The growth of in-store sales defied the overall trend in U.S. retail sales, which fell 0.6 percent based on U.S. Department of Commerce data. It also came despite a rare decline in the number of convenience stores. For only the third time in the past 15 years, the industry store count dropped - 1.0 percent to 144,875 - as many stores closed because of the punishing economic conditions and record-low motor fuels margins the industry faced during the first three quarters of 2008.
While cigarettes continue to dominate in-store sales, accounting for nearly one in every three dollars spent, margins on cigarettes fell to 15.3 percent. Foodservice, meanwhile – which includes dispensed beverages and food prepared on-site – showed strong growth. The category now accounts for nearly 14 percent of sales and nearly a quarter of in-store profit dollars, according to NACS.