Shopping in times of inflation at the gas pump: less gas, bigger bags of chips, lots of frozen pizzas and cheap coffee


Gas station convenience stores usually serve as an ideal substitute for a grocery store when all you need is a case of water, a few bags of crisps, a carton of milk or a coffee at the end of the day on the way home from work. work. This impulse buying behavior is a good barometer of consumer health at any given time.

“The price of gas and everything is much higher, but people have to drive,” said Arie Kotler, president and CEO of Arko Corp, a convenience store operator. “They still come to the pumps but they recalculate their road trips. .”

Kotler observed shopping habits at ARKO gas pumps and connected convenience stores. The company operates nearly 1,400 convenience stores, most with gas stations, in small towns and rural communities in 28 states.

He noticed that two trends emerge during customer visits to gas stations.

“Compared to the same time last year, people come to the pump more frequently, but instead of filling the tank completely, they fill half or quarter of the tank at a time,” he said. . “They drive less and shorter distances.”

At the same time, consumers shop less often at the gas station convenience store. “But when they walk into the store, they bundle their purchases together,” he said. “Instead of buying just one or two items, they do a bigger shopping cart, maybe for the whole week.”

Bigger bags of chips, lots of frozen pizzas and 99 cent coffee

With consumers even more focused on value pricing, Kotler said ARKO is recalibrating its offers, services and promotions to try to keep prices low and sales up.

“Before it was just one drink and a little bag of crisps,” he said. “Now they’re buying for value. So it’s a bigger bag of chips at $4.59, for example, versus a small bag at $2.29. They can get a few servings out of that.”

Similarly for beverages, he said two-liter bottles outperform the small sizes, as do 12-pack and 15-pack beverage cans.

Inexpensive coffee, take-out sandwiches and frozen pizzas are also selling very well among budget shoppers.

And since the start of the year, Kotler said, ARKO has added fully automated bean-to-cup coffee machines in more than 500 stores. “They’re self-serve and remove the cost of labor for us, so we can sell hot and iced coffee for 99 cents,” he said.

The company has also invested in additional take-out coolers at more than 600 locations where shoppers can buy sandwiches and frozen foods like pizza, burgers and TV dinners.

“Our peanut butter and jelly sandwich is $1.29, the ham and cheese $3.99,” said Michael Bloom, the company’s chief marketing officer. “We’re similar to grocery store prices, but maybe $1-$3 less.

Pizzas are usually among the most purchased items at gas stations.

“A lot of people can’t afford to go to a restaurant right now. Our frozen family pizzas $5.69 to $9.59 are very popular items right now,” Kotler said.

Additionally, he said stores are offering offers such as buy two, get one free and gas discounts when customers sign up for the company’s loyalty program.

“All of these savings add up for consumers,” Kotler said. “Every few months we try to reinvent our stores to stay competitive, stay in business, and stay relevant to shoppers in this environment.”


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