Jacksons' White-Glove Treatment

Idaho retailer cleans up in CSP-Service Intelligence Mystery Shop

Samantha Oller, Senior Editor/Fuels, CSP

[The following is the second of a three-part series on participants of the 2010 CSP-Service Intelligence Mystery Shop.] MERIDIAN, Idaho -- Jacksons Food Stores Inc. has the cleanest stores in the Westor anywhere else for that matter, according to results from the 2010 CSP-Service Intelligence Mystery Shop.

Jacksons competed with eight other brands in the sixth annual CSP-Service Intelligence Mystery Shop, including Kwik Trip, QuikTrip, Maverik, Kum & Go, Kangaroo Express, Stripes, Hess Express and Mapco. Mystery shoppers hit the stores in April, with 140 assessments [image-nocss] per brand, and rated sites on cleanliness, merchandising, customer service and employee appearance.

Meridian, Idaho-based Jacksons, which has 211 stores in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, bested all other mystery-shop participants in matters of exterior and interior cleanliness, with scores of 98.7% (92.6% average) and 96.3% (92.4% average), respectively.

"The store was very well maintained," noted one mystery shopper, while another commented on the "clean and well-stocked" women's restroom.

Jacksons earned such pristine scores and praise because of its "culture of cleanliness," according to company president Andrea Jackson, with stores made sparkling by the motivation of monthly store inspections on top of those conducted by oil-company partners Chevron, Shell and Texaco.

"The inspections are a big part of why we're consistent," she told CSP Daily News. "And they have a dual purpose: It keeps store associates focused on cleanliness, but it also gets the head-office people out in the field to see how their decisions are being executed. I do five stores a month, as do all the key supporting departments."

Jacksons' monthly inspections are weighted heavily toward cleanliness and can be completed at any time of the month, unannounced, including on nights and weekends. The surprise nature of the inspections keeps stores consistently immaculate, especially because the inspection results influence the size of employee bonuses.

The bonuses, which are paid out every other month, are based on the inspections (internal and as well as those conducted by the oil companies) as well as cash and inventory controls, payroll and other metrics. Fuel gallons and inside sales also play a part. On average, a store manager could make up to 30% of his annual salary through the bimonthly bonus program, according to Jackson.

"It's everyone's job to make the stores look good," she said. "You wouldn't watch a vice president come in and not do something a sales associate wouldn't do. If there's a piece of garbage on the ground, they'll pick it up. If someone drops a pop, they'll stop and mop it up. It's in our culture that no matter who you are you will take action... My boss, our CEO, has mopped quite a few floors."

Jacksons also scored well in employee appearance: 96.1% compared with the 93.6% average.

"For the last five years we've really opened up our uniform selection to offer a big range of uniforms," says Jackson. "These are nice shirts and sweatersstuff a lot of employees buy to wear outside of work. It allows people to have more variety that fit people's body styles comfortably."

As for excessive jewelry, tattoos and other such uniform accompaniment, Jackson said, "If it's not professional it doesn't fit because behind the counter we're professionals... It might be cute and hip, and that's great, but put it on later. Dress the part while you're playing it."

Jacksons maintains several "learning center" training facilities designed to make new employees "store ready," with locations at the corporate headquarters in Meridian, Portland, Ore., Reno, Nev., and Seattle. All employees spend three and a half days in a learning center to absorb the history and culture of the company, get trained on proper alcohol-sales protocol, run the registers and learn other duties for which they'll be responsible once they are in a "live" store.

"They get to touch everything and learn at a time when it's safe and when there's not a line of three people at the register," she said. "This way they start out with the good habits, because sales associates have such a hard job, so this gets them comfortable with their own skills. It's been expensive for us but really effective, so it's worthwhile."

Jackson said the company doesn't overpay employees, but it does offer an extensive benefits package, which she calls "very bloody expensive." Employees have access to full medical, dental and vision, with the company paying the majority of it, as well as tuition reimbursement, a 50% match of 401(k) contributions and up to a month's vacation; 75% of Jacksons' employees are full-time.

"We have high standards, so we're not for anybody," she said. "We've been growing at fast clip, and the only way to do that is with people who are ready for more. In 1999 we had 32 stores when we bought 45 more from Circle K in Idaho. Now have 211, and we've been growing a lot through acquisition. We couldn't have done that without the right people in the stores."

[For more on best practices from participants of the 2010 CSP-Service Intelligence Mystery Shop, check out the August issue of CSP magazine.]