“I might gouge you on a soda, but my coffee’s a real bargain.”
With margins on gas taking a hit—in 2006, fuel sales made up 71 percent of revenue but only 34 percent of gross margins—stations are increasingly looking to their convenience stores for income. Given that fact, you’d assume the average Kwik-E-Mart to be a terrible place to buy just about anything. But that’s only partially true.
Stock that usually sits on the shelf does tend to be vastly overpriced, so if you forgot ketchup on the way to a barbecue, you can bet you’ll pay a lot more for it at a gas station than you would at a supermarket, says David Bishop, director of convenience retailing for Willard Bishop Consulting. What about popular beverages? You’ll pay more for a 20-ounce soda at a gas station than you would for a two-liter bottle in a supermarket; water and energy drinks similarly tend to have high markups.
But there are bargains to be had: Some high-volume goods, such as cigarettes and beer, are often competitively priced at gas stations. And a cup of coffee goes for a fraction of what you’d pay at Starbucks.