In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, many U.S. consumers are going to convenience stores to avoid busy supermarkets. According to a report by Nielsen, total consumer spending at c-stores increased by 3.2% for the week of May 3, compared to the same period of the previous year. As COVID-19 continues to impact the retail industry, convenience stores are emerging as retail’s silver lining. We analyzed foot traffic at five major convenience brands across the US to determine which ones have been the most and least impacted by COVID-19.
A Bright Spot for Convenience Stores
Before COVID-19, weekly foot traffic to convenience stores began to slightly decline in March, and reached its lowest point in mid-April. Foot traffic began to recover in May, perhaps due to more consumers starting to travel again. By the beginning of June, convenience stores saw their foot traffic level off, with the exception of a brief high point in late July.
Kum & Go Surpasses Convenience Store Leader 7-Eleven
Kum & Go, a Midwest convenience store chain, has recovered foot traffic faster than other convenience brands: foot traffic was up 21% for the week of August 2, compared to the week of February 2. This could be attributed to Kum & Go’s initiatives to enhance the customer experience. QuikTrip and Sheetz are also seeing higher pre-COVID foot traffic levels at 6% and 4% respectively.
7-Eleven, a well known leader in the convenience store industry, isn’t recovering as well as other convenience brands. Foot traffic to 7-Eleven stores remains 29% below pre-COVID-19 levels — an interesting turn given 7-Eleven’s push to offer customers delivery through DoorDash.
Additionally, while Wawa started off as one of the brands most impacted by COVID, that changed this summer. At the beginning of June, the East Coast convenience chain started to gain back most of the foot traffic it lost: for the week of August 2, Delaware and New Jersey saw 4% and 3% higher foot traffic to Wawa stores respectively. This might be due to Wawa adjusting their business practices as COVID-19 restrictions eased by implementing third-party delivery and offering curbside pickup.
Kum & Go Thrives as a Regional Convenience Store Chain
7-Eleven, which has stores nationwide and overseas, saw the most foot traffic in Florida, Texas, and Virginia. In contrast, Kum & Go, which doesn’t have a national or international presence, saw the most foot traffic in Midwest states including Iowa, Missouri, and Arkansas. Kum & Go’s position as a regional chain might have likely contributed to its strong performance. It appears that convenience store brands in states less affected by COVID-19 didn’t lose as much foot traffic compared to chains in states with high coronavirus infection rates.
The Future of Convenience Stores
C-stores will continue to adapt their services, especially delivery and curbside pick-up, to the needs of their customers. Wawa is developing a drive-through concept, which might start a trend among other convenience stores. Based on data from our economic activity by state dashboard, we predict that regional c-stores like Kum & Go will continue to perform better than national convenience store chains.