kwik Trip, based in La Crosse, Wis., continues to grow its hot foods program, and Cameron Park Petroleum of Folsom, Calif., is experiencing strong sales with its fresh sandwich program.

A robust foodservice program is just part of the overall reimaging program at Landhope Corp. in Kennett Square, Pa. As part of its remodeling process, the stores have provided more fueling locations for customers, improved aesthetics with enhanced lighting both inside and outside the store, and an expanded foodservice program that has been well-received by customers, notes Dennis McCartney, the company’s director of operations.

Greater consumer confidence also has helped grow store sales, according to the retailers surveyed by NACS. Both the economy and consumer confidence was cited as an important factor growing sales at Gate Petroleum Co. in Jacksonville, Fla. and Gore’s 66 in Tuttle, Okla.

In fact, the survey found that most c-store retailers are equally optimistic about the overall economy. More than three in four say that they are optimistic about the economy in the fourth quarter, a significant increase from this time a year ago when only 53% of retailers were optimistic about the economy. Additionally, 73% of retailers say they are optimistic about their industry’s prospects leading into 2018.

“We are becoming well known for awesome food, clean facilities and great customer service,” says Don Burd with Otter Creek Country Stores, summing up both his company’s and the industry’s prospects.

Despite the overall optimism, retailers did express some concerns, citing high insurance costs, a shrinking labor pool and increased competition from retail disrupters like Amazon, according to Michael Lanman with Lanman Oil in Charleston, Ill.

The quarterly NACS Retailer Sentiment Survey tracks retailer sentiment related to their businesses, the industry and the economy. A total of 90 member companies, representing a cumulative 1,778 stores, participated in the October 2017 survey.

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