Keep an Eye on C-Stores (Both on and Off the Road!)

Share this:

As we’ve previously covered, the traditional C-stores (convenience store) used to be that corner deli where you could pick up snacks, soft drinks, or smokes or the stop along the highway where you gassed up, took a hygiene break and grabbed something sugary to tide you over on the road.

Consumers are starting to head out for holiday excursions. So, the notion of convenience en route or in a new city is especially timely this season. After all, you need to simply tap the gas station or food icon on your phone, and you’ll easily find a stop “near you.”

But location (unless your gas tank is close to empty) may not be the only factor you consider.

C-stores are expanding and innovating. Here are just a few of the transformations happening in this highly specific MULO (multi-location) industry, which reached a record $814B in 2022.

  • Car washes are now tech-powered and even personalized. Subscription models abound.
  • But hunger is a human need that can’t be fulfilled just by AI. In fact, a recent study revealed that a whopping 45% of convenience store food buyers eat their goodies in the car while driving and 32% while parked at the store. An especially ravenous 3% didn’t even make it out of the C-store before eating.
  • Speaking of food, many consumers are choosing to eat at convenience stores rather than restaurants. C-stores are, therefore, investing more in their food service programs and adding healthy options and greater variety to fulfill this need.
  • In the season’s spirit, c-stores are adding flavored coffee options and cocoa. Santa and his elves can easily drop by Wawa, 7-Eleven, or EG America for a peppermint refresher.
  • Although Santa may have no trouble retaining elves and reindeer, C-store operators (like many MULO businesses) are facing labor shortages and are, therefore, looking for more self-serve options at their locations.
  • AI is everywhere, in every industry. From security to understanding consumer buying behavior (and even location), big convenience store brands are leaning toward automation as a way to keep people safe, drive efficiency, and personalize shopping experiences.
  • What are people buying besides gas these days? Buffalo-flavored snacks and nostalgic beverages are among the flavor trends revealed at NACS 2023, this year’s C-Store Expo.

With close to 12K stores, 7-Eleven leads this year’s list of biggest C-store brands.

So, when you’re on your way to your grandmother’s house this holiday season, grabbing a last-minute treat for your friends and family, or looking to show up in a spanking-clean car, be on the look-out for some of these innovations.

If you can make it a few extra miles before re-filling your tank, look for loyalty reward programs that many C-stores are offering to build brand loyalty!

Nancy A Shenker, senior editor with Street Fight, is a former big brand (Citibank, Mastercard, Reed Exhibitions) marketing strategist and leader. She has been featured in, the New York Times and Forbes.