Calming the Beverage Storm

As marketing category manager for Mansfield, Ohio-based EZ Energy USA Inc., Deb Davis oversees the beverage category and makes the critical call as to which products head to the cooler, and which don’t make the cut.

Having just finished meeting with soda vendors to finalize the 2010 soda contracts, Davis is now busy overseeing beer cooler resets, and meeting with the beer vendors to review planograms.

Since starting in her current position at EZ Energy in June 2009, Davis has enjoyed seeing the results of hard work through increased sales and profit margins. Pinpointing what customers are demanding is a key aspect of Davis’ position. The company operates 68 Easy Trip and ampm stores in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Davis embarked on her career in 1997 as a receptionist at Dairy Mart’s corporate office in Ohio, and two years later was promoted to the position of marketing analyst where she met with category managers to review pricing and implemented it into a pricebook system. In 2002, Alimentation Couche-Tard acquired Dairy Mart, and Davis moved on to work as a project analyst for Alltel Publishing. When the company merged and began downsizing, Davis rejoined the c-store industry, as part of the EZ Energy team.

“EZ Energy is a new and growing company, and I wanted to get back into the marketing aspect of business,” she said. “I wanted to work more with people, so it was nice to come back to an industry I was familiar with.”

Today, Davis draws on her background as a project analyst where she used extensive organizational skills. “In my current position I have to be extremely organized. Sometimes I meet with six or seven vendors a week and need to remember what every vendor brought and what they communicated,” Davis said.

Working with category managers at Dairy Mart also gave her a sense of how important category managers are to a company. “Without them, I don’t know how a company could exist. You need someone there to say, ‘yes, this product will work, this one will not,’ and to set pricing,” Davis said.

Planning Ahead
For 2010 Davis’ main goal is to work on organizing product selections. “We frequently receive the same product from several vendors and that makes things a little difficult. My focus is to organize and grow our product selection and our profit,” she noted.

Davis also plans to “get back to basics” by relying on friendly service and reasonable prices. “Consumers are overwhelmed by excessive product selections. We’d like to be the calm in the storm, so when they go into an Easy Trip or one of our ampm stores, they’re not bombarded by tons of signage and numerous selections. We’d like to have a large assortment, but not have them leave with a headache,” she said.

One of the company’s goals is creating bundle menus—offering a beverage and food item together for a value price. Davis plans to develop more promotions and increase advertising at the pump to draw more gas customers into the store.

As for career goals, Davis hopes to grow in her current position and succeed by helping her company increase profits. “I’d like to stay in this position and grow as much as I can and eventually take that information and come into a directorship position.”

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