Let’s face it: Building a new convenience location is exciting. Exhilarating, in fact. There’s no shortage of details to keep one busy in creating something from the ground up. It’s a task that makes for an enormous punch list.
But once the location is chosen, financing secured, a reputable contractor starts putting the finishing touches on the structure and the site is nearly ready – now what? Well, the answer is clear as day: Get that store open!
When everything goes right, it should take little more than two weeks to fully open a store after the various licenses are secured and a certificate of occupancy is granted. I remember when, with the help of great vendors, we opened an 8,800-square-foot, 14-acre truck stop in just seven days! To be on the safe side, though, allow for 10 days to two weeks to put everything in place for that first register ring.
Secure an Excellent Store Manager
If you’re really on top of things, you will have already developed a “farm system” whereby you are grooming and preparing current assistant managers for that position – or to step in for a manager you elevate to run the new build.
I would also advise keeping the candidate pool fresh with new hires. Place ads and utilize sources such as LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster and other online want ads. And don’t underestimate word of mouth.
Keep Punching That List
- Order all equipment, including gondolas, safes, ATMs, credit card machines, coffee service equipment, roller grills, warm/cold display fixtures, cups, lids, straws, etc., etc., etc.
- By now, any outside foodservice should be already lined up – sandwiches, pizza program, chicken program, bakery offerings and any other choices you feel will move quickly at that new location.
- Meet with key vendors and negotiate “space to sales” shelf placement and discuss separately miracle mile counter space for items like lighters, phone cords, 5hour Energy, candy racks, etc. Include the new manager in the vendor negotiation process and let her take an active part in discussions so that you can further evaluate her competence.
- Prepare an advertising campaign. Consider a “teaser” segment to allow you to advertise early on in the process. Utilize any available co-op advertising pre-existing programs and look to create new co-op advertising opportunities with major vendors. These would include: Coke, Pepsi, Red Bull, Monster, candy, your grocery vendor, lottery and others that will benefit from your new store and the additional business it will bring.
- Note: I recommend a soft opening as opposed to a grand opening. It’s wise to give any existing or nearby natural new customers a chance to easily and comfortably explore the new location without being run over by frantic customers coming in for grand opening specials or large prizes. Those bargain hunters may never be seen again.
- Perhaps the best and most common-sense reason for having a soft opening is so that your new manager and staff can get comfortable with the new store and familiarize themselves with the new equipment. Even the finest employees need a short period to work out the kinks, best done during a time that they’re not overrun by large crowds. That’ll make the grand opening that much more successful!
- Make sure you have what we used to call a “Want Book” so staff can note any items that customers request as well as any repair problems that they may run across. Managers should view the “Want Book” daily and act accordingly.
There are, of course, many other small yet important details to consider. Those listed here are among the most critical. Good Luck with your exciting new venture. As with every other c-store adventure, make notes to help you with your next successful new build!
Jim Callahan has more than 40 years of experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on CStoreDecisions.com. He can be reached at (678) 485-4773 or via e-mail at [email protected].