The UK forecourt market has evolved to such an extent that only 19% of shoppers cite fuel as their main reason for visiting, according to new research predicting 3.8% sales growth within forecourt c-stores in 2020.
The HIM & MCA Insight UK Forecourt Market Report 2020 forecast that c-store forecourt growth would outperform total retail sales (1.2%) and the overall convenience retail market (3.2%) this year.
The report highlights that retail sales from forecourt shops (excluding fuel) are set to reach £4.6bn in 2020 and forecourt convenience stores are set to make up over three-fifths of this.
It highlighted how the evolution of shopper behaviour has forced forecourt retailers and operators to transform their stores into destinations for shoppers as well as petrol.
With less than one in five forecourt shoppers visiting primarily for fuel, nearly a quarter (24%) who visit a forecourt convenience store travel on foot rather than in a vehicle.
The number of forecourt outlets with a convenience store is forecast to grow by 1.5% in 2020, with multiples and symbol groups taking on an increasing number of c-stores on forecourts, according to the report.
A survey of forecourt dealers within the report revealed that 67% of respondents listed increased food to go sales as one of the top three changes they had experienced in their business in the last 12 months.
However, the forecourt dealers highlighted uncertainty about the future of alternative fuels; rising staff costs; and staff retention as the three biggest challenges their businesses currently faced.
MCA Insight & HIM project manager Sarah Coleman said: “The UK forecourt market has evolved considerably in the last decade – from a time when the fuel mission accounted for over a third of visits, to now accounting for less than a fifth.
“Retailers and operators are feeling the pressure - or seeing an opportunity - to find alternative and innovative ways to drive footfall to their stores and thereby capitalise on the growth opportunities in the market.
“Strong investment in food to go and an increase in the number of partnerships with foodservice operators have allowed forecourts stores to become a destination for shoppers. This is more important than ever, with the food to go mission accounting for a quarter of all visits to forecourt convenience stores.
“Despite challenges on the horizon, such as rising costs, strong price competition and the dramatic decline of tobacco, we are forecasting a 3.1% CAGR over the next three years. This represents a significant opportunity for suppliers and operators as the channel continues to become more of a retail destination in its own right.”