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In the Community

​Convenience stores often face opposition at zoning hearings because of misperceptions about how they operate. To help communicate the positive contributions of convenience stores to communities (and to straighten out the misperceptions), we explore 10 specific issues that arise most often. Download the full report.

 

 PEOPLE

 

The 152,794 convenience stores in the country personify small businesses, both in terms of size of the store and size of the company. More than 6 out of 10 convenience stores (96,318 stores, or 63.0% of all stores) are owned and operated by someone with a single store.

Of these one-store operators, about 24% (23,000 stores) are either franchisees or dealer arrangements where a jobber (fuel distributor) contracts with a retailer to operate the store.

Common franchise companies include 7-Eleven, which operates only a few hundred of their more than 10,000 North American stores, and Alimentation Couche-Tard, which owns Circle K stores.

 

 PRODUCTS

 

Consumers frequent convenience stores for immediate consumption items, whether food or beverages. In fact, 84% of all items purchased inside a store are consumed within the hour.

According to a September 2015 NACS consumer poll, 49% of customers came to a store primarily to purchase a drink or beverage, 35% came to the store for food or a snack and 17% came to the store for another reason (e.g., use the ATM or bathroom, purchase tobacco).

Overall, prepared food was the third largest in-store contributor to gross profits, representing 10.3% of sales and 18.3% of profits.

 

 BUSINESS MODEL

 

​Convenience stores sell immediate consumption items: 84% of items purchased are consumed within an hour of purchase, especially beverages for on-the-go consumers. Nationwide, convenience stores sell 50% of all single-serve bottled water and 45% of all single-serve sports drinks.

Convenience stores sell about 80% of the fuel purchased in the United States and after expenses — especially credit card fees — the average pretax profit is around 3-5 cents per gallon. Fuel margins are slim because of consumer price sensitivity: 71% of consumers say that price is the most important factor in determining where they fill up.

Most of a store’s profits (71%) come from sales inside the store, not at the pump. Convenience stores’ overall net profit margin for in-store items is a slim 1.02%, which is similar to the profit margin of 0.98% at grocery stores. If convenience stores have higher prices it is because of higher wholesale costs, higher utility expenses per foot and higher real estate costs.

 

 COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

 

​Convenience stores are closely tied to their community. 78% of NACS member companies support five or more charities in their communities, and 83% have been involved in charitable giving for more than 10 years.

In rural areas, convenience stores are often the only place in town to buy grocery items, fuel or other products or services. 81% of rural Americans say that a convenience store is within 10 minutes of their home.

Collectively, convenience stores conduct 4.5 million ID checks for age-restricted products every day, far more than the 1.8 million ID checks conducted daily by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The convenience store industry helped create and continues to adopt the use of the We Card tobacco training curriculum and the Techniques of Alcohol Management Sales training curriculum.

 

 TRAFFIC

 

​Most c-store customers drive from a 2-mile radius, as opposed to 10 miles for grocery stores and as much as 40 miles for big-box retailers. For these convenience stores, customer traffic doesn’t necessarily correlate to more car traffic  — they are already on the road and visit a convenience store because it is on their way and convenient.

Convenience store traffic is below the average of other channels. Convenience stores attract 7,397 customers a week, compared to 8,621 for a supermarket and 26,906 for a supercenter.

Time in convenience stores is limited. The average customer spends 3 minutes and 33 seconds from the time they leave their car to return to their car with a purchase  — less than one-tenth the average 41 minutes spent in a grocery store..

 

 LOCATIONS

 

​Traffic patterns can play a big role in where consumers stop. For many drivers, a left-hand turn across a busy road is inconvenient. Stores directly across from each other on the same road can both thrive because they serve different traffic patterns and consumer demand.

Before convenience store owners approach a zoning commission, they have carefully examined whether an area is oversupplied with convenience stores. Retailers can only be successful if there is enough business to justify the costs of buying/building and operating a store. It’s unlikely that they will consider a specific location unless there are unique growth opportunities.

Customers value the time-saving aspect of convenience stores: 75% of consumers nationwide say they would favor a convenience store being built or opened near their home.

 

 JOBS

 

The average convenience store provides 15 jobs in the community, split equally between full- and part-time workers. Nationwide, 11% of adult Americans say they have worked at a convenience store or gas station.

85% of those who have worked at convenience stores say that the experience was valuable. Those who said their first job was at a convenience store were even more enthusiastic: 96% say the experience was valuable.

Adult Americans who had never worked at a convenience store say that stores offer positive opportunities. 86% say that convenience stores offer good first jobs for those looking to enter the workforce and 68% say that it’s common for hard-working employees to become managers or eventually own their own business.

 

 PROPERTY VALUES

 

​Convenience stores create economic stability and growth. The average store delivered revenues of $4.6 million in 2013.

Convenience stores can decrease the tax burden related to residential property taxes. The average convenience store collects $1.16 million in taxes for local, state and federal governments.

There is no evidence that the building of a convenience store has led to the deterioration of nearby business or personal property values. The opposite may be true. One notable legal ruling (found that “any project that would remove an existing eyesore (empty lot, closed or under maintained business, empty building, etc.) and replace it with a modern facility which would fit in well” and [would] “enhance the value of the properties in the vicinity.”

 

 OVERNIGHT HOURS

 

​More than 90% of new convenience stores have 24-hour operations. Convenience stores are one of the few 24/7 businesses that provide much-needed food, fuel and refreshment for millions of Americans, especially the 15% of full-time workers who work second or third shifts which includes 51% of all protective service workers (police, fire, EMT) and 28% of health-care workers.

Convenience store owners say that nearly half of all overnight customers are female and they are overwhelmingly over age 25; roughly 4 in 10 of all customers who come inside the store on overnight hours have purchased fuel.

Convenience stores also are open 24 hours so that essential services can be performed. Nearly half (48%) stay open so that preparations can be made for the morning rush, whether restocking shelves and taking inventory, thorough cleaning of food prep and serving areas and basic store maintenance.

 

 LIGHTING AND NOISE

 

Effective lighting is essential to convenience store operations — for aesthetics and overall store and customer safety. It also can be a crime deterrent for the surrounding neighborhood that may have boarded-up stores and even entire blocks or shopping centers that have been abandoned.

Convenience stores open during overnight hours can help a community begin to take back areas that have fallen into disrepair, and disrupt the ability of disreputable members of the community to loiter or commit criminal activities in relative anonymity. 

80% of convenience stores sell gas, but the service bays long associated with gas stations — and the noise from car repairs — aren’t as prevalent at today’s locations.

 

 SAFETY

 

​According to FBI data, most robberies occur at home or on the street. Street muggings account for 43.5% of robberies; robberies at a residences account for 16.9%. Only 5.1% of total robberies were at convenience stores.

Fueling is inherently safe. The National Fire Protection Agency reports that only 1.6% of vehicle fires were reported at convenience stores or gas stations.

More than 30 years of data demonstrate that selling beer at convenience stores that also sell gas does not contribute to an increase in drunk driving. A California study found that only 1% of drunk drivers had purchased their alcohol from a convenience store.

 

 ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

 

Modern fuel nozzles automatically shut off when a gas tank is full, making it extremely unlikely that an attended or unattended fill up can cause a spill.

Technology has significantly enhanced underground storage tanks, which used to be made of steel and could corrode over time. Today’s modern tanks are double-walled, equipped with anti-corrosion equipment, leak detection systems and spill prevention devices.

Fueling dispensers have vapor-recovery systems on their nozzles to limit the release of gas vapors during fueling. A similar system is used when a tanker refills the underground tanks and newer passenger vehicles have onboard vapor-recovery systems.

 

 Community Engagement

 

​As part of the fabric of the community, convenience stores support local charities. From youth sports teams to food drives, they strengthen the communities they serve. And it’s getting noticed. Consumers agree that convenience stores represent the community’s values. More than two in three Americans (69%) say that convenience stores share their values and do business the right way.