The c-store retail environment has been seemingly ever-changing over the past few years. A big question many convenience store owners may have is, what does the future of c-store retail really look like?
Improving Your C-Store and Striving for Success
“With gas prices down, many major gasoline retailers are finding new and improved ways to make the traditional refueling experience more efficient and enjoyable for consumers.”[i] In an industry with heavy competition, it is important to stay informed about what other store owners are doing differently. Consider making some of these changes to help your c-store thrive in the New Year.
The U.S convenience store industry has almost doubled over the last three decades[ii].With new technology and innovations every year, there is always pressure to improve your store. One of the best ways you can improve in 2017 is by updating your store’s current standards and educating your employees about these changes. Some changes could include balancing your store diet with a better selection of healthy foods, endorsing newer brands for a more diverse range of products, and updating to newer technology for signage and point of sale. All of these options will help boost your sales by drawing in a more diverse range of customers.
You should also be of any new regulations that may change your store. Regulation changes often affect things like wages, tobacco products, sugar, or even plastic bags. Make sure your employees are aware of changes, and that you properly motivate them to help keep your store up-to-date.
Creative Employee Retention Ideas
Great employees are one of the most important assets a c-store can have. You want to hire people who care about your customers, and can provide great service. Once you find an outstanding employee, you will want to make sure they stay with your c-store. It’s important to think outside the box for employee retention, since “as the labor pool gets tighter, convenience stores will need to do more than compensate to keep workers on board”[iii]. One chain that has a great track record for keeping their employees long-term is QuikTrip. They have created some great ways to compete with the high turnover rate within most c-stores. Employees can receive:
- Tuition reimbursement
- Paid sabbatical
- Holiday Bonus’s
- 401K matching
- Free health insurance after five years
These are just a few of the benefits that QuikTrip has to offer. Something as simple as allowing your employees free fountain drinks or coffee during their shift can really show your employees that you care.
Remodeling and Changing Your Building
Remodeling is an expense that usually reaps great rewards. Overall, 51% of customers said that they would probably visit their favorite c-store more often and be more likely to use it for foodservice purchases if it was remodeled into a larger format[iv]. Consumers are naturally drawn to anything new, and improving your store with new floors, shelving, or bathrooms can really make a difference in your customer’s experience. If this option is too expensive, you may consider relocating to a more convenient location. In a recent study, 88% of customers stated that they are more likely to visit a c-store because of its location[v]. If you are renting or leasing your current building, this may be a good possibility, once your current term ends.
Does Data Make a Difference?
One of the biggest changes you can make in the New Year to help improve your store is by paying attention to your store’s data. Trends show that “retailers and manufacturers will begin to get smarter about the vast pools of data at their fingertips, using it to forecast what will sell, when it will sell, to whom, and exactly how much”[vi]. The larger chains are already doing this, and it’s a valuable tool for single-store owners as well. In fact, data tracking may be a capability you already have in place, as many POS systems provide detailed data reporting. Talk to your merchant services provider to find out what your options are.
An example of using data to help your store would be monitoring how a new product is selling, to make sure it’s “earning its space”[vii]. After thirty days you should be able to see if an item is profitable, and if not, replace it with something new. Consumers value variety, so providing unique, new items targeted to your customer base is extremely appealing[viii]. Armed with the information about sales within your store, you will be able to make better-educated decisions products to carry, resulting in higher sales.
Learning from Other C-Stores
Amenities are starting to become a huge factor in the customer experience. As a small c-store, you may not think it is necessary to offer some of the options that large chains do, but implementing new amenities is crucial to helping your store grow and become successful. Customers were asked about different amenities that they found appealing[ix]:
- 53% of customers said that they would use reward programs that track purchases
- 52% said they would use self-service checkouts
- 50% would use touch-screen for ordering and payment
Along with these options, many other stores are coming up with new and creative ways to enhance the customer experience. 7-Eleven has introduced storage lockers, online ordering and product pickups for e-commerce purchases, key making, in-store bill-pay, and at-the-pump ordering. This is just the start, and they will most likely continue to employ innovative service platforms to get consumers out of their homes and into their stores[x]. As you work towards growing and improving your store, keep these options in mind and do not be afraid to try out your own ideas and innovative amenities.
To compete in the convenience and small grocery market, it’s important to learn from the success of others, and implement their strategies for your own business. Consider these methods to improve your store, retain your employees, analyze data, and implement innovative ideas. By investing in your business, you’ll keep customers coming to your store all year long.