Convenience Store Industry Report: Younger Consumers Ready for C-Store Cannabis and Automation

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TrendSource's Convenience Store Industry Report finds that consumers are more receptive to cannabis products and in-store automation than expected, particularly among younger cohorts.

Convenience Store Industry Report Market Research

TrendSource's 2019 Convenience Store Industry Report

TrendSource’s VP of Business Development Sarah Rowlett noted, “As convenience stores enter the next decade market research will become increasingly important to ensure new initiatives are properly implemented in order to stay ahead in a very competitive landscape.”

Convenience stores are in a transitional moment and must focus on younger consumers when considering the most important issues of the day. Indeed, according to TrendSource’s end-of-year 2019 Convenience Store Industry Report, two of the biggest trends shaping Convenience Stores’ current and future landscape--in-store cannabis sales and frictionless checkout technology--will both pivot around generational differences as older consumers prove relatively more resistant than younger ones. TrendSource’s VP of Business Development Sarah Rowlett noted, “As convenience stores enter the next decade market research will become increasingly important to ensure new initiatives are properly implemented in order to stay ahead in a very competitive landscape.”

One particularly salient issue facing c-stores relates to cannabis products. Though laws have yet to entirely coalesce, savvy operators should already be preparing for a world in which cannabis-derived products, particularly CBD products, will appear on C-store sales floors. And while it might be tempting to assume that such products may alienate current consumers, our report suggests that even non cannabis users are comfortable shopping in a convenience store with such products.

In fact, the only resistance c-store cannabis products seems to come from the silent generation where opposition to cannabis remains firm, but in every younger generation from boomers all the way to the youngest respondents there is comfort if not enthusiasm. Operators should remember this as this issue becomes more and more pressing in the years to come.

Issues surrounding in-store automation similarly break along generational lines with younger consumers proving far more interested in and comfortable with frictionless checkout and other technological innovations. Older consumers, particularly in the silent generation, expressed concern about automation obviating in-store employees--they are uncomfortable with machines taking jobs away from people. While millennials similarly expressed concern about this potential, the majority proved willing to overlook this so long as automation makes their in-store experience more convenient.

While there may be some resistance to implementing technologies to streamline the checkout process, this resistance will likely prove short-lived. As these technologies become table stakes thanks to Amazon Go, c-store operators should begin considering the most efficient and effective ways to begin going frictionless.

Beyond these trends, the full report offers in-depth explorations of several other pertinent topics including consumer’s desire (or lack thereof) for fresh and prepared foods, their feelings about safety and comfort within c-stores, and the coming challenge of omnichannel grocery delivery. As consumers begin to see rapid grocery store delivery and click & collect operations as direct competitors to convenience stores, what can operators to build out their own omnichannel operations while also developing unique in-store experiences that grocery competitors cannot deliver. Find out the answers to these and many other questions by downloading the full report.

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Nicolas Bravo
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