The Customer: Wine Appetites and Beer Wallets

The 2008 consumer, complex and roiling in its many needstates, has become a multi-headed hydra whose rituals and habits are being altered by external forces. It is, however, a creature predictable on at least one front: It always appreciates the convenience and value of the neighborhood c-store. Pinched by rising costs of fuel, food and

Cigarettes: Taxation Taking a Toll

Cigarettes by far continue to be the top in-store category based on sales dollars. On a monthly basis, the industry per store average for 2007 was $39,127. However, its gross profit contribution slipped to 3.2% to $6,152 falling behind package beverages ($6,526.) The reason tobacco fell to No. 2 is simply taxation. Since 2002, 43

Bottled Water: New Water Pours Forth

Conventional wisdom says the bottled water market is flooded, but that may not be the case at the high end, according to Beverage Marketing, which reports that high-end brands like Iceland Spring and Iceland Glacial, Voss and Isbre appear eager to parlay an exotic source and upscale packaging into an above-premium business, much as Fiji

The Competition: Discretionary Spending Looms Large

For the past decade, the list of retailers that have cut into the convenience store industry’s consumer base has included the usual suspects: Wal-Mart, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Walgreens and a slew of other national brands in a smattering of channels. C-stores are predictably pitted against those same powerhouses in 2008, but the environment is far more

Other Tobacco products: OTP On The Rise

A surefire marketing strategy: Develop a need where consumers don’t even know they have one. The flipside: Wait until a need becomes so apparent, so prevalent and so overwhelming that it can no longer be justifiably ignored as a legitimate need. A pocketful of lawsuits and a barrage of tax increases in its portfolio, and

Juices and teas: Fruit Drinks Flat, Teas Growing

Information Resources Inc. (IRI) reported that the total count for the sparkling juice category is $78 million and rising. Even so, it’s a bit difficult to tell how much traction the average c-store retailer can get from them given the huge number of beverage choices available in this category today. Other than specialty sparkling beverages

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

No Mystery Here: Speedway Voted Best Customer Service

It’s impossible to know if the pool of customers hired by market research firm Corporate Research International (CRI) would have pegged Speedway SuperAmerica LLC as the leader in customer service five years ago. The Enon, Ohio-based marketer wasn’t even among the handful of convenience store chains whose customer service was evaluated quarterly by the research

ROI: Return on Involvement

To the lay observer, it was just a Styrofoam cup jammed between the windshield and dashboard of a working man’s pickup parked outside an Indiana convenience store. To Jay Ricker, it was testament to the importance of mastering the fundamentals, concrete proof that having a good thing means knowing when you should or shouldn’t mess

Secure Your System

MasterCard announces that more than 40 million credit card numbers belonging to U.S. consumers have been accessed by a computer hacker and are at risk of being used for fraud; however, company officials can’t say how long the confidential information has been missing. A disgruntled technology employee cracks his former company’s computer system and destroys

Sweet Deliverance

Caffeine-infused potato chips. Ginseng-infused coffee. Guarana-infused gum. No matter the combination, functional food manufacturers are probably trying it. Add this one to the list: Sedative-infused chocolates. The confectionary world is on its way to proving the salability of health and energy products doesn’t have to end at the threshold of the candy aisle. In the

Moving Over to the Dark Side

Chocolate may be bringing up the rear of America’s upscale revolution, but consumers and a growing number of c-store operators aren’t complaining. Higher-priced, better quality chocolates are finding acceptance on more store shelves all the time–great for consumers and great for operators’ bottom lines. Resistance to the higher price points will fade in time as

Driving the Dairy Business

Convenience store operators nationwide are grappling with nearly unprecedented food inflation, particularly involving bakery and dairy products, that is sending tremors throughout the retail supply chain. Recent price volatility fueled by a weak dollar, rising energy costs, consumer wariness, competitive pressure and other factors is making it difficult to market staples like bakery and dairy

Is Bulk Candy Marketing Right for You?

While single packs of gum and candy get the most attention in the candy aisle, retailers often report strong margins from bulk packages and multi packs, which carry a higher price and typically offer a greater value for consumers. But will that greater value translate into consistently stronger sales? The answer appears to be yes…sometimes,

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