Drawing Duchess Shoppe customers in Ohio, CSD recently rolled out a products competition that evaluated the latest in snacks, sweets and drink offerings.
By David Bennett, Senior Editor
Shielded from the mid-Ohio sun by a spacious tent erected in the parking lot, the curious and the eager, the young and the old weighed what goodies lay in the numerous boxes and cases piled in stacks.
Once the Consumer’s Choice Contest officially began, patrons grabbed an evaluation form and headed to the tables that held the delectable samples within some areas—healthy and nutritious offerings in others.
The recent event, sponsored by Convenience Store Decisions, featured a number of unique foods and flavors, snacks and beverages provided by suppliers from around the country. Arranged in different categories, the array of products was evaluated on quality, consistency and overall consumer appeal.
Englefield Oil Co., the operator of 122 Duchess Shoppe stores in Ohio and West Virginia, hosted the event at one of its busiest stores, located in Heath, Ohio.
UNDER ONE ROOF
Customers who stopped at the store to gas up or grab some merchandise soon gravitated to the big, white tent, where they were introduced to groupings ranging from microwaveable entrees, candy, gum, salty snacks, salsas and condiments.
There were more than 100 SKUs on display, provided by more than 50 familiar retail suppliers. Passing patrons were asked to judge how impressed they were by the various category products.
Provided pens, clipboards and enough time to sink their teeth into the project, Duchess customers rated the samplings on the following criteria: taste, quality, product innovation and the likelihood they would buy that product in future store visits.
Duchess touts its commitment to remaining a leader in foodservice, fresh coffee, fast and friendly service and customer loyalty. The c-store proved an apt backdrop to gather customer feedback about the various products.
“It’s nice to hear comments from our customers on some of the cool, new products that could potentially show up at Duchess,” said Ashley Englefield DeWitt, Englefield’s director of marketing and a board member for the National Advisory Group’s (NAG) Young Executive Organization (YEO). “Being able to hear from our customers firsthand is priceless. This event was perfect to get feedback from them.”
Also, having access to as much product information as possible makes the c-store even that much more of a savvy buyer.
“We will definitely take a look at how certain products were judged during this contest when we make our future merchandising and purchasing decisions at Duchess,” DeWitt said.
Once all the votes are tallied, category winners will be recognized at a later date. Besides manufacturers learning how their offerings rate with the public, the venture was also meant to engage the convenience store industry.
“We try and understand our suppliers’ business and in turn spend time with the retailer community. This contest allowed us to achieve both of those objectives,” said Tony Bolla, vice president of sales for CSD. “The response from our vendors and the feedback from consumers exceeded our expectations.”
While vendors will soon learn if they topped the competition, earning a better understanding of current consumer tastes is equally important for those involved.
“New products are the lifeblood of this segment and we are committed to being a conduit of information, from any angle and constituent,” Bolla said.