Retailers learn the benefits of fresher food options, as well as cutting costs.
By David Bennett, Senior Editor
Fresh is easier said than done, especially in the convenience store business. But for operators looking to introduce fresh food options in their stores, there’s practical ways to go forward, according to a panel that shed some light on the topic at NACS 2015
In a session labeled “The Business Case of Fresh,” a panel of food experts on Oct. 12 told attendees that fresh food strategies are worthwhile if c-stores are committed to the cause. Kelly Jacob, vice president of retail and emerging channels for PRO*ACT LLC, said in the wake of food deserts—urban and rural communities that lack accessible grocery stores—convenience stores are well positioned to fill the gap in terms of fresh food options.
However, operators must look at such things as store location, store conditions, marketing campaigns, marketing and local vendor programs to roll out an effectively fresh program. However, failing to deliver on promised goods and services will undermine all concerted efforts in terms of an effective program.
“They’re only going to buy it once,” Jacob said. “If they have a bad experience, they’re not going to come back.”
Sharon Kunci, vice president of merchandising and foodservice for national wholesale distributor Eby-Brown, said retailers can establish themselves as a destination for fresh offerings, mostly by avoiding missteps, which distributors such as Eby-Brown can help with.
“We want our retailers to be successful and it begins with education,” Kunci said.
Part of that education includes:
- gauging a retailer’s commitment to fresh offerings;
- establishing ideal display locations, including floor racks; and
- storage and handling.
Joseph Hamza, chief operating officer for Nouria Energy Corp., recounted his tenure as vice president of sales and marketing with Tedeschi Food Shops and how the convenience store chain developed its strategies for fresh offerings, including dynamic social media planning.
Hamza told attendees that though mistakes will be made; staying committed to a fresh program through such efforts as partnering with a reliable distributing partner can eventually produce positive results. Just displaying fresh produce makes a remarkable difference.
“Fresh produce complements the look of your store as well as your other fresh food options,” Hamza said.
If produce can be refreshing, high operating costs leave many c-stores stale.
NACS 2015 also featured a panel that explained the thorough evaluation of everyday tasks at the store level can lead to increased efficiency and cost savings.
Jed Brewer, vice president of research firm Study Groups, said smaller c-stores often incur higher operation costs because they lack the same capabilities of larger chains to negotiate supply contracts and other operational agreements that result in higher operating costs for smaller retailers with 10 locations or less.
However more retailers are implementing changes that are helping their bottom lines.
Harvey Hicks, chief financial officer of Spartanburg, S.C.-based Jordan Oil Companies of the Carolinas, explained to attendees that the c-store Of 43 Hot Spot c-store locations, Jordan has converted 13 stores to a LED lighting scheme at an approximate cost of $30,000 per store.
“We thought the canopies would have the biggest impact, but it was the inside of the stores that had the biggest impact,” Hicks said.
Stan Niemeir, retail operations manager of Wallis Companies Inc., recounted how the 34 c-store chain based in Missouri, recently was able to save more than $263,000 per year in shaving administration costs by reducing operational errors and redundancies. Some of the changes that Wallis implemented included:
- creating a corrective action report to track errors at store level;
- changing the daily import of invoices to 3:30 in the morning so not to not to interfere with store operations; and
- enabled coupons to be processed electronically, saving 152 hours per year.