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C-Store Traffic Down in Q3: Report

HOUSTON — Convenience-store traffic fell in the third quarter amid higher gas prices and pressure from competitive channels such as supermarkets, according to research released Tuesday.

Total consumer traffic through c-stores was down 2.1% in the third quarter, compared with a year ago, according to The NPD Group. The research showed that the traffic decline was driven by lower purchase frequency (5.9 visits per 30 days), but was also influenced by a slight decline in the overall consumer reach of the channel.

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“The third quarter weakness in c-store traffic compared to year ago can likely be attributed to rising gasoline prices in the quarter and ongoing pressures from competitive channels such as grocery, drug, dollar and mass that are encroaching on the convenience shopping occasion,” said David Portalatin, executive director of industry analysis for NPD’s convenience store research, in a statement. “In September gas prices nationally approached the $4 mark, which historically leads to diminishing share of wallet for in-store purchases.”

According to NPD’s Convenience Store Monitor, the decline in third-quarter traffic was typically more severe among major oil company-branded c-store chains — especially those more overly dependent upon gasoline — while small independent chains did slightly better.

The average check in the third quarter increased 2.5%, which NPD said was likely due to a combination of higher prices, larger sizes or changes in mix.

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