Soft drinks and cigarettes are still key categories to convenience stores, but today’s sophisticated consumer expects a wide array of products when they enter the door. Staying up with trends is good business.
By Jim Callahan
Who among you remembers the great convenience store axiom, “If it ain’t red, it’s dead”? For those too young to know, or those who merely need reminding, that quaint six-word statement referred to the top three selling products that customers most often sought.
Why the reference to red? The vibrant color identified the still popular kings of their respective product lines: Coke, Marlboro and Budweiser.
While Coca-Cola, Marlboro, Camel and Bud remain among the industry’s top recognized brands, consumers don’t live by one color alone—not anymore, and that demands your attention.
Convenience store retailers today are quick to recognize product lines, no matter how little sense they make at first blush. Otherwise, would we have current best sellers like, Red Bull, Monster, 5-hour Energy and gluten-free breakfast bars?
Who among us knew for sure that vaping would become so popular or that selling cell phone accessories would be so profitable, or that you could sell enough milkshakes and smoothies to pay for $15,000 or more in equipment outlays?
And why would we jump on the bandwagon for so many new candy, gum and cookie innovations?
Just ask the Millennial-aged customers whose tastes change quickly and who expect their neighborhood convenience store to either keep up or get left behind in favor of a more forward-looking competitor. Are you prepared to lose this very loyal and profitable customer?
Frito-Lay has absolutely reinvented the chip category by cleverly turning to its customer base to come up with the most innovative and outrageous flavors imaginable. Are they practicing something we’re not?
MATTER OF TRUST
Trust your vendors and allow them to use their space as they see fit—they have invested millions to come up with great new products (and certainly a few busts) geared to new and ever changing population demographics and young and imaginative taste buds. Those “red” corporations are always innovating to bring the right products at the ideal time, all the while maintaining their “king of the hill” status. Add to that the new product lines and it takes you directly to the ton of new marketing dollars that become available for co-op advertising.
While deli is certainly not new, it is still growing and has become a very popular customer draw that, when done correctly, generates huge profit margins. The QuikTrips and Sheetz of the world have done a fantastic job of creating new dayparts for their stores and in the process, have become destinations where consumers are stopping for mid-morning, middle-of-the-afternoon and late night snacks and evening meals during traditionally slow times.
There’s always the opportunity to capture your share of the dramatic deli success without spending a ton of money, to include teaching your employees how to prepare pizza, make sandwiches and cook soups.
There are many companies, big and small that are offering great and tasty foodservice offerings and you can, too.
This is sage advice, sure, but there are plenty of new concepts and product innovations on the market that will entice both young and old.
Jim Callahan has more than 40 years of industry experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on CSDecisions.com. He can be reached at (678) 485-4773 or via e-mail at [email protected]