At Your Convenience: 7-Eleven, Circle K, and National Convenience Store Foot Traffic

Convenience stores serve many purposes. They’re late-night road trip stops. Snack vendors for nights out with friends. Grocery stores, emergency stop-offs, and essential parts of the grab-and-go routine. 

We examined the scope of convenience store locations and their foot traffic across the country for the brands below:

  • 7-Eleven
  • Circle K
  • Casey's General Stores
  • Kwik Shop
  • Stewart's Shops
  • Wawa
  • Yesway

Is there a national winner of convenience, or do regional brands dominate?
 
Beyond foot traffic, we also looked at visit duration for each brand. Duration of visit characterizes consumer engagement and service effectiveness. Longer durations imply consumers may use brands for grocery-style shopping trips, while short durations demonstrate brand success in the quick-fix retail space.
 
Check out our Tableau workbooks below to see what we found:

Convenience winners are regional—to a point. 7-Eleven is playing a strong game in the West, Circle K in the Southeast, and Casey’s in the Midwest, but the Northeast is relatively mixed for brand winners.

It’s also interesting to see states like Alabama, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Georgia with only one dominant brand—Casey’s—and no competition from other brands in our set. States where 7-Eleven and Circle K win total foot traffic are nearly complete wins, with almost zero competitive edge for other brands. It seems a large portion of the U.S. prefers convenience from one major brand only. It’s possible smaller regional brands not included here could account for a portion of the foot traffic in these states.
 
Illinois seems particularly open as a market, however, with Casey’s, Circle K, and 7-Eleven sharing a relatively even proportion of total traffic across the year. A review of convenience locations in this state shows Casey’s is dominant in the rural market outside of Greater Chicago, while 7-Eleven and Circle K seem spread throughout the city center. Are there rural strategies Casey’s employs in the Midwest that would prove advantageous to 7-Eleven and Circle K outside of metro centers?

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Regionally, Wawa is also on its way to local dominance in the Philadelphia and Washington D.C. area, right on track with its year-on-year revenue growth for the past five years. Maryland and Virginia should definitely be areas of focus for 7-Eleven in order to maintain their hold in these markets. 

Average visit length across the brands in our analysis provides interesting angles. Circle K, with total market dominance in states like Georgia and North Dakota, has the longest average visit duration at just over 20 minutes—6 minutes longer than second place 7-Eleven.

It’s our hypothesis Circle K serves as a grocery space for consumers in these areas and may be a vital resource of goods for local residents. This is hugely important for the brand to investigate to understand their consumer base and best serve local needs.
 
Interestingly, all brands follow similar patterns of use across the 24-hour day. Peak visitation is during 2 PM and 6 PM, suggesting these brands are key to post-school and post-work stop-offs.
 
Our visualization of weekly traffic for fourth quarter 2021 shows traffic loss for Thanksgiving week for all brands, but particularly for 7-Eleven. 7-Eleven lost 2 million visitors compared to the week prior, whereas second place Circle K lost a million.
 
Are there marketing moves convenience brands can make during this major holiday week to maintain steady traffic levels?

Round-Up

On a regional level, convenience brands like 7-Eleven and Circle K own large shares of their market with little to no competition. Illinois seems to be an open state of competition, with Casey's stores dominating rural areas while 7-Eleven and Circle K battle for traffic in the Chicago city center.

Circle K consumers shop for the longest amount of time at 20 minutes, suggesting Circle K probably serves a larger grocery function for local residents compared to other quick-stop brands.

Thanksgiving week popped out as a traffic loser for 7-Eleven. Could specific Thanksgiving marketing draw consumers into the brand during this busy holiday week? 

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