CRC Commences

CSX reports big numbers as industry conference opens

TAMPA, Fla.Retailers attending this year's Convenience Retailing Conference received upbeat industry news, as speaker Dick Meyer revealed numbers documenting a 58% increase in pre-tax profit for the nine-month period ending in September 2005.

Utilizing data from a monthly same-firm study, Meyer said the rest of 2005 is projected to show a record year, with increases in fuel margins, gallons sold, in-store sales and in-store gross profit dollars.

Key to success amid hurricanes Katrina and Rita, rising gasoline prices and skyrocketing [image-nocss] credit card fees was retailers' efforts to differentiate themselves with marketing. Fear is a good motivator, said Meyer, partner withCSX LLC, a Columbia, Mo.-based industry-specific data-collection and research firm. We've seen the hypermarkets intent on eating our lunch and as a result, he says retailers have responded with category management programs, increased use of technology and the culling of under-performing locations.

Study figures, which included data from 75 firms representing 3,247 stores, showed impressive strides for survey participants:

Fuel margin increases (in cents per gallon) up 13.6%. Fuel gallons sold up 2.4%. In-store sales up 5.5% to $100,000 per store per month. In-store gross profit dollars up 6.5% to $28,900 per store per month.

Joining Meyer on stage were Paul Reuter, president and editorial director for CSP, and Russ Quick, vice president of sales and marketing for Fas Mart/Shore Stop Convenience Stores in Mechanicsville, Va. Addressing the room of roughly 250 retailers and suppliers present for the general session, Quick reviewed Fas Mart's progress in the three years since declaring and eventually emerging from bankruptcy. Comparing Fas Mart numbers with CSX data, Quick pointed out that his chain was able to outpace study averages for packaged beverages, with his stores seeing a 15.9% increase in the 11 months ending November 2005 over the same time period the year before vs. 10.4% increases for survey participants.

Quick said they grew their packaged beverage line by extending the season, working with suppliers to start the activity usually reserved for the summer earlier and then continuing the promotions and other activities past traditional time periods.

Noting other areas of opportunity, Quick said that work with single cigars has helped that area of the business and that candy was going to be an area of focus moving forward.

Other speakers who took the podium at the general session yesterday were Al Meyers, senior vice president of business development for Retail Forward Inc. in Columbus, Ohio, and Michael Marolt, president of eq-life, an offshoot retail concept from the Richfield, Minn.-based Best Buy retail chain. Marolt addressed the development of his healthy-living retail concept and its female target market, while Meyers described 10 qualities of successful innovators.

The Convenience Retailing Conference is scheduled to run through tomorrow and will culminate in an awards ceremony honoring the achievements of three retailers.