Woods, category manager for nonalcohol packaged beverages, made his way across the country to Circle K’s West Coast division, Corona, Calif., after working for Love’s Country Stores and Travel Stops, as well as Mobil On the Run in Philadelphia, Dallas and California.
Q: What surprises you about packaged beverages?
A: The energy category continues to grow, and I’m impressed with the innovation that keeps coming. I also manage dairy, and we sell more milk than our overall market share would indicate, but the category is still challenged some. The emphasis now is on milk replacement, protein drinks and coffee drinks. I may try adding some organic milk. Dairy still does well, but it’s tough and price-sensitive.
I’m also pleasantly surprised that immediate-consumption soda is still showing growth. Water keeps growing, too, and there are a few new items we are trying. We’ll add some sparkling waters.
Q: What resources help you succeed?
A: Vendor input and surveying the competition, plus sources like the Nielsen Top 100 products. We rely a lot on our partnerships. The challenge is to pick the right items and try to be first so customers think of Circle K first. The challenge is also between being first to market and getting it right. We’ve got to have the right products because we can’t stretch the space.
Q: What are your greatest challenges?
A: Managing the number of SKUs and mixing in the private label—maintaining balance. Stores today typically have eight to nine doors on average, but new and remodeled stores are getting larger doors and deeper shelves, and ground-up new stores will have more doors.
“Gary Woods has a keen sense for emerging trends and applies sound assortment practices backed by quantitative and qualitative measures.”