US convenience stores cite top trends for 2018

Convenience-store sales of ‘healthy’ food and beverage in the US will maintain pace in 2018 following positive sales growth last year, according to more than 60 per cent of retailers interviewed for a National Association of Convenience Stores survey.

The survey noted that 61 per cent of convenience retailers surveyed said sales of ‘better-for-you’ items attracted sales growth in 2017.

US retailers also expect new programs for home delivery will be an emerging trend this year as well as the introduction of new payment methods. Many retailers (67 per cent of respondents) identified lunchtime traffic as their greatest opportunity for sales-growth potential, focusing on lunch foods and mid-day snacks.

Strong consumer confidence has helped boost sales in the US convenience space, in turn leading to increased retailer optimism, with 77 per cent of respondents saying they are optimistic about their business prospects for the first quarter of 2018, and the same proportion optimistic about the US economy during this period.

While retailers are coming into this year with confidence, increased competition is a key concern for many in the convenience channel, with almost half of the retailers surveyed saying they expect to continue competing with other channels (46 per cent)  and other convenience and fuel retailers (45 per cent).

Staffing is another challenge, with 45 per cent of respondents citing finding and recruiting talent as a major concern. To address this issue, retailers say they are recruiting employees from non-traditional labour pools, including retirees, disabled workers and military veterans.

The NACS survey also found that regulation and legislation with the potential to harm operations was a concern for 42 per cent of respondents, especially those operating in California, where the legal age for purchasing tobacco products rose from 18 to 21 last year and a ban on the sale of tobacco products in all the state’s convenience stores is proposed for introduction by 2019.

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