Norek spent a great deal of his career with 7-Eleven, working as a supervisor, gas supervisor,buyer and franchise marketing director. After a brief stint on the distribution side of the business with CoreMark, Norek returned to the retail side, signing on with CIC 7Eleven. He was responsible for 119 stores across 11 states. Healso worked with 15 franchisees and negotiated the corporateprograms to get their involvement.
“I was lucky to find the opportunity to work with 7-Eleven,”said Norek. “I got training and insight into negotiation and buyingprograms—the kind of experience you can’t put a price tag on.”
Then Norek moved over to Russell’s Convenience Stores,which are located in major downtown office buildings nationwide.He helped the company remodel its stores, including the snackbar area, and introduced fresh food programs.
In March 2001, the owner of Western Convenience Storescontacted Norek and he joined the Centennial, Colo.-basedcompany that was operating 12 stores at that time. Today,Western Convenience has grown to 31 stores, including a truckstop in Nebraska and a liquor store attached to one of itsColorado stores.
After negotiating food programs for other companies, Norekknew it would be a necessity for the burgeoning chain. Heworked to introduce a fresh burrito program from Tres Picos thatmade fresh product off-premises between midnight and 4 a.m.and delivered daily to stores’ counter warmers.
“Our endcap warmers are unique and allow us to servebreakfast and lunch burritos all day,” said Norek, marketingdirector for the chain. “It’s an outstanding program that did wellin Russell’s, so I knew the company would come through for us.”
Norek enjoys creating profitable programs. The bulk comefrom being aware of what’s in the marketplace and then relyingon his distributor, McLane, to get it done. He’s supplementedWestern Convenience Stores’ food offer with sandwiches fromPierre Foods—a guaranteed program in all its stores—as wellas enhanced the breakfast daypart with Sara Lee pastries.
“Pierre’s sandwich line is second to none,” said Norek.
“McLane representatives order the product and it comes in thenext delivery to stock. Then, if McLane sees out-of-date product,they’ll give us a credit.
“Retailers are often afraid to approach a company to create atest. You can’t be afraid to fail and fall because if you don’t try,you’ll never succeed,” he added.
Norek has a program going with Hershey where he made agiant banner to promote king size bars two for $2. Hersheyagreed to pay what he was losing on the markdown, but candyvolume has skyrocketed with the offer.
“Our volume on king size bars was up 153% in the first sixmonths,” said Norek. “It’s great to put something together, butit’s your responsibility to stay on your vendors and suppliers tokeep it going. It’s a lot of fun making things happen.”
Western Convenience was also one of the first companies tojump on board with McLane’s Orion cigarette control program. Ithas allowed Western Convenience to reduce its cigarette inventory by $120,000.
Norek credits a great deal of his company’s success with itsflexibility. While most companies are set in planograms, Norek isalways on the lookout for the next hot item.
This flexibility was the catalyst for signing on to McLane’shandheld ordering system.
“It comes back to inventory control—you have to keep an eyeon sales and turns, get rid of the dogs and put the best itemsout there.
“Bottom line is a lot of programs you can’t do without greatdistributor support like what we get from McLane Western,” headded. “McLane’s people help us get it done.”
Sponsored by McLane Grocery Distribution
Have an industry “thought leader” at your company that qualifiesas a “Rising Star”? E-mail email@example.com.