To Boost Sales: Add Helium

Somewhere around elevation 16,000 feet, Kent Couch might have been wondering if he’d bump into the tip of the bar graph charting the rise in credit card interchange fees.   Or maybe he was just too busy enjoying the view. “It’s just a beautiful way to see Oregon,” said Couch, 48, a two-time cluster-balloon flyer

Shell Games

Maybe there’s still a bit of debate on the medical merits of catharsis, but Bobak Bakhtiari could be the man to put the issue to rest. "Does it further ignite aggression?" asked Bakhtiari, a former counselor at a California psychiatric facility who now runs Tanforan Shell, his family’s convenience store and carwash in San Bruno,

Shoppernomics 2.0: The Not-So-Perfect Storm

There’s a host of ingredients contaminating the retail environment these days, with shoppers dogged by rising costs in energy, food and basic necessities. As a result, shopping habits are being radically reshaped in this new and uncertain environment, said Thom Blischok, president of consulting and innovation at Information Resources Inc. (IRI). "We are living in

Alaskan Energy Crisis Solved

Faced with almost six weeks of daylight when the summer solstice hit their town on June 20, residents in Barrow, Alaska, were finally provided an answer to their age-old question: How do you make it through a 1,992-hour day? In honor of the summer solstice, the makers of Jolt Energy drink airlifted 370 cases of

Reshaping the Convenience Landscape

For some marketers and distributors, Exxon Mobil Corp.’s decision to get out of direct-store operations could present the chance of a lifetime; an opportunity to acquire the rights to stores for an entire market, maybe more. For others, the announcement caused immediate fear and panic concerning the long-term viability of their operations and, in some

Prepaid Reaping Financial Rewards

While gift card malls have been getting a lot of attention, prepaid debit, credit, gift and especially gas cards offered by Visa, MasterCard and American Express are quietly booming in popularity. Prepaid’s profit potential is fueled by shifts in the marketplace, wider social acceptance and the nation’s growing population of "unbanked" lower-income consumers. And while

Packaged Beverage Sales Heating Up

New products and flavors, including some with healthier ingredients, are helping soft drinks and teas experience a healthy resurgence in already jammed cold vaults nationwide, even as traditional carbonated soft drinks continue to decline. For operators, keeping tabs on trends and adjusting sets to match ever-changing dynamics remains a full-time job. According to the National

Consumers Rush for Energy

John Scully got started on Red Bull before Red Bull got started on him. Now 41 and working as a mortgage broker in Cleveland, Scully remembers that first sip, taken in a bar in Thailand where he’d backpacked when he was a 20-something college graduate long on adventure and short on money. "You sort of

The Lean Scene

Some are kind of freaked out, and some kind of like the idea. The hardscrabble soda-and-cigarettes crowd, they’re still on the lower hump of the learning curve. "They’re kind of like, ‘Hey dude, where’s my Doritos and cigarettes,’" said Alvaro Garza, co-owner of The Green Spot Market and Fuels on the outskirts of Dallas. But

Get Them Where They Shop

Your store is a great place to advertise. The customer is already there and receptive to making a purchase. You have the ability to control the environment and the number and types of messages you communicate. And today you can choose from more media formats than ever before—everything from simple signage to video and digital

Analyzing Scan Data

Market basket analysis and its offshoot, affinity marketing, continue to follow the usual c-store industry adoption pattern: cautious expansion, mostly among the bigger chains. But the potential payoffs could be enormous. That said, like most new technologies market basket requires commitment at the top, beginning with more expensive software matched with an appropriate point-of-sale (POS)

Creating Loyalty Among Thrifty Customers

Retailers throughout the country are aware that with the current economic downturn, customers are often trying to find the most cost-effective deals. But industry leaders are relying on innovative solutions aimed at getting their customers decent deals while creating brand loyalty. Fuel retailer loyalty programs work similar to loyalty programs in other industries, according to

Get Ready for Gen Y

The international marketing firm Youngster recently reported that for the first time in history, the market group known as Generation Y, those ages 10 to 25, is evenly divided across each of its five age-based subgroups. A short 10 years ago when Generation Y first burst on to the scene, the vast majority of Gen

Car Wash and Motor Fuels: Fueling Frustration

Fuel price volatility is here to stay. Marketers must learn how to manage it to their advantage. That was the cold, hard message conveyed in the 2008 NACS State of the Industry (SOI) report. Marketers are urged to pay attention to sales volumes, but also focus on gross margin dollars and to always look at

Candy, gum and mints: Candy Continues to be Dominant

The U.S. retail confectionery category generated approximately $29 billion in sales in 2007 and the profit margin for the category was approximately 35%, according to the National Confectioners Association’s (NCA) U.S. Confectionery Market report. Convenience stores accounted for 15%, or $4.5 billion, of overall candy sales in 2007, surpassing drug stores and dollar stores, but

Security and operations: Security and operations: Security and operations: Operating Costs Rise Across the Board

The cost of operating a convenience store is up significantly thanks in part to a number of factors, the most glaring being interchange fees and credit card costs. But labor and utilities also experience significantly higher year-on-year gains. The industry’s operating expenses on a per-store, per-month basis rose across the board in 2007, according to

Salty And Meat Snacks: Healthy Trend in Snacks Sales

Like other retail channels, the convenience store industry is witnessing a change in consumers’ snack choices. "We’re definitely seeing a shift to healthier snacks, but I think it’s a little slower than some of the other channels just because our customer base is still predominantly younger males who aren’t as much into healthier eating as

Technology: Plural Platforms Top Priority

Today’s c-store retailers want technology platforms that will allow them to manage fuel brands, foodservice operations, remain PCI compliant, easily access data and help improve customer service simultaneously. Sound like a tall order? It’s really not, said Jenny Bullard, chief information officer of the Jones Co., which owns 177 Flash Foods stores in Georgia and

Dairy, ice cream and frozen foods: Dairy Leads Private Label Herd

Consumers grabbed a single-serve milk more than one billion times last year, according to Dairy Management Inc.’s CEO Tom Gallagher, who expects the number of quick-serve establishments promoting milk to exceed 50,000 in 2008. Dairy products lead retail sales of private label products, which Packaged Facts forecasts will grow at an annual rate of 5%

Branded Food: Fast Brands Build Business

Branded fast foods are major league players in today’s convenience channel. Indeed, the 45 chains recently surveyed by Convenience Store Decisions rang up some $380 million in branded foodservice sales last year. A pretty impressive figure, and one that is likely to make any c-store owner’s mouth water at the mere thought of adding a

Prepaid: Targeting Niche Segments

According to figures from Mercator Advisory Group, the prepaid market isn’t big—it’s huge, and growing exponentially every year. Mercator’s debit advisory head Tim Sloane said that closed loop prepaid cards grew at a rate of 88% year over year from 2002 through 2006. Sloane predicts that when the 2007 figures are analyzed, they’ll show another

Pizza: Old Tastes Trump New Trends

It seems the future of pizza hinges on just how far retailers are willing to stray from the confines of that traditional pizza box. "If you get too far outside the box, you’ll probably sell less pizza," said Neal Hollingsworth, vice president of marketing at Hot Stuff Pizza. And if you stay cloistered within the

GROCERY: Sales Vary Widely

The line between grocery and convenience channels in the U.S. continues to blur, especially with the addition of mega retailers like the UK-based Tesco (Fresh & Easy) and Japan’s FamilyMart (Famima). Though neither of these retailers sell gas, both consider themselves members of the c-store channel in growing, upscale markets, such as Los Angeles, Phoenix

Chicken: Poultry in Motion with Chicken in Top Spot

One of the most versatile and marketable products in retail foodservice has also become the No. 1 convenience item consumers are choosing in their quest for meat and poultry products. A recent study by the National Chicken Council (NCC) shows that U.S. consumers consider chicken to be the most widely available convenience food product, as

General Merchandise: Competition Impacting Novelty

General merchandise rounded out the top 10 in-store categories by gross profit contribution, according to the National Association of Convenience Store’s (NACS) State of the Industry (SOI) report. Finishing 10th, just behind cold dispensed beverages, on a per-store, per-month basis, stores averaged $2,373 in merchandise sales with a gross profit contribution of $873. The bad

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