Smoker Friendly’s been around for 33 years. C-store veteran Tim Greene’s been there for most of them.
In his 27-year career with Smoker Friendly, he’s worn a variety of hats, and for more than half of that time, he’s been guiding the tobacco category for the chain.
Boulder, Colo.-based The Cigarette Store, dba Smoker Friendly, owns and operates 180 locations in eight states and employs 850-plus people. As the chain’s category director of tobacco and general merchandise, Greene works closely with field personnel, manufacturers and wholesalers to provide every customer with the best possible shopping experience.
“My No. 1 responsibility is to support our managers and supervisors to ensure they have the products to meet our customers’ needs,” Greene said. “As a destination retailer, it’s imperative our people are educated on the products and (become) experts in
When he’s not meeting with industry partners, Greene spends time analyzing product performance in each market and puts forth strategies for the betterment of store profitability.
“I am always looking to learn new things, work more efficiently and understand the new markets we’ve acquired recently,” he said.
For all this and more, CStore Decisions is recognizing Greene as a 2022 Category Management Leader.
Soon after graduating from the University of La Verne with a Bachelor of Science in business management, Greene began his career with Smoker Friendly. Throughout the years, he’s filled numerous roles: area supervisor, training supervisor, area manager and — for the past 15 years — category director of tobacco and general merchandise.
“As the tobacco industry evolved and Smoker Friendly’s store count expanded, it became imperative to have a designated director focused on these new categories while remaining competitive with traditional tobacco,” he said.
Smoker Friendly has grown tremendously in the time Greene’s worked there, but especially in these past few years.
“Our biggest opportunity, and what we’re most excited about in 2022, is continued growth through acquisition,” Greene said. “We’ve grown 50% through acquisitions in Missouri, North Carolina and Louisiana in the past two years. With that comes the opportunity to work with new partners in the industry.”
Greene’s advice to young category managers? Learn everything you possibly can about your category.
“Whichever category you take on, most likely there is history — not only product and pricing history, but people and manufacturing history,” he said. “Learn the category history. This will help you understand where the category is today and the direction it’s going.”
Be sure to use data analytics to help make decisions. Strong analytical skills are key in order to evaluate the market, trends and environment of the category, and react accordingly to provide the best product offerings to the customer, he advised. A category manager must have the ability to recognize opportunity and successfully implement a pathway to bring that opportunity to the shelf.
“Understand you will make mistakes,” Greene said. “React quickly and learn from those mistakes. You will win more than you will lose.”
And finally, don’t hesitate to lean on the relationships you build.
“I lean on the partnerships and friendships I’ve developed in all facets of the industry,” he said. “Learning from their experiences has allowed me to be more effective as a category director.”