Peter Kempton, category manager for Westlake, Ohio’s TravelCenters of America (TA), is a re-tail veteran with 25 years of experience that serve him well as he navigates the center store categories for TA’s more than 250 locations nationwide.
Those center store categories include ice cream, packaged meat and cheese, frozen/ice, confection, bakery, cookies, salty snacks, meat snacks, protein, better-for-you products, grocery, pet, and health and beauty aids.
“The categories that I work with are a blast; candy and snacks bring smiles to our guests’ faces,” Kempton said. “From a business standpoint, my categories contain consumable products, so customers have an opportunity to engage with them every time they are at the store.”
Kempton has been in his current role for almost five years, where he is responsible for ensuring his team achieves sustainable center-store category growth in an ever-changing environment, while building relationships with vendor partners.
For all this and more, CStore Decisions is recognizing Kempton as a 2020 Category Management Leader.
In the Beginning …
Kempton started his management career at BP Oil, headquartered in London, where he worked for eight years based in Pittsburgh. He went on to work as a manager with Wayne, N.J.-based Babies ‘R’ Us, a position that gave him exposure to the “big box” environment and helped him grow his knowledge of the retail industry.
But before long, he’d found his way back to the convenience store industry.
“I had a tremendous opportunity to join TravelCenters of America as a store manager just over 10 years ago,” he said. As a store manager, he worked closely with TA’s category managers. In 2015, he joined TA’s category management team.
“All of those experiences in different channels and points of operation have really helped me bring a well-rounded perspective and viewpoint to the category manager position that I have today,” Kempton said.
Category management in a c-store environment is not without challenges.
“C-stores and travel (centers) specifically are battling multiple trends, not just within the evolving consumer, but also the changing environment in retail. A great example is the interactive world of online apps and home goods delivery. Retailers are battling against the loss of foot traffic due to technology,” Kempton said.
Today’s customers, he added, are also becoming more health conscious and paying closer attention to labels and ingredients.
“They may not just grab the snacks they used to grab before,” he said. “We have to be mindful of these changing behavioral trends, as they directly impact my purchasing strategy.”
Kempton is preparing for a strong 2020 and is ready to respond to new and evolving customer demands. To keep up with the competition, he’s watching trends he sees internally from TA’s customer base, as well as macro trends related to consumables in the broader consumer pack-aged goods (CPG) industry when it comes from both product offerings and merchandising engagement.
“I love learning, and I’m committed to continuing to learn, grow and find success in our business. I want to pursue and expand my understanding of where things are today and where they will be tomorrow,” Kempton said.
Kempton is also eager to continue to support and invest in his team and collaborate with vendor partners on efforts to reach a sustainable future with the products and packaging TA sells.