Spotlights have been focused on grocery and mass merchandise retailers as they’ve worked to meet increased consumer demand as safely and rapidly as possible.

But as stay-at-home restrictions loosen, new opportunities will arise for convenience retailers, Nielsen says. The research and analytics firm contends leery consumers still want to make quick trips close to home.

“When we look at the importance of proximity to our homes and the desire among many to avoid large crowds, convenience stores have the ability to write their own future,” Nielsen says. “To do so, they need to embrace the opportunity to expand beyond categories traditionally expected from the channel.”

Nielsen pointed to the baking category, since it seems like everyone on Facebook and Instagram is making focaccia and banana bread. While c-stores aren’t known for carrying eggs, butter, yeast and other baking staples, they might want to start if they haven’t already. The same goes for meat and cleaning products.

In the 10 weeks ending May 2, egg sales in the convenience channel grew by 43.7 percent, while they grew 41.4 percent in all other retail channels. C-store butter sales grew 49.4 percent, while butter sales in all other channels grew 55.2 percent. Dish care sales at c-stores increased by 42 percent and by 54.3 percent in all other channels.

Nielsen also cited its recent 70-country consumer survey that found 71 percent of Americans expect the spread and intensity of the local impact of the virus to increase. More than half believe the impact of COVID-19 will last four to six months, while 28 percent of Americans believe it will last even longer.

Those results point to continued social distancing, and by extension, shopping at small stores close to home. And while everyone is eager to get back to whatever “normal” will look like in a world with COVID-19, this is good news for confectionery makers, since increased convenience shopping could lead to more impulse candy purchases. Who wouldn’t want to throw a candy bar or some gum in with their eggs, chips and dish soap?

In the meantime, Nielsen recommended that c-stores develop marketing programs that highlight community connections and inform consumers about expanded options for filling in their everyday needs.

“As consumers begin to evolve into their new normal, convenience stores can put themselves into the consideration set for these new need states,” Nielsen says.