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There was more, just inside the door: Sales up in 2023 at convenience stores

April 12, 2024, 2:00 p.m. (EDT)

Need to satisfy that late-night chocolate bar craving? Or grab a loaf of bread on your way home from work? Perhaps your household is running low on toilet paper? Your local convenience store has it all. You might even see some cheese, walkin’ on its knees.

If you’ve brought your specs with you, you can also see the stats, which we’ve got right here.

Sales up in 2023 from 2022; COVID-19 pandemic affects some 2020 numbers

On a seasonally adjusted basis, convenience retailers and vending machine operators reported nearly $9.0 billion in nationwide retail sales in 2023, up from $8.4 billion in 2022 and $8.7 billion in each of 2021 and 2020. Establishments in this industry (excluding those that sell gasoline) primarily sell a limited line of convenience items including food, newspapers and magazines, and cleaning products.

The $798.0 million in sales in May 2020 is the highest monthly figure on record, partially attributable to Canadians opting for quicker indoor errands as an alternative to the newfound capacity limits, long checkout lines, and reduced hours at larger retailers.

As well, the largest month-to-month increase on record for the industry occurred in May 2020 (+9.6%), amid the sudden changes to shopping habits.

The next-highest monthly sales figures on record were September 2023 ($763.3 million), followed by April 2023 ($760.0 million), November 2020 ($755.8 million) and August 2023 ($753.1 million).

The unprecedented wildfire season in Canada in 2023 may have affected some monthly numbers, due to an increased need for quick stops for essentials by affected residents and evacuees.

Inflation as a factor

Food items at a convenience store are often priced higher than similar items at larger retailers but are also subject to many of the same inflationary pressures. Prices for food purchased from stores rose 9.8% on an annual average basis in 2022, the fastest pace since 1981 (+12.0%), after increasing 2.2% in 2021. In 2023, prices were up 7.8%.

So, while many convenience stores have recorded higher sales in the last few years, customers might be buying less product but paying more for it. Store owners might see less profit due to higher supplier costs.

There’s a corner store near you

In December 2023, there were 11,438 convenience retailers across Canada. As you’d expect, most of them are either small businesses or a location (as part of a chain) with a small number of staff.

Two-thirds of these locations reported staff numbers. Half of the locations reporting employees had one to four employees, and one-third of them had five to nine employees. Most of the other locations reporting staff numbers had 10 to 19 employees.

In the same month, there were 11,328 supermarkets and other grocery retailers nationwide, as well as 13,178 locations in the industry group that includes warehouse clubs, supercentres and other general merchandise retailers (such as dollar stores).

In other words, depending on your neighbourhood, there might be one convenience store for every two larger retailers—so you’ve probably got that quick option nearby!

For the latest information, check out our Retail and wholesale statistics hub, Food Price Data Hub and Small Business Hub.

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Contact information

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