• C-store penetration rebounds while visit frequency dips

Less volatile gas prices, along with discount, rewards and loyalty retailer programs, attributed to a rebound in c-store penetration in the quarter ending in September, reports the NPD Group.

The percentage of individuals who made a c-store purchase (includes gas and product purchases) in an average 30-day period in the quarter increased to 55.5 percent compared to 54 percent in the same quarter year ago, according to NPD's Convenience Store Monitor, which continually tracks the consumer purchasing behavior of approximately 50,000 convenience store shoppers in the U.S.

Penetration growth was experienced among major oils, traditionals, and small/independent c-store chains. Along with penetration, both c-store traffic and reach grew in the third quarter this year compared to same quarter last year. Total product purchase visits to c-stores in a 30-day period were up 1 percent in the third quarter compared to same quarter year ago.

Though penetration increased in the quarter, average number of visits individuals made to a c-store in an average 30-day period was 5.3, a decline from 5.4 in Q3 2012, according to NPD. In addition to visit declines, heavy discounting and product dealing contributed to an average check decrease in the quarter, which resulted in a decrease in total product sales in the period.

"The slow economic rebound still has consumers hesitant to spend but they are responding to dealing," said April Moffa, NPD c-store industry analyst. "Opportunities exist to grow product purchases through increased impulse buying. Targeting key demographics, product offerings and strategic in store placement are key to this growth."

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