Louisiana-based EBT merchants have now been authorized to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for hot or prepared foods in the wake of Hurricane Ida. The waiver issued by the USDA for “hot food products prepared for immediate consumption” will apply to Louisiana retailers that currently accept EBT cards.
Bring Customers Into Your Store & Out of the Cold
Along with the cold weather comes the need for new seasonal products. Whether it’s a holiday snack trend or a beverage to keep them warm, customers are wanting new and different products to satisfy their winter cravings.
When buying in bulk, higher quality coffee can be very inexpensive, and an easy way to draw in customers for the winter months[i]. Using fair trade coffee is also a factor that you may want to consider. This supports the environment and local communities, which is attractive to many coffee consumers who will choose this option as a cheaper alternative to places like Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts.
Investing in high quality containers can also impact coffee sales. Cups that are flimsy or poorly insulated can ruin the customer’s experience driving them to get their coffee needs elsewhere. With quality coffee and containers, you are sure to win over even the pickiest coffee consumers.
Customize Your Coffee
Flavoring and sweetening are essential to having great coffee in your c-store. Year-round you should have a variety of flavors, but during the colder months make sure you have special options such as peppermint, pumpkin spice, or eggnog. These are just a few of the holiday flavors available to accommodate cold customers who may not be regular coffee drinkers, but occasionally crave a warm beverage. Consider investing in a creamer machine or sweetener dispenser to make the flavoring experience that much easier for you and the customer [ii]. This can bring barista level coffee to your store, giving you an edge over the competition.
Hot and Cold
Beverage sales often drop with the temperature. In 2013, the U.S. saw some its coldest weather in years, which affected how well cold and frozen dispensed drinks sold[iii]. One way you can balance this is by offering hot or already prepared foods such as donuts, biscuits, burritos, churros, pizza, or sandwiches. To compete with fast food options around you, try having BOGO deals, or a sale after the morning rush for late risers. This should off-set any low sales in cold beverages during the chilly winter months.
When seasons change so do customer’s taste buds. The director of food service for Corner Store commented, “Nothing says ‘holidays’ like crunchy, sweet peppermint, and we wanted to showcase flavors in our winter menu that would help our customers get in the spirit of the season”[iv]. Having fun holiday options will appeal to shoppers who like to change up their snack picks on colder days. To accommodate them, here are a few options to showcase the type of additions available[v]:
- Nabisco Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy Cookies
- Creative Snacks Co. Apple Cider Yogurt Pretzels
- Campbell’s Fresh Brewed Soup K-Cup Pods and Noodle Packets
- Mediterra Savory Bar: Kale & Pumpkin Seeds
- Healthy Choice Café Steamers: Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry
Iced Coffee in the Cold?
In 2012 it was reported that 84% of coffee drinkers said they would be drinking more iced coffee in the winter than in previous years[vi]. Since then iced coffee has become a trend that is always in season. Although it takes less coffee than regular hot coffee, the price is just as high at many other retailers. Because of this many customers are searching for a cheaper alternative. With just a few ingredients, iced coffee may be the product you need to boost your sales not only in the winter, but all year long.
Promoting Cold Products in Cold Seasons
A great way to prepare and have success in the winter months is by having innovative promotions. “When it comes to promotions, it’s all about price and trying to drive demand through price discounts. Discounts on beverages range from 20% to 40%, and are offered throughout the day”[vii]. Take products such as frozen drinks or soda and promote them in the winter. This may seem counter-productive, but this will help prevent sales from dropping on these products. Warm beverages sell themselves in cold weather, so promoting cold beverages will actually help your c-store thrive.
With continuously changing weather, it’s a wise decision to keep your c-store stocked with seasonal trends and promote your items wisely. This will guarantee a profitable season. Have some fun, and get your store in the holiday spirit, and customers will have a great experience ensuring they come in on cold winter days.