Maverik, Mapco Offer Sales Opportunity Lessons

At ECRM's Convenience EPPS event, two retailers reveal what programs are paying off

Samantha Oller, Senior Editor/Fuels, CSP

Janalee Clements Maverik

Janalee Clements

LAS VEGAS -- Greater sales are ahead for convenience retailers, provided they grab and develop the opportunities in front of them.

That was the lesson at a recent panel CSP moderated at ECRM's Convenience EPPS event, where two retailers shared their outlook on the coming year and highlighted opportunities for growth. The panelists included Ana de la Torre, category manager for tobacco and general merchandise at Mapco, a division of Delek U.S. Holdings, Brentwood, Tenn., which operates more than 360 stores in Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. Joining her was Janalee Clements, senior customer insights and marketing manager at Maverik Inc., Salt Lake City, Utah, with 260 sites in 10 western states.

ECRM arranges dozens of Efficient Program Planning Sessions (EPPS) throughout the year, where retailers sit down with suppliers to discuss new programs, and use ECRM's MarketGate software to manage ordering and supply contacts. Approximately 600 retailers, distributors, brokers and suppliers attended three EPPS events that ran simultaneously at The Palms in Las Vegas in February, covering convenience stores; impulse, front-end and check-lane merchandise; and for the first time, electronic cigarettes.

The emerging subcategory is top of mind at Mapco, where the e-cigarette set is on the move. The chain initially displayed products--disposables, starter kits and cartomizers--on the counter. It has since moved that product to a specific fixture and is transitioning all of this product into the back bar.

"We're carving out some space from cigarettes, we're keeping the OTP set as is, but we're integrating the product to the back bar to facilitate the customer experience when purchasing the product, and having it displayed in one, specific place, instead of having different merchandisers on the counter," said de la Torre.

The biggest challenge, said de la Torre, is having a flexible set that can accommodate all of the new-product introductions. "All the rage right now are the vaping products," she said. "Maybe six months from now it will be something else. So you have to keep that set flexible enough so you can introduce the new products in the industry, and move out the products that are not selling as well."

At Maverik, foodservice is also undergoing evolution. Its private brands are the centerpiece, including BonFire burritos, Mount Mavalanch frozen yogurt and Chiller frozen carbonated beverages. The chain is remodeling stores to move foodservice front and center, explained Clements, including positioning condiment bars in a more visible area.

"We're also looking at our menu items," said Clements. "We have a very extensive menu now; we're actually paring down the menu a little bit but also looking at doing more upscale items, so competing more with QSRs, not just your typical roller-grill food."

At Mapco, coffee and fountain drinks are the focus. "In relation to the coffee program, we've been very successful in having limited-time offers, seasonally related," said de la Torre. "We're going to have an LTO during the holiday season with a holiday blend, then moving into summer with a different coffee blend that has proven to be very successful for us--introducing those in-and-outs, keeping the offering fresh for the customer."

Maverik has found great opportunity in the past year with a seasonal endcap for candy. As Clements explained, it is a program that offers significant incremental sales. The endcap, devoted to the top sellers in seasonal candy, is positioned near the cash wrap. The test began in 30 stores, and quickly rolled out to 220 sites.

"The lift you'll see there and the opportunities that are available, for a c-store it's hard to take advantage of, but definitely it needs to be in a visible area of your store," she said. "But we have had tremendous lift in seasonal-related candy, and it's been great to work with Mars and Hershey on this program."

Seasonal has also proven sweet in general merchandise for Mapco, which has introduced a collegiate and NFL apparel program. "The most important thing with those kinds of programs is to tailor them to the demographics, so we have a plethora of stores that are near universities that are more geared toward collegiate products," said de la Torre. "If it's located in Tennessee or Georgia, then it's more NFL-product-assortment related."

"General merchandise is a category we struggle with through the seasons, but it's a category that brings in very significant margins," said de la Torre. The key: manage that product assortment and keep it fresh with in-and-out programs. For Mapco, the program has earned its space, even off-season, with strong sales.