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Embrace the Seasons

Many c-store staples are seasonal, including beverages, fuel, automotive items and alcohol. Interestingly, for each of these products, there’s a complementary item that surges in sales while the other ebbs. Take the example of fuel sales (up in summer, down in winter) and auto products (down in summer, up in winter): What complementary promotions or merchandising can be used to take advantage of this relationship?

“If you wanted to make up for your lower fuel sales in the winter, a nice way to do that is advertising at the pump to pick up windshield-washer fluid, oil, transmission fluid, etc.,” says Burke.

Read on to see what’s up and down throughout the seasons, and how to leverage the strong categories to boost the weak ones.


Summer Winter
Cold-dispensed beverages peak in summer, especially July and August. Hot-dispensed beverages peak, with highs in October and November.
Packaged beverages also peak in July and August, trending above total-store averages. Cold-dispensed beverages decrease throughout the season and bottom out January through March.
Hot-dispensed beverages bottom out during the summer, especially in June and July. Packaged beverages are lowest December through March before climbing back up.

Cross-Seasonal Complements: Boost wintertime packaged-beverage sales by cross-merchandising or bundling with hot-dispensed drinks. Pair a cup of coffee with a bottle of water or juice to fight winter germs—always making sure to mind your margins. In the summer, consider a “Christmas in July” promo and bring back your best-selling seasonal coffee.

Auto Needs

Summer Winter
Fuel sales peak June through August, with strong sales in May and September as well. Automotive products peak, with highs in December, January and February.
Automotive products bottom out in the summer (despite a small spike in July), with lower numbers in spring and fall as well. Fuel sales bottom out in the winter months, specifically December through April.

Cross-Seasonal Complements: Advertise windshield-washer fluid, oil, tire gauges and other automotive products at the gas pumps. Make sure the ads are seasonal—such as wiper fluid to clear off bugs during the busy summer season, or winter-related gear to ride the auto-product selling wave during cold snaps.

Alcohol Beverages

Summer Winter
Beer sales peak in summer months, particularly in July. Think cookouts, picnics and outdoor parties. Wine peaks in chilly, holiday-filled December, with higher sales in November as well.
Liquor zigzags slightly throughout the year but has its highest sales in July. Beer bottoms out during the winter season, beginning its decline in October and carrying through March.
Wine sales are lower during the summer, with declines beginning in spring. Liquor sales decrease in late fall through winter, with its lowest period in March.

Cross-Seasonal Complements: The No. 3 item found in market baskets containing beer is wine; the No. 2 item in baskets containing wine is domestic beer; and the No. 2 item in market baskets containing liquor is domestic beer. So the behavior to purchase from multiple alcohol categories is already there—the challenge is to increase the frequency by cross-merchandising according to seasonal strengths.

Kudos & Credits

We would be remiss if we didn't once again give proper credit and adulations to Management Science Associates (MSA) and its senior vice president Don Burke. For more information on MSA and its capabilities, visit