C-Store Retailers, Consumers Agree Experience Trumps Price

Alexandria, VA — Despite rising price sensitivity at the pump, both consumers and convenience retailers agree that drivers are willing to go out of their way to visit the c-store they prefer rather than shop for the lowest price, according two surveys released by NACS.

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The 2022 NACS Consumer Fuels Survey found that 74 percent of drivers say they will drive five minutes out of their way to go to the store they prefer, contrasted with 64 percent who say they would drive five minutes out of their way to save 5 cents per gallon on fuel.

Similarly, the Q2 2022 NACS Pulse Survey found that 75 percent of convenience retailers say consumers would drive five minutes out of their way to go to the store they prefer, while 67 percent say consumers would drive five minutes out of their way to save 5 cents per gallon.

The association notes that both surveys show a clear pattern: Preference beats price.

The retailer and consumer surveys also found similarities for the top reasons customers select a place to shop: speed of service, friendly customer service and care for their community.

 CustomersRetailers
Gets me in and out quickly90%93%
Friendly employees who make me feel welcome84%97%
Cares about the local community69%54%
Makes efforts on environmental/sustainability issues61%20%
Has been around a long time55%52%
Donates to or supports charitable causes47%31%
Source: NACS

“These findings show that customers value the importance of stories about how you matter in their lives — and that’s certainly a positive story that convenience stores can and do tell.”

Jeff Lenard, NACS vice-president of strategic industry initiatives

For new technologies and innovations, consumers say they are interested in self-checkout (72 percent), followed by paying via app (59 percent) and checkout-free technology (57 percent). Meanwhile, two trends from the pandemic are of less interest to consumers: delivery (52 percent) and curbside pickup at convenience stores (50 percent).

Convenience retailers are building self-checkout capabilities, the survey also found. One in 11 retailers (9 percent) say they either have or will have self-checkout in place by the end of this year, and nearly 1 in 3 retailers (29 percent) say they will have self-checkout in their stores by the end of 2023.

“The numbers show that retailers and their customers are aligned, though we need to closely watch how rising gas prices affects business in the long term — 90 percent of consumers say they noticed gas prices have increased, the highest of all categories surveyed, including groceries, vehicle purchases and real estate or rent,” says Lenard.