Are C-Stores Missing Out on Seasonal Selling?

NACS speakers address gaps in convenience channel sales with "holiday" chocolate, beer

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

Tim Quinn

Tim Quinn

ATLANTA -- Who knew football was a holiday? But according to Jeff Schouten, director of channel solutions for MillerCoors, it can be like Christmas morning profit-wise for smart convenience store operators who take advantage of both traditional and nontraditional, "seasonal" product lines.

While football--and its growing presence via an ever-increasing number of televised games, tailgating and "fantasy football"--may not be a traditional holiday, an event like the Super Bowl can generate the kind of seasonal business that retailers in the convenience channel may be missing out on.

Speaking before about 150 attendees at the 2013 NACS conference in Atlanta, Schouten from Chicago-based MillerCoors and Tim Quinn, vice president of trade development for Mars Chocolate North America, Hackettstown, N.J., explained to the audience the opportunities that exist, especially with seasonal lines of already established products--items that cover traditional holidays such as Christmas and Fourth of July to those that may not seem like "holidays," but offer opportunities for seasonal selling.

For Schouten, one season is summer, when the craft beer category produces a much anticipated line of summer "shandies." Noting his own grownup daughter as an example, he said customers look forward for these seasonal beers and c-stores can do a better job at offering them when that time of year rolls around.

Schouten said to watch out for two types of sales increases, one in more traditional summer holidays where it's about increased quantity, while Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year's may be more about craft beer and raising the quality of the product in a customer's perception.

Quinn examined the gaps that exist between seasonal sales at c-stores and those at other channels like grocery and mass merchants. He said chocolate sales typically have few peaks and valleys, where a steady $600 million in product can flow through any given channel or channels over a given period of time; however, seasonal product can hit a billion in sales over Easter and Halloween.

"They're buying these products," he said, noting the disproportionate amount of sales going to channels outside the c-store space. "Just not at your stores."

Noting another statistic, Quinn said immediate consumption is outpacing future consumption and that while overall, 53% of items his company surveys are immediate consumption, only 15% of seasonal items are immediately consumed, presenting a larger potential for seasonal-item categories at c-stores. He said simply doubling the low percentage of seasonal chocolate sales in c-stores could represent a half-billion dollar increase in sales for the channel.

Identifying ways retailers can successfully sell seasonal items, Quinn noted the following:

  • Set permanent shelf space for rotating seasonal items so that customers are used to that area and look for items as the seasons change.
  • Boxes of items at the front counter.
  • Seasonal merchandising throughout the store to create the seasonal message.
  • Using shippers and other displays to create "points of interruption."

"Right now, in terms of seasonal sales," Quinn said, "c-stores are missing the boat."

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
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