U.S. convenience stores are embracing their role as essential services.

“Darwin said it clearly. The species that survive
are usually not the smartest or the strongest,
but the ones most responsive to change.”
Phillipe Kahn

A NACS survey of 1,828 convenience stores taken over the course of late March yielded promising news for an industry finding itself amidst the opening of the Coronavirus pandemic’s second month. The survey found that 52 percent of businesses reported increased grocery sales, as the closure of sit down restaurants has driven consumers to buy food items from convenience retailers and grocery stores in lieu of venturing out to a quick serve, fast casual, or fine dining establishment.

So while travel is down, and the retail price of regular fuel per gallon has dropped over $0.70 since this time last year, convenience stores find themselves adapting to this increased consumer need for grocery items and other household consumables to help make up for reduced traffic at the fuel pump. In fact, 7-Eleven recently announced that it would be adding 20,000 new jobs to help meet the staffing demand brought on by increased in-store traffic.

Just what new strategies and safety measures have convenience store retailers been inspired to adopt as part of doing business in these unique times? Well, 99 percent of NACS survey respondents said they’d taken extra steps to keep stores clean – especially in hot and cold dispensed beverage areas and on counter tops. Thirty-one percent stated they were offering hand sanitizer at fuel pumps. Incredibly, nearly half—49 percent—said that they were offering free products to first responders, donating to food banks, and even delivering free food to nearby fire departments and hospitals. (If you have been following SSCS on social media, you have no doubt seen links to some of these inspiring stories on our Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter feeds.)

Many operators have changed the makeup of their inventories, as well. Fifty-two percent of NACS survey respondents stated they’d added more cleaning and toiletry items, and around 30 percent were successfully showcasing pre-made food service items and multi-pack grocery items, even as safety concerns and corresponding regulations and safety concerns have shut down many brick-and-mortar restaurants.

The same survey reported that 10-15 percent of the businesses participating had enjoyed success with curbside item pick up programs, drive-thrus and delivery options, a definite evolution toward meeting the needs of existing demographics that are undergoing their own behavioral changes as consumers.

At SSCS, we’ve adapted, too, and as we have done so, we’ve been profoundly impressed by our customers—not only because of their resilience and willingness to accommodate changes in consumer behavior, but also because of their dedication to supporting the healthcare and first responder community, as well their dedication to making America’s convenience stores and gas stations clean, safe places that are there when you need them the most. We proud to be your technology partner as we weather this commercial storm to be there when you need us, just like you’re there for your customers.