Young and educated shop in c-stores, often on impulse
Are convenience stores beginning to pick off the cream of the young U.S. adult generation, perhaps at the expense of supermarkets?
A new NPD Group study, Making The Grade: Student Consumer Impact on the Retail Fuels and Convenience Marketplace, shows the inroads c-stores are making with the nation’s most educated tier of young consumers—as they shape their shopping habits away from home.
College students between 18 and 24 spent $5.2 billion on 351.4 million visits to c-stores during the 12 months ended June 2012. C-store merchandising works too: 31.9% of c-store purchases by college students are impulsive, versus a 22.7% incidence of impulse buys among other c-store shoppers, said NPD.
This overview data suggests to The Lempert Report that c-stores have a keen understanding of the lifestyles and round-the-clock food-buying and consumption patterns of college students. Cold beverages on the go, hot prepared food after a night of drinking, energy shots and caffeinated supplements, and between-class snacks are likely part of their significant appeals—as is the quick in-and-out access of these small-format shops.
We can’t say if students’ c-store preferences will stick after they graduate and move onto different kinds of lives in different places. But there should be some obvious lessons for supermarkets in the way c-stores make it easy for students to buy high-turn items, and similarly how Walgreens stores in dense markets like Manhattan lead with fresh food and ready-to-eat meals and chilled beverages to draw some of the heavy foot traffic outside to duck in for a quick purchase.
Since the nation’s 19 million college students (full- and part-time) spent a total of $76 billion during the same 12-month period, up $2 billion from a year earlier, it’s a safe bet that all kinds of food sellers will be targeting this group destined to become more important in the years ahead.