Embracing a Fresh Perspective

Electronic cigarettes are just one of the new products that retailers should consider when updating their product mix for 2011.

The New Year offers convenience store owners an opportunity to evaluate  their product mix to ensure they are meeting their customers’ needs.

The bells have chimed, the ball has dropped and 2011 is now a reality. Happy New Year to all of you.

Every New Year starts with hope and a sense of wonderment as to what the upcoming 12 months have in store. There is a greater sense of urgency this year for retailers as a result of the troubled economy, questionable political situation and third-world conflicts threatening fuel prices. We can’t afford to yield market share to drug stores or other retail channels.

I tend to keep things pretty simple and focus on the things that are within my control. That’s not to say I ignore the rest, but I concentrate mainly on what I can impact. As such, one goal we can all aim to accomplish in 2011 is to breathe a little life into underperforming stores. All chains must have a plan—and be determined to execute it—to increase customer count.

To me, the simplest, and by far the best, place to start growing the business is by taking a close or closer look at the thousands of new items that debuted at the NACS Show. Manufacturers, after all, spent millions to bring these items to market. Common sense tells us that these are the items they will spend their ad money on, which should increase consumer demand.

What’s Hot for 2011
There were a myriad of new items at the NACS Show to choose from, and among the most popular were electronic cigarettes. This new type of smoking device counters most of the valid arguments regarding smoking in public places as they do not spew smoke or nicotine. From the consumers’ standpoint they cost no more than a carton of cigarettes and often much less. There is an emerging market for these kinds of products and those retailers first to market with them have the most to gain.

Foodservice, as always, was a big part of the NACS Show. Several items caught my eye for targeting grab-and-go customers in search of healthier foods.  Love n’ Quiches offers a three-ounce Blondie Chocolate Chip Bar. Both Foodles and Crunch Pak are now marketing organic sliced apples and other fruits in a convenient cup format targeting snackers and kids.

On the beverage side, f’real now makes a shake machine that sanitizes itself eliminating the labor involved with selling shakes. Like with foodservice, the energy and healthier drink craze continues to grow at a fever pitch. New products include coconut waters and anti-aging elixirs.

Like with all stores, shelf space is an issue. Stay on top of new product trends by communicating with your grocery supplier for updated velocity reports so you can accurately gauge the items you’re interested in. Make sure when looking at low volume items that you mentally adjust the numbers for items that appear to be slow sellers, but may not have been in the store for a full year.

Another tip is to consolidate within areas like health and beauty and traditional grocery. For example, do you really need four different mouth wash and toothpaste SKU’s? Can you get by with one brand of steel wool and cut down from four to two brands of liquid soap?  And really, five different brands of coffee is overkill for most stores.

Remember that we are, in most cases, convenience stores, grocery stores. People use us for these items when they are in a hurry and don’t wish to take the time to go to a supermarket. Chances are pretty darn good that they will take the brand you have and be satisfied. The point is, one way or the other, you pay for every square inch of your stores. Do the analysis and remember it’s a new year, you’re still in charge and have the power to make something positive happen.

I wish you much success in all your business ventures and peace and good health for 2011.

  • Anonymous

    Jim,
    How does one start the process of getting an E-cig product placed in convenience stores?

    • Dan

      Jim,
      We at Retail Network can help with that. While there are no extra licenses, taxes, etc there are a few things you should do to make the introduction a profitable one. You can call me at 800-676-2808. Just ask for Dan.

  • Dan

    On the E-cig C-stores need to be aware that the disposable versions are the only viable product. As a supplier of both kits and disposables most who try the kits end up being discouraged and closeout the entire category rather than try again with the disposables. The bottom line is retail price- not value and our C-Store shoppers just wont spend $40 to $80.

  • Memeblonde15

    Thanks for the velocity reports hint

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