Convenience Store Sales Topped $680 Billion in 2011

In-store sales grew 2.4%, reaching record $195.0 billion; motor fuel sales hit $486.9 billion

Published in CSP Daily News

CHICAGO -- Convenience store sales, both at the pump and inside the store, set new records in 2011, according to data released today by NACS.

In-store convenience store sales grew 2.4%, reaching a record $195.0 billion. Combined with $486.9 billion in motor fuels sales, total convenience store sales in 2011 were $681.9 billion, or one out of every 22 dollars of the overall $15.04 trillion U.S. gross domestic product.

The industry's 2011 numbers were announced in Chicago today at the NACS State of the Industry Summit, a two-day conference that reviews and analyzes the industry's key economic indicators.

In-store sales growth was driven by strong sales gains in several beverage categories. Alternative beverages (a category that includes energy and relaxation drinks) saw a 15.3% increase, sports drinks were up 13.9% and cold dispensed beverage sales were up 12.3%. Several beer subcategories also saw strong growth: super premium beer sales increased 10.6% and craft beer sales were up 13.9%.

Convenience stores continued to evolve their foodservice programs with more meal offers and healthy food options. Prepared food sales increased 13.0% and emerging snacking subcategories also grew. The nuts/seeds subcategory saw 5.0% growth, leading salty snack sales.

Meanwhile, fuels price volatility continues to play a huge role in motor fuels sales data. While motor fuels revenues jumped 27.1%, gallons sold per store declined 0.4% compared to 2010. Motor fuels gross margins increased from 15.8 cents to 18.4 cents per gallon before expenses, but dipped on a percentage basis, falling from 5.64% to 5.23%.

Part of the industry's sales growth also can be attributed to an increase in store count. The number of U.S. convenience stores grew 1.2% over the past year to a record 148,341 stores, according to the NACS/Nielsen Convenience Industry Store Count, released in January 2012. Convenience stores now account for 34.6% of all retail outlets, according to Nielsen.

Beyond sales, convenience stores remained an important part of the economy. They employed 1.88 million people and generated $162 billion in federal, state and local taxes. Between motor fuels and in-store operations, the average store had 1,130 transactions per day. Cumulatively the industry conducted around 160 million transactions per day in 2011.

While motor fuels continued to drive sales dollars, in-store sales drove profit dollars. Overall, 71.4% of total sales were motor fuels, but motor fuels only accounted for 35.9% of profit dollars. Convenience store pretax profits reached a record $7.0 billion in 2011, but taken as a% of total sales, profits fell from 1.146% to 1.027% of total sales, largely because of a 23.0% increase in debit and credit card fees, which hit a record $11.1 billion.

Total credit and debit card fees surpassed overall convenience store industry profits for the sixth straight year, and are now 87% higher than overall industry profits. As a percentage of overall sales, credit and debit card fees were 1.63% of total industry sales dollars, factoring in all forms of payment, including cash and check. Just looking at motor fuels sales, credit and debit card fees added 5.7 cents to every gallon of gasoline sold at convenience stores in 2011.

"Our strong performance in 2011 shows that our industry's core convenience offer--especially one-stop shopping and speed of service for refreshments, food and fuel--continues to resonate with our customers and attract shoppers to our stores," said NACS Chairman Tom Robinson, president of Santa Clara, California-based Robinson Oil Corp.

More than 80% of in-store sales are from the top five categories:

1. Cigarettes (38.1% of in-store sales)

2. Foodservice* (16.9%)

3. Packaged beverages (14.3%)

4. Beer (7.3%)

5. Other tobacco products (4.0%)

(*Includes dispensed beverages--hot, cold and frozen--and prepared foods)

While tobacco products (cigarettes and OTP) constituted more than 42.1% of in-store revenue dollars, they accounted for only 22.2% of gross margin dollars. Meanwhile, packaged beverages and foodservice continued to gain share of gross profit dollars and accounted for nearly half (47.8%) of all gross profit dollars, of which the top five categories are:

1. Foodservice (29.4% of in-store gross margin dollars)

2. Packaged beverages (18.4%)

3. Cigarettes (18.1%)

4. Beer (4.5%)

5. Candy (4.4%)

Several other areas showed strong growth profit growth: lottery/lotto commissions grew 14.3%, car wash increased a strong 75.4% and other automotive services increased 36.1%.

The industry's bifurcation also continues, with a considerable divide between top quartile and bottom quartile performers. Top quartile performers had gross profit dollars that were at least double that of bottom quartile performers across the board. Demonstrating that convenience stores are a growing mealtime destination, the top performers enjoyed hot dispensed (mostly coffee) profits seven times higher, cold dispensed profits four times higher and both salty snacks and prepared food profits three times higher than the bottom quartile performers.

The industry's 2011 metrics are based on the NACS State of the Industry survey powered by its wholly owned subsidiary CSX, the industry's largest online database of financial and operating data. The metrics are based on data from 246 firms representing more than 27,000 stores – including 48% of all stores that are part of companies with more than one store. Complete data and analysis will be released in June in the NACS State of the Industry Report of 2011 Data. NACS has been releasing the NACS State of the Industry Report for 42 years.

Founded in 1961 as the National Association of Convenience Stores, NACS ( nacsonline.com) is the international association for convenience and petroleum retailing. The U.S. convenience store industry, with more than 148,000 stores across the country, posted $681 billion in total sales in 2011, of which $486 billion were motor fuels sales. NACS has 2,100 retail and 1,600 supplier member companies, which do business in nearly 50 countries.