Here Comes the Sun

As the summer selling season hits its peak, operators must hone best practices to increase market share.

Gazing through my crystal ball, I see it boldly predicts summer 2009 is going to bring some very solid sales numbers, indeed greatly increased sales for much of the country.  Moreover, as you view this issue of Convenience Store Decisions you’re going to get an immediate indication of just how well that crystal ball of mine functions, as summer’s first big holiday—Memorial Day—passed with mixed results.

Those companies that were well prepared and did their homework will absolutely agree with my thoughts. Those that did not will surely be tempted to turn the page. To that I say, “Turn on those headlights and don’t let the summer selling season slip away.” As an industry, we must obtain a bigger piece of the retail pie by providing a wonderful shopping experience and great products.

Here’s my thinking: customers are sick and tired of all the doom and gloom talk. They want some fun, and we need to give it to them. Remember, customers:

• Need to forget their troubles, even if only for a short time.
• Can’t afford to travel or take trips as freely as they did in previous years.
• Need to be around family, friends and friendly people.
• Will party at or near their homes all summer long.
• Will drive to destinations two or more hours away and return the same or next day.

This all bodes especially well for convenience store owners. To increase your market share try to:
• Provide the upbeat and friendly atmosphere customers seek.
• Offer enticing specials on adult beverages–a key destination driver.
• Have an attractive salty snack offering to go with that cold beverage.
• Have a very good frozen drink offering, another destination for all demographics.
• Display an outstanding candy/novelty offering. Kids strongly influence their parents’ purchases.
• Post a fuel price attractive enough to make customers stop. This requires you to monitor the competition several times a day.
• Always have a super clean and well-presented store, inside and out.

Strive to Do More
In my mind, business is not nearly as difficult as many people think, yet not nearly as easy as many business owners try and make it. In other words, to achieve true long term success in this business, you must demonstrate discipline and determination on a consistent basis.

True discipline does not allow for your stores’ appearance to be anything less than great. Great determination assures that you are always on the cutting edge. The reward for this effort is called profit! Work on honing and improving these difference-making attributes. Teach your team how to be successful.

And let’s not forget to do a good job checking those ID’s on tobacco, alcohol and lottery this summer.

You have roughly three more months before fall begins. Will you be satisfied to continue to let the big boys eat away at your market share, or is your hunger sufficient enough that you will plan and execute?

Jim Callahan has more than 40 years experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on CSDecisions.com. He can be reached at (678) 485-4773 or via e-mail at jfcallahan502@msn.com.

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