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With Major Shifts Ahead C-Stores Must Prepare

October 24, 2016

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With Major Shifts Ahead C-Stores Must Prepare

Cultural and demographic shifts are set to change consumer needs and subsequently how c-stores adapt to stay relevant.

By Erin Rigik Del Conte, Senior Editor, Convenience Store Decisions

In an educational session titled, “Ready or Not! The World of Work is Changing (And What it Means for the Convenience Industry),” speaker John Martin, CEO and president of Southeastern Institute of Research Inc. outlined 10 major shifts impacting c-stores. The session took place during the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) Show in Atlanta.

The 10 shifts include five demographic shifts and five cultural changes that are already taking place and will continue to grow.

Among demographic shifts are population growth bringing with it a larger customer base; and diversity growth—by 2040 the minority will be the majority, and by 2060 Hispanics will be one-third of our population. There’s also an age shift. Some 46 million people are 65+ today and that is growing toward 74 million or 19% of the population. The makeup of households is also evolving, with an increasing number of people living alone, which redefines mealtime. People are also moving out of the country and into cities or around activity hubs.

When it comes to cultural shifts, technology and the convenience it brings is changing everything. Shoppers are making fewer trips and using online shopping. With more people telecommuting, work trips are also decreasing. Mobility options are changing with people looking to bike and car sharing and Uber. Driverless cars are coming, with even Ford saying it will have cars without steering wheels by 2021. All this means fewer trips to fuel up. As the population ages, health care that includes wellness care will grow. A need for purpose has evolved out of people sharing their beliefs and attitudes on social media, which has given rise to an expectation of corporate purpose and transparency around that purpose.

All Generations Seek Belonging
Martin explained how the historical landscape/events have shaped each generation.

While each generation is very different, they want many of the same things but for different reasons. A major shared need is a need for belonging and community. There is a shift toward 15-minute liveable communities where people can get around in a “car-lite” way.

C-store retailers need to reinvent themselves for relevance as these shifts begin picking up steam. The good news is that the c-store industry has been reinventing itself since the first ice shop decided to add milk, bread and eggs.

Martin suggested that retailers can position themselves in front of these shifts by offering a 24-hour, one-stop shop in a 15-minute neighborhood center with access to healthy food. Consider things like lighting, door handles and signage that would be most helpful to an aging population. Offer ready prepared meals for Gen X-ers who are busy with family and consider other conveniences like Amazon lockers. Cater to Millennials by offering rewards based on visits, not spend, and decide on your purpose, own it and market it to your customers.

“In the future, community is everything,” Martin said. C-stores that adapt to offer that sense of belonging will be ahead of the curve.

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