By David Bennett, Senior Editor
When Ryan Fasel came to Family Express Inc.nine years ago, his role as a category manager was challenging and complex. However, as the convenience store landscape has
evolved, marked by more sophisticated consumers, headi er vendor relationships and more aggressive competitors—both c-stores and in other channels—the job gets a little more challenging and complex every year.
Today, as the director of store merchandising/category manager for Family Express, a Valparaiso, Ind.-based chain of more than 70 stores, Fasel oversees several categories
including tobacco and dispensed beverages. His multiple responsibilities and broad knowledge base have shaped his understanding that future retail will demand
more from category managers. It’s a future that he can’t wait to tackle head on.
Because of his imperative role at Family Express and the positive impact he makes on the company’s customers every day, CSD this year is recognizing Fasel as one of the industry’s category management leaders.
So what’s the biggest challenge in 2018?
“I think keeping up with changing consumer demands is the biggest challenge. Consumer preferences are constantly changing across all categories,” said Fasel. “Our customers are becoming more adventurous, looking for new items, and have specific preferences for items such as better for you, responsibly sourced, environmentally friendly, or just really unique flavors.”
Meeting customer expectations is a big part of his role. It’s a responsiblity that he takes seriously.
“At Family Express we measure success by meeting our customers’ needs,” said Fasel, a native of the Hoosier State. “I am successful when our customers are happy.”
Measuring success and all its components comes in many shapes and forms. At Family Express, Fasel weighs many analytical tools to ensure the company is staying on
top of the trends.
“Using quality data is imperative. Every year is less and less reactionary or focusing on the immediate,” said Fasel. “It’s becoming increasingly important to prepare for several
months, or even years, into the future. New innovation across all categories is coming in at faster rates than ever.
It’s important to allow flexibility to be among the first to market to capitalize on new innovation and trends.”
The changing role of the modern c-store has also been formed through technological advances. Again, staying in front of the curve is the enviable place to be, as Fasel
“We have diverse networks to pull information from,”Fasel said. “That includes building a network of supplier sand manufacturers that see you as innovative and have you at the top of their lists when it comes to presenting new innovation and sharing industry data, staying on top of information in industry publications, and having a network of counterparts from chains in all areas of the country.”
PART OF THE FAMILY
Before arriving at Family Express, the product of Purdue University spent five years working in the service and insurance industry. However, his career took a good turn
when he joined the family-owned and operated company.
In an age of increasing industry consolidation, Fasel feels being family-owned and operated is Family Express’ biggest strength.
“There’s no red tape when it comes to making important decisions,” said Fasel. “Decision makers, including our CEO (founder Gus Olympidis), can be brought together to make decisions quickly, many times in a matter of minutes. That, combined with our distribution center and daily delivery model, allows us to react to changing trends and implement new items and programs, such as our Cravin’s To Order proprietary foodservice, to improve the business quicker than anyone in the industry.”