GLENDALE, Ariz. --CSP’s 2018 Convenience Retailing University conference embraced category management and leadership during its three-day run Feb. 21-23 at the Renaissance Glendale Hotel in Glendale, Ariz.
Category Manager of the Year awards were handed out, a product gallery served as a mini trade show, both general session and breakout workshops provided a vast collection of insights and ideas for retailers to bring back to their convenience stores.
Here are nine insights that jumped out to CSP Daily News editors …
1. Winning at foodservice
There’s an interesting trend happening in the foodservice side of the industry: While c-store traffic was down 2.4% in 2017, foodservice sales were up 3.6%. So either check averages increased or more shoppers were converted over to foodservice. “To protect store traffic, it’s crucial to heighten the in-store experience,” said Aimee Harvey, Technomic managing editor.
2. Adding it up
Single-store owners account for well more than half of all convenience stores in the United States (97,643 of 154,535, according to NACS). But “the top 10 retailers in the United States now control 26% of c-stores,” said Drew Mize, senior vice president and general manager of PDI. Acquisitions have not slowed down in this industry and, as far as Mize is concerned, they won’t slow down anytime soon.
3. Mixed messages
Trend data shows consumers increasingly want to eat healthier products. But natural snacks account for less than 3% of the overall snacking segment sales, according to Aaron Mace, category manager for the Wills Group. This presents a challenge: How can retailers get consumers to adapt to these products and look for them in c-stores?
4. He said, she said
Retailers told CSP they're planning growth in foodservice, car washes and alcohol beverages. But when asked, consumers said they'd like to see improvements in grocery, coffee and fountain beverages, according to Abbie Westra, editor-in-chief of CSP and Winsight's director of retail content.
5. From both sides
A discussion of the pros and cons of an everyday low price on fountain drinks drew two distinct camps:
Pro: "The fastest way to drive smiles in the store is to offer a 79-cent fountain drink," said Jim Fiene, a 7-Eleven franchisee. "A Big Gulp for 79 cents means something" to customers.
Con: "We're fortunate that when people think about Casey's, they think pizza and doughnuts," said Casey's General Stores Category Manager Dana Sump. "So when we discount the fountain, we're just giving a discount to the customers that are already in our stores for a pizza or something else."
6. Immigration watch
Commissaries, watch out. For those concerned about recent immigration raids on restaurants and retailers such as 7-Eleven, Manuel Saldana, partner with Gordon & Rees, told attendees that commissaries can be a concern because they can attract a large number of illegal workers. "Think about everyone working behind the counter in a restaurant," he said. "It's 10 times that."
7. Hot topic
“Sixty-seven percent of Hispanics drink coffee every day, 13% higher than the total market,” according to consultant David Mesas of Geoscape. They view coffee not as an energy driver, he says, but as a social occasion; it’s part of the culture. This touches on an idea: How can c-stores optimize products to specific demographics, such as marketing coffee to Hispanic consumers?
8. Stand and deliver
Retail delivery continues to grow—and now it’s changing consumer habits, according to Technomic’s On Demand Delivery Study. Only 16% of consumers say brand is the No. 1 consideration when deciding where to order for delivery. Forty-four percent say it’s a consideration at all. What’s more, customer spending on third-party delivery is up 23% year over year through third-quarter 2017.
9. Virtual inventory
When CVS took out its tobacco category, a significant portion of pipe tobacco left the supply chain. Bill Noah of Scandinavian Tobacco Group asked: Where did it go? C-store retailers should continue to track how CVS's withdrawal affects them. On the other hand, dollar stores are an increasing threat to the c-store set. Keep an eye on dollar-store competitors within your local market.