Summer means hot weather and thirsty customers looking to cool down and enjoy the season. It’s prime time to move non-alcoholic beverages while those seasonal customers are in the c-store. These are our top tips for boosting summer beverage sales.
1. Stock Variety
Today’s customers want options. To position your store as a destination for non-alcoholic beverages, ensuring a strong variety of beverages is key.
“The biggest thing we’ve been doing in the stores is basically expanding our variety,” said Brent Mouton, president of Louisiana-based Hit-n-Run’s seven store chain. “Whether that’s extending the walk-in cooler or bringing in additional coolers, just to get a better variety of product out there, that’s worked well for us.”
2. Use Discounts & Promotions
Discounts have always been a proven way to accelerate sales, whether introducing your own discounts or partnering with beverage makers on promotions. Afterall, vendors want to move product as much as you do.
“They’re doing two-fers mostly,” Mouton said of the beverage vendors he works with. “And then a mix of hot prices, where (the vendors) lower the cost a little, and we lower the retail. Each of us makes a little less, but it’s a reward for the customer.”
Joseph Bickham, president of Fuel City, with seven stores in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex, is taking a similar approach at his locations.
“The most effective, and the things that we’ve done most consistently, are running promotions for energy drinks and other beverages, doing two-fer and three-fer deals,” Bickham said.
Fuel City will cross-promote beverages with food and other items to give the consumer a nudge toward increasing their basket ring.
3. Encourage Sampling
Sampling products is another way to entice customers to buy. When a vendor is looking to promote a new product, Mouton asks for a couple of extra cases to use for samples so customers can try the product and hopefully like it enough to buy it.
“That also seems to work because a lot of times some people are just set in their ways,” Mouton explained. “They’re not going to try anything new. They know what they like. It gives that customer an opportunity, if you will, without having to pay anything, to try new things.”
Hit-n-Run will maximize the opportunity by combining the free product with customer appreciation days and even arrange to have a vendor representative set up a tasting table and give product away.
4. Make Signage Strategic
Signage is an essential tool in marketing to customers. Don’t hesitate to ask beverage reps to provide promotional signs and displays. Vendors are usually eager to provide materials to help move product.
“At least, the vendors that we deal with here locally, any support that we need, whether its indoor signage, outdoor signage, whatever, they don’t tell us no,” Mouton said.
5. Value Your Space
The most important space in the store for summer sales is the cooler. But with so many varieties of beverages and new products continually hitting the market, the challenge is finding the right mix.
“Typically, when you bring in something new, something’s got to go,” Mouton said. “You can’t just keep ploughing new stuff into the cooler.”
Many new products are made by the same companies who supply the tried-and-true movers. When something that isn’t moving is taking space from those solid sellers, the vendor is losing sales, too. Re-evaluating the product mix regularly is crucial.
Fuel City has had to get creative in finding storage for backstock, especially in light of supply disruptions, Bickham said. One solution has been to rent a trailer for use as a temporary stock room. Fuel City put it at a central location and used it to supply stores running out of fast-moving product.
“Right now, during this summer and with everything going on,” Bickham said, “I think that’s one of the biggest challenges — making sure that we keep product on the shelf.”