The advantages that independently owned convenience stores enjoy that allow them to sell more snacks are the same ones that enable them to outflank their larger rivals in general.
The greatest is added freedom and flexibility, the ability to make changes — new products, merchandising, promotions, etc. — on a dime without having to wait for approvals to wend their way through a corporate hierarchy. This is a level of responsiveness that chain executives often wish they had, but seldom do.
Indeed, the freedom to make snap decisions plays squarely into the ability to maximize impulse sales — and what product category do c-stores handle that is more responsive to impulse than snacks? These stores are also free to create bundled promotions that can include a wide variety of snack products.
Independents may also opt to operate in economically distressed areas where snack sales are traditionally high, but chains could be hesitant to enter.
Being an independent operator means a store is free to be more responsive to customers and less to distributors and headquarters-mandated planograms. In areas with strong populations of a specific culture, that can mean stocking traditional favorite snack items with ingredients and/or flavors that might well escape chain buyers’ attention. Private-label programs can also prove successful for non-chain locations.
Privately owned convenience stores frequently use superior customer service as a point of difference. This can help raise snack sales, as suggestive selling can help drive up the average ring. The amount and location of signage directing consumers to the snack aisle is also up to the entrepreneur’s discretion.
Owner/operators can also tell their own local (and, at times, quite personal) stories that customers will relate to. As businesses of all kinds continue to gain deeper appreciation for the value of relationship marketing, the independent c-store’s connection to its shoppers is a big plus — if they can deliver the message that we are one of you.
The emphasis on locality can also mean the freedom to stock artisanal snack items created by nearby confectioners, items that chains will seldom if ever include in their standard sets. In fact, exclusivity with a popular snack item or line can help turn a c-store into a destination location.
Snacks are the perfect items for locals to pick up on the way to a wide range of community events that stores can publicize — from Halloween parties and trick-or-treat night to high school sports, picnics, church socials, foot and bike races, swim meets, toy drives, carnivals, boy scout outings, summer camp, yard sales and charitable events. They could also be easily dropped off to local police and fire stations in appreciation of their service.