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Convenience and technology: Trends and challenges for c-stores in 2023
This story was produced by C-Store Dive for Amazon.
In 1927, the first modern convenience store (c-store) opened with the idea that people would want to consolidate their errands by going to a neighborhood store to pick up essentials. The idea caught on, and now, there are 148,000 independent and chain convenience stores across the United States.1
Even as the number of c-stores has multiplied, their focus has remained on providing convenient shopping for customers. But despite the objective remaining the same, the definition of convenience has evolved and become more complicated.
The recent C-Store Dive Industry Outlook Report published by C-Store Dive’s studioID and sponsored by Amazon, delves into the trends and challenges today’s convenience stores face (many of which are intertwined) and highlights the direction savvy operators will want to explore for continued success.
Many c-stores are on the rebound
During the pandemic, c-stores were deemed essential, and most remained open. While they faced shifting safety protocols and labor and supply shortages, successful locations adjusted to meet new consumer demands with different food options.
- In 2021, C-Store sales increased by 25%, with motor fuel sales increasing by 40% and food service sales increasing by 6.2%.2
- In the last two and half years, more c-stores used curbside delivery, online ordering, and frictionless in-store payment options.
New and evolving trends for c-stores
C-stores have always sought to make life easier for the consumer. But what that looks like has changed, especially in the last few years.
- C-stores enhance convenience by offering expanded services through online ordering, curbside pickup, and delivery. They are decreasing consumer burden by using frictionless retail technology like Just Walk Out technology by Amazon and Amazon One.
- Some stores differentiate themselves by offering private-label options. Others focus on growing consumer interest in good-for-you foods by upping their stock of protein bars, fresh produce, kombucha, varieties of water, and healthy on-the-go snacks.
- At their heart, c-stores are neighborhood stores, and some operators are tapping into that by developing into neighborhood hubs. These c-stores spotlight local produce, baked goods, coffee, and beer. Some even host social events to draw in people who live nearby.
- C-stores have amped up their food offerings. With their selections of prepared and made-to-order foods, some convenience stores’ food quality is on par with quick-service restaurants.
Challenges that lie ahead
Although the future looks positive for convenience stores, they still face ongoing challenges.
- Many of the advances c-stores want to implement, such as online ordering, frictionless payment options, personalized marketing, and improving inventory and supply capabilities, require significant technology investments.
- Labor shortages still impact businesses–especially retail. Just as c-stores look to differentiate themselves with consumers, they also have to stand out with potential and current employees by offering competitive wages, training, and flexible and predictable scheduling.
- Supply chain disruptions and managing inventory in an omnichannel environment create more uncertainty for c-store operators.
As convenience stores look toward the future, one thing is clear: change will continue, and the pace will not slow down. In order to keep up with the industry demands, C-stores must understand their competitors, consumers, and employees while using strategies and technologies that help them stay agile, relevant, and convenient.
Download “The Changing Face of Convenience Stores” report to address the challenges that lie ahead and learn how frictionless retail with Just Walk Out technology by Amazon and Amazon One can optimize the shopping experience and streamline store operations.
1 Fact Sheets. (n.d.). NACS. https://www.convenience.org/Research/FactSheets
2 (2022, June 21). Convenience Store News Industry Report 2022: Back to the Future. Convenience Store News. https://csnews.com/convenience-store-news-industry-report-2022-back-future