CCRRC Study Unveils Growth Opportunities for C-Stores

Study by the NACS/ Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council (CCRRC) identifies five new platforms that can drive convenience retail growth.

By Erin Rigik, Associate Editor.

A newly released report from the NACS/Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council (NACS/CCRRC) is providing insights into what motivates shoppers to spend more of their hard-earned dollars inside convenience stores.

“We began the project to take a look at what we can learn from c-store shoppers that would tell us what changes we could make to sell them more products or have them come more frequently to the store,” Bill Bishop, research director for NACS/CCRRC told CSD.

Bishop noted that competition from other retail channels and today’s on-the-go lifestyles present both challenges and opportunities for retailers.

Each of the ideas presented in the “C-Growth: Using Shopper Research to Grow C-Store Sales” report includes elements of controlling and rewarding the customers’ shopping experiences.  

The report identified five growth platforms— My Time, Fresh Value Fast, Female Friendly, Family Time and My Place—that c-stores can develop to motivate shoppers to visit their c-stores more and spend more on each trip. The next step for the panel is to invite retailers to participate in developing these growth platforms.

“We’re looking to get some like minded retailers together to share ideas,” Bishop said. “As we build those groups, it’s going to be a pretty productive and worthwhile experience.”  

Phase two of the research, which is set to take place over the next year, looks to accomplish three goals:
• Build a picture of where convenience shopping occasions fit into the landscape of all shopping.
• Gain a second opinion on the definition of convenience shopping occasions to  ensure that this approach to identifying and capturing growth opportunities is sound and useful to convenience retailers.
• Tap into shopper research done by suppliers.

The Five Growth Platforms
Each of the five platforms addresses important desires of the shopper. My Time is the platform most focused on control while My Place is most focused on rewards.

“One of the key takeaways from the research is that most shoppers are jockeying at the same time to stay in control of their schedule and occasionally have rewards and escapes with their hard-earned money. This continuum of the five platforms allows c-stores to accommodate that range of needs,” Bishop said.

• My Time. Shoppers seek stores where they can control their time. They want a c-store where they can browse without feeling rushed. But once they’ve selected their products, they want to check out and depart quickly. Store layout and service suggestions are keys to meeting this need.  

“Retailers want to be sure their store is warm, welcoming, airy and clean, so people are comfortable trusting it as a place to buy whatever they’re going to immediately consume and also be comfortable to spend their time there,” Bishop advised.

Retailers zoning in on this platform want to be sure their stores are clean and have enough checkout registers so lines don’t form.

• Fresh Value Fast. Shoppers may be busy, but they don’t want to sacrifice quality. Retailers catering to this platform would offer fresh, or even made-to-order items.

Kwik Trip is a prime example of a store doing a strong “Fresh Value Fast” business with upscale sandwich offerings at a quality price point, and fresh bananas sold at an aggressive price, Bishop said.

• Female Friendly. Catering to the needs of female and male customers is markedly different. “The staff needs to understand that having a conversation with a female customer is much different than having a conversation with a male customer. For example, a male customer would be quite happy if a clerk said, ‘I think this is what you want and I’ve assembled it for you.’ Where as female customers would say, ‘I will let you know what I want,’” Bishop said. Comments on appearance that might be appropriate between men are perceived as “creepy” to female customers.  

Above all, women want a place that feels comfortable—not cramped—contemporary and modern, as well as safe with professional staff who don’t infringe on their personal space. They also are motivated by the reward of having a break in their day—time to look at magazines or enjoy a cup of coffee.

• Family Time. Retailers looking to zero in on family time should ensure they have a range of choices that appeal to children. “You need a range of choices, so their only choice isn’t just an ice cream cone. Plus, cost needs be reasonable so you’re not going to break the bank. Kids like having choices,” Bishop said.

• My Place. This platform is especially enticing to blue collar males—one of the primary c-store targets, and provides a decent cup of coffee to connect with friends. “This is like a c-store called Cheers where everybody knows your name,” said Bishop. “It’s a familiar, routine place where you can get a break from the fast pace of your life where you can relax.” Offering a full coffee bar and an extensive fountain area where customers can create their beverages their way is a key first step toward zoning in on this platform.

Implementing Phase Two
CCRRC, over the next 3-4 months, will meet with small groups of retailers that have specific interests in each of the five platforms. “We’re going to be flushing these out to determine, from a retail point of view, what some of the execution opportunities might be,” Bishop said.  

CCRRC aims to determine how c-stores can use these growth platforms to invade some of the other areas of business where they are less successful. Secondly, the focus is going to be on how c-stores can do more with grab-and-go foodservice today, mainly take their cleanliness, safety and hospitality to the next level.

Retailers interested in participating in CCRRC’s research can contact Bishop directly at bill.bishop@willardbishop.com. A copy of the full report is available at www.ccrrc.org.

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