C-stores are missing out on grocery fill-in shoppers

Discussion
Aug 21, 2015

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of an article from Convenience Store Decisions magazine.

Many customers prefer shopping at grocery stores on their fill-in trips. But the quick and convenient nature of c-stores should make them ideal for in between stock-up grocery trips when just a few items are needed.

A General Mills Convenience & Foodservice survey of 3,198 convenience store food and beverage shoppers conducted last November, however, found that only 19 percent of shoppers visit convenience stores most often for fill-in trips. That compares to 32 percent visiting grocery stores most often for fill-in trips with mass merchants or super centers at 11 percent.

The most popular items purchased on fill-in trips, in all channels, include: milk (purchased on 57 percent of all fill-in trips), bread (50 percent), soda (42 percent), eggs (39 percent) and salty snacks (28 percent).

Overall, 57 percent of shoppers are extremely satisfied with c-stores with immediate consumption trips versus 36 percent of shoppers being extremely satisfied with fill-in trips.

Sheetz interior

Photo: Sheetz

When asked why they weren’t choosing c-stores, the top barriers centered around lack of variety, low quality and prices being too expensive. About three-quarters (76 percent) wanted full sized offerings versus smaller package sizes.

General Mills Convenience & Foodservice developed a guideline, "F.I.L.L"., with tips for c-stores to capture the fill-in shopper:

F – Full-Sized Staples: Offer full-sized grocery items where it counts, in milk, bread, soda, eggs and salty snacks.

I – In & Out: Continue delivering on convenience; shoppers choose c-stores because they can get in and out in less than two minutes.

L – Lift Quality: Focus on quality, especially on perishable grocery items like cheese and fresh produce.

L – Lower Prices: Offer value with competitively-priced staple items.

Are c-stores striving to better serve the fill-in grocery shopper capitalizing on an untapped opportunity or overextending themselves? How do you see c-stores maximizing the fill-in opportunity?

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Braintrust
"Today that pendulum has started to swing back as c-store retailers are finding time-starved customers are again using their locations for their fill-in needs. However, there are several barriers."
"C-stores were originally called "convenience" because that is exactly what they tried to do — satisfy grocery fill-in trips. But the basic setup of a c-store demands higher margins (i.e., prices) than most consumers would pay for the "convenience" benefit."

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8 Comments on "C-stores are missing out on grocery fill-in shoppers"


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Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
6 years 8 months ago

It’s easy to say that the F.I.L.L. approach is useful, but that seems to ignore the economics of c-Stores. Keeping items with short shelf lives and, for c-stores, relatively slow turns has got to be an economic barrier. Here in Atlanta we don’t do c-stores except as part of a gas station. Milk and eggs are not what I’m thinking about when filling up my car.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
6 years 8 months ago
Historically c-stores were the place for quick convenient fill-in shopping. They carried a variety of grocery items ranging from milk to canned goods. In order to meet their shopper needs many morphed more into snack, beverage and foodservice locations and the space devoted to grocery declined. Today that pendulum has started to swing back as c-store retailers are finding time-starved customers are again using their locations for their fill-in needs. However, there are several barriers. The industry has been a high cost-to-serve channel as order qualities of grocery and other fill-in items are low in most cases. Customers want full-size products but the cost of these items plus their markup results in a retail price many customer don’t find acceptable. One of the other issues is space. Much of the space that used to be devoted to grocery is now devoted to foodservice which carries higher margins. However as the General Mills study points out there is an opportunity for c-store retailers to gain more of the fill-in shopping, but it will require them to… Read more »
Ben Ball
Guest
6 years 8 months ago

C-stores were originally called “convenience” because that is exactly what they tried to do — satisfy grocery fill-in trips. But the basic setup of a c-store demands higher margins (i.e., prices) than most consumers would pay for the “convenience” benefit. Things quickly degraded to gas, beer and tobacco because that’s where the margins were.

With today’s migration to a high margin, immediate consumption focus, C-stores may have a little more room to maneuver. The GMI prescription might increase the marginal volume and gross profit of the store, thereby levering fixed costs. But it will still have to make more money than the incremental energy drink or fresh baked goods display. Might still be a bridge too far for dry grocery.

vic gallese
Guest
6 years 8 months ago

It is a HUGE opportunity for c-stores and has been for more than 10 years! One of the problems is the perception of insult pricing for staples at many c-stores as well as merchandising properly (the basic 4 P’s).

The larger chains who can leverage suppliers and go private label, thus making bread, milk, eggs, bananas, cereal, etc, competitive can easily win this game.

Getting data on the top 25 mid week purchase SKUs at the supers is not a problem.

Herb Sorensen, Ph.D.
Guest
6 years 8 months ago
There is a general failure among retailers to think of retailing in holistic terms: shoppers are WHOLE people, whose interests probably do not align well with your own thinking about stores. For example, the industry at large refuses to come to grips with the FACT, that in nearly any store in the world—including supercenters, more shoppers buy only one item, than any other number of items! One senior manager told me, “but our target demographic is the stock up shopper.” Well, who does he think is buying only a single item in the store? It’s a stock up shopper, they just are not on a stock up trip, ON THIS OCCASION!!! Okay, so half of C-store trips lead to 1 or 2 item purchases, the same number as the most common number in supermarkets. (Half of supermarket trips result in 5 items or less, and constitute 1/3 of total store sales.) Not going into all the details here, but it became crystal clear to me in the past couple years that “Every supermarket is simply… Read more »
Liz Crawford
Guest
6 years 8 months ago

C- stores aren’t the preferred channel for female shoppers, who are the primary fill-in buyers. This is heavy lifting. Easier—drug store as destination fill-in….

Kai Clarke
Guest
6 years 8 months ago

C-stores have been trying to fill in as an alternative grocery shopping experience for years. However, this is a difficult line to walk when your profits come from offering a broad selection of single drinks, cigarettes, instant foods, house branded drinks, etc. This is always a key component for the C-store, and should be reflected in their product focus.

Peter Carter
Guest
Peter Carter
6 years 8 months ago

Stores would need to change consumers’ perceptions and reorganize selection and offerings. Todays c-stores don’t offer enough selection to pull this off. In the UK, neighborhood Tesco stores are small, but densely stocked with not only milk, bread, soda, eggs and salty snacks, but a full array of pre pack fruit, vegetables, condiments and more. (Big head.) It would definitely need a re-think, but just adding a few things doesn’t really cover the vast array of small trip occasions. They would need to actually be small grocery stores.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Today that pendulum has started to swing back as c-store retailers are finding time-starved customers are again using their locations for their fill-in needs. However, there are several barriers."
"C-stores were originally called "convenience" because that is exactly what they tried to do — satisfy grocery fill-in trips. But the basic setup of a c-store demands higher margins (i.e., prices) than most consumers would pay for the "convenience" benefit."

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