Summer travelers stock up on ice, drinks, and dreams

Young women with American flag driving a yellow convertibleAs the national economy continues to rebound from the COVID-19 crisis, Americans are hitting the road in droves: more than 47 million will travel this July 4 weekend, according to AAA. After more than a year of cancelling plans because of the virus, consumers are ready to celebrate this summer, meaning anticipated travel this coming weekend is up 40% year over year – the second-highest rate of Independence Day travel on record.

And while some are jumping back on planes, the vast majority are jumping behind the wheel instead. Americans – 91% – are loading up the proverbial station wagon, blasting the radio, and getting out of dodge the old-fashioned way. That’s the most car travel AAA has ever recorded for the July 4 holiday.

Now, it wouldn’t be a road trip without a stop for gas, so convenience stores should prep for heavy traffic, both at the pump and in the store, which raises the question: what are these travelers buying?

Surprisingly, it’s not the car snacks or coffee you might expect. According to Paytronix data, holiday travelers who stop at a c-store to fuel up are more likely to buy ice, drinks, and dreams: that is, literal ice, beer, and lottery tickets.

A bar graph showing that sales of ice, lottery tickets, and alcohol increase among fuel consumers during holiday periods, while sales of snacks, prepared foods, and grocery items fall.

Compared to the average weekday or weekend shopper, holiday travelers boost ice sales by a whopping 25%. Next are lottery tickets at 8% and alcohol at 6%.

Conversely, demand for food service falls dramatically as travelers head out of town, dropping about 29%, as do grocery items by about 21%. Even snacks fall out of favor, with sales about 12% below average.


To sum it up: Americans are ready to party this summer, and might feel they’re owed some luck after a brutal 2020. C-stores can expect a rebound of the quintessential summer road trip this year, and would do well to stock up on the ice – stat.

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