Judging by its name, we can forgive those who’d believe that the “cold vault” is a dark, dank room in a convenience store cellar where the safe is hidden away. Not only is the cold vault not hidden, but it is a rather bright and busy space in a c-store where cold beverages are featured behind glass doors in full refrigerated view for customers.
To satisfy thirsty consumers, a store must carry a bevy of beverage options. Today’s cold vault has grown. It used to be that carbonated soft drinks, a couple of juices and beer made up the bulk of the cold vault. But in this new and much improved world of what I call the “Age of Icy Cold Vaults,” stores have been forced to make room for the likes of teas, coffees, energy drinks and the once-unthinkable bottled waters. (Q: Who would pay for water in a bottle when you can get it for free from the tap? A: Thank you, dinosaur mindset – and goodbye.)
We have Miller brewing to thank for Lite Beer, which spurred today’s seemingly limitless selections of light beer. Later came single-flavored Gatorade, initially for the athletic crowd, which led the way for energy drinks of countless brands and creative flavors. Red Bull and other power drinks to fuel the Type A types. A growing lineup of seltzer drinks. Cold coffees. Functional teas. Don’t look now, but here comes CBD for the thirsty, too.
That little six- or eight-door cooler of old is now woefully inadequate. Gone are Pepsi’s and Coke’s standard two-door “front loaders.” Now, a convenience store had better have a brightly lit 16-, 18- or 20-door cold vault stocked from the rear.
For some stores, beverage offerings are so voluminous they’ve pushed alcohol and friends into their own space, for some stores it’s a refrigerated browsing room repurposed from backroom inventory storage and christened “The Beer Cave.”
So, how do you – the store operator – organize the cold vault to give customers a clear path to their beverages of choice? First, promote at the source: Make use of message boards, dispenser message scrollers, cooler door signage for product specials (no more than two messages on each door and changed often). Vendors have dozens of ways to help you with this.
Second, promotions: Small electronic message pins affixed to team member uniform shirts, suggestive selling contests with mystery shoppers and prize awards. Involve your vendors by using their promo materials like T-shirts and hats and other tchotchkes. Employ small door racks to increase incremental sales – candy near sweet drinks, lemons and limes near teas or waters, etc.
Thanks to aggressive manufacturer marketing and customer loyalty, much of the product in the cold vault sells itself – but retailers would be wise to show it off. Plus, it has the power to boost sales of sweet or salty impulse items that bring customers smiles and elevate basket ring.