Just as drive time radio is benefiting from more Americans heading back to the office, so are convenience store operators. The National Association of Convenience Stores says as traditional commuting and shopping behaviors continue to return to pre-pandemic levels, convenience stores saw record sales inside their stores in 2022. NACS says in-store sales accounted for a third of industry sales last year, totaling $302.8 billion.

Packaged beverages, tobacco products, salty snacks, candy and packaged sweet snacks all had double-digit sales growth year over year as the average basket—what customers spend per visit—increased 4.9% to $7.52. Thanks in part to a nine percent increase in what people spent in-store, NACS says total c-store industry sales reached $906.1 billion. Convenience stores, which sell an estimated 80% of the fuel purchased in the country, saw fuel sales increase 41%, reaching $603.2 billion, largely as a result of higher gas prices.

The industry metrics were released during the 2023 NACS State of the Industry Summit last month in Dallas, with record retailer and supplier attendance. That bump is in part due to the fact that the number of convenience stores is on the rise. NACS says the number rose 1.5% to reach 150,174 stores. Industry growth was fueled by an increase in single-store operators – which make up six in ten c-stores. The trade group says in-store sales are also climbing as more operators focus on providing restaurant-quality food. Overall, foodservice sales represented 25.6% of average, monthly in-store sales and more than a third of in-store gross margin. Prepared food accounted for two-thirds of all foodservice sales in 2022.

Yet even as sales grow, NACS says store operators are facing several challenges. It says credit card swipe fees at an industry level have increased a “staggering” 82% between 2020 and 2022 and now stand at $19.5 billion. Labor costs also increased in 2022. Average wages increased 9% to $14.33 per hour for full-time and 13% to $14.02 per hour for part-time employees.