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Agricultural Marketing Resource Center

Convenience Stores

By Malinda Geisler, content specialist, AgMRC, Iowa State University, malindag@iastate.edu.

Reviewed April 2012.

    Photo courtesy of National Association
    of Convenience Stores Road Trip 2009.


Convenience stores have become the neighborhood markets that many Americans rely on for purchasing their gasoline, coffee, food and snacks. The average amount of time for a consumer to walk in, make a purchase and depart a convenience store is between three and four minutes. In some metro locations, convenience stores are the primary source for groceries.

A convenience store is defined as a retail business in a convenient location with an emphasis on selling food and gasoline. Other characteristics include a building that is typically less than 5,000 square feet, compared to the median average supermarket with 46,235 square feet. It is convenient to pedestrians and offers off-street parking. The business has extended hours of operation and some are open 24 hours a day. Product mix of a convenience store includes grocery-type items such as beverages, snacks and tobacco. It offers in-store stock of at least 500 stock-keeping units (SKUs). The average number of items carried in a supermarket in 2010 was 38,710.

The United States had 148,126 convenience stores in 2011 with sales of $624 billion. Convenience store motor fuel sales totaled $385.3 billion in 2010. Convenience stores are now a primary source for consumer fuel purchases, accounting for more than 80 percent of all the gasoline purchased in the United States. Convenience store profits rose in 2010 to reach $6.5 billion.

The top 10 in-store product categories, not counting fuel, are as follows:

  1. Cigarettes
  2. Non-alcoholic packaged beverages
  3. Foodservice
  4. Beer
  5. Other tobacco
  6. Candy
  7. Salty snacks
  8. General merchandise
  9. Fluid milk products
  10. Packaged sweet snacks

Eighty percent of all convenience stores offer food that is prepared on location. One in 10 people purchase food at a convenience store during a two-week period. Some convenience stores offer branded quick-service restaurants. According to the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), the most popular menu formats were sandwiches, pizza, chicken, burgers and Mexican food.

Nearly all convenience stores offer hot and cold dispensed beverage service. Seventy five percent offer frozen dispensed beverages as well. Of the consumers who purchase coffee, more than half report they most often purchase coffee from a convenience store.

Research indicates some population segments unable to travel to other food outlets rely on convenience stores for groceries. Convenience store groceries are limited and more costly compared to supermarkets.

Sixty two percent of all convenience stores in the United States are owned and operated as a one-store business or franchise. More than three-fourths of California's stores are one-store operations. Other states with small, independent operators include Texas, Florida and New York.

Food Availability and Food Deserts in the Nonmetropolitan South, Mississippi State University and Cornell University, 2006.

Food Marketing Institute (FMI).

National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).

Other Links


Links checked April 2012.


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