Tips for Managing the General Merchandise Category

By Sarah Hamaker

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Walking into any convenience store, you will notice something different about each one. Some stores emphasize packaged drinks or the beer cellar, while others focus on dining or takeout, with offerings often localized to a specific region. This attention to detail is most evident in how retailers stock their general merchandise category.

“General merchandise includes everything from cellphone accessories to batteries to school office supplies,” said Jayme Gough, research manager, NACS. “In 2020, many retailers added COVID-19 related items, including masks and hand sanitizer, which drove category sales from April 2020. In 2021, sales remained elevated but fell below 2019 levels from May as COVID-19. concerns continued to fade and consumers bought fewer masks and hand sanitizer.

Hub convenience stores stocked personal protective equipment early in the pandemic. “But here in North Dakota, they just weren’t in high demand,” said Jared Scheeler, owner of the Dickinson, North Dakota-based five-unit chain and president of NACS. “Although we were prepared, we sold 10% of our supply of PPE items, so we have no intention of proactively preparing for another wave of COVID.”

Last year, the general merchandise category captured 1.93% of in-store sales, down from 2.06% in 2020, according to the NACS State of the Industry Report of 2021 Data. “This followed data showing sales falling below 2020 monthly numbers for all but four months of the year,” Gough said.

Find out how the category fared last year and how convenience stores are using this small but mighty category in “Nothing General About It” in the September issue of NACS Magazine.

Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and contributor to NACS magazine based in Fairfax, Virginia. Visit her online at sarahhamakerfiction.com.