Growing ­Convenience

NACS represents the ­convenience retailing industry around the world, from the 154,000 stores in the United States to the hundreds of thousands of convenience stores around the globe. And from surveying consumers, we know that they love our industry’s basic value proposition of convenience-no ­matter where they are in the world.

High-quality, fresh snacks for on-the-go consumption are in demand.

There is no question that consumer trends favour convenience stores. The expression “time is money” is truer now than ever before. Convenience stores offer speed of service to time-starved consumers. Consumers seek out convenience stores for their convenient locations, extended hours of operation, one-stop shopping, grab-and-go food service, variety of merchandise and fast transactions. A NACS speed metrics study found that it takes customers, on average, 3 minutes and 33 seconds from the time they leave their cars until the time they get back in their cars with a purchase.

At the same time, younger consumers also seek out alternatives to the traditional meal at home or in a restaurant. They are more likely to eat on-the-go and to eat food from new food outlets like a food truck or convenience store. This group shops at convenience stores most frequently and is most likely to seek out healthy options – and notice retailers who are providing what they want.

Because convenience stores are addressing consumer trends, they are able to grow sales. Growth in healthy food and beverage sales led to positive overall sales at U.S. convenience stores in 2017, and retailers expect the momentum to continue in 2018, according to a NACS survey of U.S.-based convenience retailers released in early 2018.

Henry Armour

Henry Armour

 is president and CEO of NACS. Armour joined NACS in 2005, after spending his ­entire career in the ­con­venience retailing industry. He founded West Star Corporation, which grew to include NOW! convenience stores, truck stops and quick service restaurants in the Pacific Northwest. Prior to becoming president and CEO, Armour was active in NACS’ volunteer leadership, serving two one-year terms as NACS Chairman of the Board
(2001 – 2003).

Consumer needs are relatively similar around the world – they want convenience. The difference is how convenience is offered based on the needs of the market. In Europe, the focus on fresh food is much more ingrained than in the United States. And the types of competition also affect how conven­ience stores develop their offer.

Germany, for example, has a high density of supermarkets, discounters and bakeries, which obviously influences how convenience stores and filling stations develop their food offer.

However, from a consumers’ perspective, the trends are similar: a pleasant atmosphere similar to some quick service restaurants and bakeries, more and more fresh food, either packaged or prepared on site, more variety, and lunch and dinner solutions. That’s the same for all markets.

Lab Store in the Netherlands

“Eet & Gerei” could be best translated as “Food and all related things”. Under this name, Lekkerland is testing shop modules for Dutch filling station shops in Katwijk aan Zee, the ­Netherlands. Besides freshly made sandwiches and home grilled chicken, consumers can also enjoy premium ­coffee and buy food related gifts and decorations. ­Other lab stores in the Netherlands are expected to follow, aiming to gain as much experience as possible.

And in Europe, concepts like ­Lekkerland’s “Frischwerk” are leading the way. In 2017, Lekkerland received the International Convenience Retailer of the Year Award – Honourable Mention in the small formats category at the NACS Convenience Summit Europe. The award recognises the conceptual design and implementation of the “Frischwerk” test shop concept, which is breaking new ground and setting new innovative standards for the industry.

As all retailers focus on solving customers’ immediate needs, NACS
will continue to develop unique ideas and perspectives that push the industry forward and spur continual innovation. And to celebrate the achievements and accomplishments of concepts like Lekkerland´s “Frischwerk”.

“Frischwerk” is popular with consumers and shop operators alike

The needs of consumers were the starting point for the ­development of the Lekkerland “Frischwerk” shop concept. The roll-out has clearly been successful because consumers have given the first two test shops very positive assessments in surveys. The operators are very satisfied as well in view of the significant increase in sales – food service is one of the sectors with a sales hike.

“Frischwerk” has also impressed the sector experts. It was the first German convenience format to be granted an award by convenience and fuel retailing association NACS (see guest contribution by Henry Armour). And in February 2018, one of the pilot stores was awarded the accolade “Shop of the Year” in the category filling station / service area by a German trade magazine. The shop concept combines innovations and best practice elements. These include a modern, fresh look styled in wood and steel, integration of a complete bakery, the clear spatial and personnel separation between food service, and tobacco and fuel area plus further specifically developed processes and services.