As a convenience store owner, it’s important to know who your primary customer is and how to best serve them. If your c-store, like so many others, is in an area where most of the consumers are low-income, serving your primary customer has some unique challenges. Serving a low-income demographic doesn’t have to mean your business won’t be successful. In fact, with the right strategy, you can make your c-store a hub in your community and maximize your profits.
Understand the Need
The first step to building and maintaining a successful c-store business in a low-income area is to truly understand the financial situation of your customers. You can access income level data online at website like IncomeByZipcode.com, where all you have to do is search for your store’s zip code. Outside of census data, you should also spend some time exploring the surrounding environment and becoming familiar with the community. By learning more about how your customers live, you can more easily decide what resources they need and want access to.
Address the Struggles
Owning and operating a business in a low-income area means that your primary customers likely struggle with everyday situations that others may take for granted. Those in low income areas may have trouble paying bills, getting groceries, and even transportation. Instead of assuming these customers will be a burden to your business, consider their situations an opportunity for you to provide the best service.
Fill in the Gaps
Many c-store owners are accomplishing success by providing the things they’re customers have trouble gaining access to.
Bill Pay – Allows customers to walk into a c-store and pay their bills with cash or check. This service means low-income customers, who are often unbanked, can avoid missed payments or shut offs.
Prepaid Cards – Low-income and unbanked customers often utilize these cards to avoid carrying cash and so that they can take advantage of online shopping and other activities that require a credit or debit card.
Cell Phones & Accessories – Having reliable means of communication is important for all people, no matter their income level. Selling prepaid cell phones, phone cards, top-up service, and accessories like chargers and cases is a great way to make your c-store a valuable resource in a low-income community where cellphone providers are scarce.
Fresh, Healthy Food – Many low-income consumers are living in areas that are considered “food deserts”. In these areas, where there are few to no grocery stores, having nearby access to nutritious food options is important. While carrying fruits, veggies, and other traditional grocery items may be difficult, it could mean bringing in a lot of added revenue.
Hot & Prepared Food & Beverages - If your consumers struggle with having reliable transportation, their food options can be very limited. If your c-store offers tasty foodservice options, your consumers will come in for more meals and snacks throughout the day.
Obviously if your consumers are low-income, they may not have a lot of extra cash to spend. Make sure that your pricing makes sense for both your business and your consumers. Also, when adding new products or additional services, you should be mindful of what your consumers actually need and want, not just what works at other c-stores.
Personality Goes a Long Way
Consumers are very appreciative of local business owners and staff that are pleasant to interact with. Avoid coming off as untrusting of your customers, and be sure to engage them whenever you can. You may even want to consider hosting community events at your store to show your appreciation. By showing consumers that you value their business, you can better guarantee that they will remain loyal customers and continue to spend money at your c-store when they can.