Convenience retailers suggest that strong sales in 2018 will continue into the summer drive season with two in three (67%) expecting sales increases during the second quarter of 2019 over the same period last year.
And, convenience retailers, which sell an estimated 80% of the fuel purchased in the United States, also expect fuel sales to remain strong. Nearly four in five (79%) say that they expect fuel sales from April through June to at least match sales from the same period last year, according to survey results of c-store operators conducted by NACS, the trade association that represents the convenience and fuel retailing industry.
Retailers express confidence that sales of prepared foods, which account for one in six sales dollars in a convenience store, per newly released NACS State of the Industry data for 2018, will grow this quarter. More than half (52%) say that their sandwich and meal sales will help drive sales growth this quarter
Fresh and healthy products are also expected to lead sales growth: 22% of c-store retailers say fruits and vegetables (including salads and cut fruit) will lead sales growth; 22% also say that healthy packaged snacks will lead growth.
On-the-go beverage sales also are expected to heat up at convenience stores this quarter. Fully half of all retailers (50%) say they expect energy drink sales to increase and 38% expect an increase in bottled water sales. Meanwhile, 16% of retailers expect coffee sales to increase despite intense competition from quick-service restaurants for the morning coffee customer.
While retailers are optimistic about their sales this quarter, feelings about the economy has cooled. Overall, 69% are optimistic about the economy this quarter, a five-point drop from the same period last year.
The quarterly NACS Retailer Sentiment Survey tracks retailer sentiment related to their businesses, the industry and the economy. A total of 68 NACS member companies, representing a cumulative 2,204 stores, participated in the April 2019 survey.