Earlier this year, businesses faced an unprecedented reality when the coronavirus pandemic forced most Americans to quarantine at home based on the CDC's recommendations. During COVID-19, individual companies were classified as “essential,” many of which were convenience stores throughout the United States. Convenience stores had to quickly adapt to new regulations, provide hand sanitizers for customers, strictly enforce social distancing by encouraging people within the store to stay 6 feet away from each other, and disinfecting their store regularly.
With the changes in consumer behavior because of the pandemic, in this article, we will highlight three ways in which convenience stores can increase sales during the COVID-19. With many stores feeling the effect of less overall foot traffic, we will examine some of how convenience stores can still provide value to their customers.
Add More Sections of Frozen Food
The frozen foods category includes pizza, appetizers, vegetables, meals, and desserts. Now more than ever, due to the pandemic, because of their extensive shelf-life and a vast selection of healthy choices, consumers are purchasing frozen food at an unprecedented rate. According to a recent report from UnivDatos Market Insights, the global frozen food marketing was valued at US$ 232.42 billion in 2019 and projected to grow to US$ 320.06 billion by 2026.
By strategically planning for the increased demand for frozen foods, convenience store retailers can take advantage of the previously mentioned statistics on frozen food growth by adding additional sections in their stores to provide their customers with a wide range of frozen options. In a May 2019 article featured in NACS Magazine titled, Frozen Foods Heat Up, pre-coronavirus research indicated that frozen foods brought an average of $3,250 in sales per store and an average of $1,282 gross profit dollars per store, with a gross margin of 39.44%. Ask yourself, can my store afford not to take advantage of this growing sector?
Explore a Drive-Thru Model
With consumers looking to embrace social distancing and avoiding contact with other people, your convenience store needs to evolve to service your customers safely. According to a recent industry report from NACS, foodservice accounts for nearly 23% of sales at convenience stores. Even during a pandemic, this all-important category is too important to ignore for your business. Developing a drive-thru allows your customers to stay in their cars safely while ordering foodservice items served at your convenience store.
Of course, the idea of a drive-thru is nothing new as many fast-food restaurant chains and specialty food stores such as Dunkin Donuts for many years have effectively leveraged a drive-thru strategy. In the convenience store world, a few large chains such as Wawa and RaceTrac have already started adding drive-thrus to new and existing locations. Wawa’s Director of Construction was quoted recently saying, “Wawa continues to test new store concepts with this latest drive-thru format, providing an opportunity for our customers to experience still and enjoy their favorite Wawa products while remaining inside their vehicle. It is critical to provide new ways to access Wawa, increase convenience, and provide new options for service.” If you operate a convenience store with a strong offering in foodservice, ask yourself, can you afford to not take advantage of the flexibility of purchasing a drive-thru window offers?
Expand into Home Delivery
Here’s an interesting statistic, did you know that 67% of millennials prefer to purchase online versus inside a physical store location? With so many consumers staying home because of the pandemic, and the increased competition with many fast-food chains and restaurants now offering home delivery, it's the optimal time for your convenience store to expand into home delivery.
In a recent article from Bloomberg, many analyses have discovered that customers who purchase home delivery from a convenience store spend more per order. This is especially true after 9 PM when typically, many c-stores do not see a large amount of foot traffic. Because consumers have now become accustomed to the instant gratification online ordering provides, introducing a strong home delivery strategy can increase profit margins. Even with online order and home delivery services, It’s essential to capitalize on impulse sales, one of the significant benefits retailers have from physical store locations.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses were forced to adapt their business model to meet the changing shift of customer demand. Even though convenience stores might have less foot traffic inside the physical location than expected, there are still things they can do to increase sales even with the ongoing coronavirus. Incorporate these three handy strategies into your business, and you will see an increase in profits.