On-demand. One-stop-shop. All-in-one. Now. Americans’ need for instant gratification and convenience continues to grow, led by the younger generations. While traditional retail chain brick-and-mortar stores have struggled, the U.S. convenience store industry is thriving, experiencing 16 straight years of record in-store sales reaching $242 billion in 2018, according to a new study released by GasBuddy, Boston, Mass.

CPG + C-store = Millennial heaven
Convenience stores beat out drug and warehouse stores by double when consumers were asked where they prefer to purchase their packaged good items like snacks and beverages. In fact, the 18-29 age group has the strongest preference for c-stores vs. all other age groups.

According to the survey, 66% of respondents said they make purchases at a convenience store at least once a month, while 38% said at least once a week. The most popular items that consumers “often” or “very often” purchase at a c-store are beverages (52%), among other items.

“The original on-demand commerce, c-stores are in the business of selling time, making it the first-mile and last-mile choice for millions of Americans,” says Frank Beard, convenience store analyst. “It's no surprise that they're meeting the needs of younger generations who crave ease and immediacy.”

Impulsive buys run rampant
While the pit stops may be intentional, in-store purchases are often not. For instance, 24% of consumers said they made an unplanned in-store purchase the last time they stopped for gas, while 57% said they have done so within the past month.

In fact, GasBuddy’s footfall traffic shows that the average visit by their users to a gas station has grown to nearly 8 minutes, far exceeding the 2-3 minutes it takes to fill up the car.

In-store competition
When asked what the triggers are to make a purchase at a gas station convenience store, more than 30% of respondents said simply because “I’m already there.”

“More than ever, snack and beverage brands need to be top-of-mind for consumers before they visit. Otherwise they'll get lost in the crowd,” says Beard.