Today the retail industry has become widely fragmented with consumers having a wide choice of formats to choose to select their requirement of convenience items. The role of primary shopper too does not exist anymore as every family member today has to make their choices with regard to convenience items they use. Now earning profits for c-stores will not happen by stuffing the place with every saleable product and expecting buyers to fall over themselves to clean out the shelves. An efficient sales and marketing strategy is required to make a small stand along c-store or chain of stores to run profitably for years by with loyal customer base. Emerging trends in retailing like digital revolution and preference for small retail formats by single and small households is making it tough for c-stores to adapt themselves to rapid changes around them.
Improving efficiency with design
A well lit store with neatly laid out shelves wherein products can be easily located and dust free stands, speak volumes about the efficiency of the store management. A well designed lighting system with energy efficient LED lighting can help in reducing energy bills while neat surroundings like clean restrooms and well-lit parking area can help retain customers to try out the merchandise. By using technology and customer feedback you can improve the store layout further and improve convenience. Some stores keep changing the layout of their stores every few months to change the color scheme or bring in new merchandise and make repairs wherever necessary which helps retain novelty among regular customers. Since most of the shopping at stores is led by impulse owners should place their merchandise cleverly to catch the attention of different demographic groups.
New service categories to expand c-store profits
E-cigarettes and vaping devices – In recent years the reduction in sales of cigarettes and fuel which were largest profit grossers of c-stores, has forced them to look at other options to increase their profits. Emerging demand for electronic cigarettes and vaping products has helped c-store to increase their profits as their margins are high and in 2014 they sold nearly $644 million worth of these products. The sale of vaporizers has been exceeding that of e-cigarettes and in 2014 it grew by $500 million. Demand for these smoking products has increased as they can be used even in no-smoking areas and customers are yet to get acquainted with different flavors.
Cold beverages a growing trend – The demand for customized iced beverages has been growing exponentially since the first “flavored iced drink” came into existence. With 85 percent of customers walking into c-stores demanding iced drinks during summer, c-stores are cashing in on the boom by installing latest beverage dispensers which provide a multitude of choices from ice types to flavor shots so customers can customize their choices. . The growing demand for cold beverages and introduction of new brands on a regular basis makes this the fastest earning product group for c-stores as these are sold through dispensing machines and fountains.
Cold beverages are available in varied categories as iced drinks, protein water, fresh fruit juices, fruit beers, energy drinks, iced tea and carbonated drinks. Nearly 80 percent of convenience stores sell beer of different categories which are among largest sold beverage products. Both hot and cold coffee concoctions are preferred by youngsters and working professionals who prefer something refreshing with their morning breakfast on the go and for them c store are the preferred destination rather than a local coffee outlet.
Health and Wellness Products – Though this seems a category more suited to specialty food stores, even c-stores are increasingly stocking wellness products on demand from their loyal customers. Besides selling the regular stock of salted snacks, cookies, bakery products and colored sweets, convenience stores are working with grocery distributors to provide health choices to clients. To keep themselves in the market, c-stores have to try and work out a solution to meet a wide variety of customer choices in terms of both healthy and not-very healthy diets. Products which have tags like natural, unprocessed, organic, and fat free, cholesterol free like pure cbd vapors have a wide appeal among buyers and c-stores must try to get such products from grocery distributors. Consumers today are more health conscious and are gravitating towards nutritious food options as they know what unhealthy eating habits can do their lifestyles. Research has also shown that patrons of c-stores are avoiding creamy ice-creams with high calorie content and opting for healthy yogurt and fruit juices.
Food service distributors –In their quest for fresh food options customers are increasingly trying out food service counters available at convenience stores which offer several ready made choices like burgers, sandwiches, pizzas and other baked products that they can carry home or eat at the store’s restaurant section. While some stores have got their own deli and kitchen division that helps them increase profits and retain quality of their offerings, some large stores work out profit sharing with fast food restaurant chains and wholesale food suppliers to provide a familiar outlet to customers. This arrangement is equally profitable as it can bring in customers via the restaurant which may have a better brand recall. While high income families visit fine dine restaurants for the unique experience, middle class families prefer comfort and value for money meals in public setting within family restaurants which have better focus on quality. These restaurants regularly change their menus to keep t their offerings fresh and interesting which can bring in more customers. Casual dining atmosphere with upbeat and lively ambiance appeals to both younger customers and families.
Though convenience stores had a rough time during the recent financial crisis it has managed to outshine other retail groups like electronics, clothing and furniture. Its ability to provide quick service to busy customers has helped it survive the tide with little help from new growth segments like food service, snacks and beverages and vaping products. Industry experts believe that some more consolidation has to happen in this segment as small family owned business may get taken over by corporate groups. To keep their product mix attractive convenience store owners have to collaborate with wholesale distributors and manufacturers on a regular basis to integrate their strengths.