Convenience retailers say they have seen an increase in sales of grocery staples as customers increasingly turn to their local convenience store for pantry items. More than half of all retailers (52%) say their grocery sales have increased, according to a national survey of U.S. convenience store owners conducted by NACS, the trade association that represents the convenience and fuel retailing industry.

Convenience stores traditionally sell immediate consumption items—83% of all products sold at a store are consumed within an hour—but they have pivoted to providing items that can be brought home: 52% say they are adding more cleaning/toiletry items, 31% are emphasizing ready-to-heat meals, and 28% are showcasing multipack/bulk items.

At the same time, convenience stores have dramatically scaled back self-serve foodservice and restaurant functions: 66% say they have closed public seating and dining areas, and 45% have removed customer access to self-serve foodservice, such as coffee, fountain drinks, bakery items, and roller grill items. It is important to note that these percentages reflect retailers who have made changes; many operators do not have dining areas, for instance.

Retailers also are looking at new programs to allow social distancing and to enhance convenience: 14% are offering some sort of curbside pickup program, 13% have increased a focus on drive-thru, and 11% have added or increased delivery options. Nearly two in three retailers (60%) say they have reduced store operating hours, due to less customer traffic or in order to deep clean and restock during overnight hours.

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