Weak spots in your operation can degrade the whole structure of a c-store.
By Jim Callahan, Contributing Editor
No matter how elegant or special your store is, whether you are a big retailer or a small-town community c-store, success often lies in paying heed to your weaknesses and capitalizing on your strengths.
Weak spots in an operation aren’t often visible. Rather, they hide in the shadows, or just below the surface, ready to appear at the least opportune moment. Weak spots of a retail operation are like rust in the chassis of your automobile. It creeps on the floor boards, spreads to the quarter panels and can eventually affect the motor that drives everything forward.
Curbing operational weaknesses is easier said than done. It takes good and steady assessments, monitoring each department, evaluating staff, garnering customer feedback, communicating to suppliers. It all involves shining a harsh spotlight on all operational areas in the quest of doing better.
Do you know what your weakest link is? Are you aware how long it’s been your weakest link? Have you any inkling as to how many dollars it’s costing you each year and equally as important: what impact is it having on your retail reputation?
Understand that unless you address weak points in your operation, whether it’s subpar customer service, poor store maintenance, a weak inventory management program or some other aspect of the business.
Let us place an indelible mark in our minds so that we do not stay complacent and guilty of accepting “pretty good” in a world that more and more demands excellence, pretty good no longer does the job or fills the bill.
The top quartile of convenience stores are routinely closing down and boarding up inefficient operations—perhaps even better than “pretty good” locations—whose numbers are still probably better than the average c-store.
What’s more, they are building brand new, state-of-the-art stores, perhaps close to the old location in an effort to realize better opportunities to serve more customers and gain significantly higher sales volumes and better long-term growth opportunities. It’s part of a smart operator to shed his weak spots.
Along the same lines, it’s counter-productive to plan for the optimal number of customer parking spaces for that modern c-store location if you suffer from serious issues such as staffing problems. Whether it’s improper training or poor employee attitude, both will hold you back from achieving your place in the sun. I dare say, store staffing and attitude problems are more important and absolutely unforgiveable weak spots than say, designing and building prime parking spaces.
Consider a no-nonsense, well-enforced policy that covers employer expectations and employee responsibilities. As the Seattle Fish Market training program teaches us: you get to choose your attitude every day. Eliminate weak links.
Regarding other areas, you can take it to the bank that cleanliness throughout the store, especially around the foodservice area and restrooms, is also critical to the long-term health of any c-store operation. It’s simple math, but eliminating trouble spots in these areas will add dividends in terms of more sales.
I saw a first the other day. A customer was walking out of a QuikTrip with three large pizzas. Did you ever imagine that a c-store would achieve multiple sales of a big ticket item like large pizzas? Consumers who frequent convenience retailers such as QuikTrip know they can depend on several positive points, whether it’s clean restrooms or fresh food items.
A few years ago, I listened as a frustrated tobacco district manager for a major brand, lamented that his district only averaged 6.1 days of inventory for their most popular facing of cigarettes, meaning they would be out of that brand for almost one full day per week. Now that is a weak (week) link that shouldn’t ever be tolerated.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. It’s critical to your business to be able to identify your weak spots, in every category and get to work on them. It will pay your company off in the long run and result in greater customer satisfaction.
Because in the end, isn’t that what we all are striving for?