Our c-store industry continues to change and shift constantly, and today is going to be different than tomorrow. I see that many of the large c-store retailers have changed their store designs several times in the last year. There is nothing in life that doesn’t change. We just have to be ready to make the change, be excited about it and then commit to it!
You see, not too long ago in our c-store heritage, a convenience store stocked the “emergency” products. Grocery-wise, you could get the little packets of aspirin, cold remedies, allergy medicine and others. You usually had a fountain machine that had four flavors on it. A couple boxes of peanut butter crackers and peanuts. Maybe you had some ice and a few donuts. You didn’t have much invested in your inside inventory and you weren’t too worried about your inside sales. The biggest reason you weren’t concerned about your inside sales was because gas made a profit. Boy, have the times changed!
Today, c-stores keep getting bigger and bigger. You need as much space as you can get to be able to encourage your gas buyers outside to come in and spend money. This is the only profit center today in your business. So then, the questions that I hear almost every day are, “What are the best products to carry in my store?” and “What has the most draw to get people inside my store and buying products?”
I must ask a few questions first. Which customers are you going after? What time of the day is your store currently the busiest? Do you know your customer—male or female? Do you want to sell, make fresh in store, or order pre-made food?
You need to understand what your business currently is, then you need to set the direction you want it to go and execute it. If you want more women in your store, you will need to clean the store better, stock more female-related items and clear the front counter for them to put their purses on. You better have fresh fruit and yogurt. Think like a woman, and then ask female shoppers what they would like to see or buy. You have a lot of information coming into your store every day (customers!) and if you ask them what they want, you can start carrying what they need. Then, as store sales increase, you can increase your offering for your customers.
One of the biggest problems I see today is that c-store operators are trying to run their stores the same as they always have. Trouble is, business isn’t the same; people are not the same; traffic patterns are not always the same… Chances are, nothing is the same as when you started your business, and never will be again.
The future convenience store will have a drive thru, will be more food focused, and will offer a wide range of products that are fresher. Your future in retailing is changing… Are you ready for change??