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Business Looking Better: Last Minit Mart Director of Stores Talks 2024

Customers buying more, but hiring remains a challenge, Jeff Taylor says
Inside a mini market with a woman standing behind the counter and register machine and surrounded by products.
Image: Shutterstock

Jeff Taylor, encouraged by recent sales numbers, is hoping for a better 2024.

The director of stores for New Castle, Pennsylvania-based c-store chain Last Minit Mart told CSP in a recent interview that both sales and items per transaction are up from a year earlier.

This is a positive turnaround from earlier in 2023, when dollars were up but customers weren’t buying as much, he said.

Last Minit Mart, which has six stores in rural Pennsylvania and competition from major players like Sheetz, GetGo and Speedway, uses the strategy of pricing fuel lower to increase pump activity and subsequently drive customers into their stores.

“As our margin goes down on fuel, our sales on gallons go up,” Taylor said.

“As our margin goes down on fuel, our sales on gallons go up.”

Lured by lower fuel prices, more customers enter a Last Minit Mart and buy items—creating a balancing act of lower fuel margins countered with more in-store sales.

Another strategy to increase sales is monthly promotions on salty snacks, ice cream and in foodservice operations, Taylor said

“For key areas we will try to co-merchandise,” Taylor said. “For example, we saw in foodservice that a certain percentage of the people also buy candy bars, so we put some of our candy shippers by the foodservice area to work as an impulse.”


Despite the positives of late, Taylor spoke of the challenges of hiring, some of which he attributes to wage inflation.

“Part of my belief is that the people who want to work are working,” he said. “And, unfortunately, there’s a lot of people who don’t want to work anymore. So, the way to attract people to come in and apply is you need to be in the top percentile with your wages—and we’ve been in the top 80 percentile for the last couple years.”

“We have been very fortunate that a large percentage, 75% of our staff, has been with us for more than a year.”

When Last Minit Mart increases wages, Taylor sees a spike in applications.

“That has helped us,” he said. However, wage inflation has been costing the company “more to do the same,” creating the challenge of making up that money.

“Part of it is you hope that with your retention, you’re not going to have to put as much into training,” he said. “We have been very fortunate that a large percentage, 75% of our staff, has been with us for more than a year. We’re way below the industry [turnover] average.”

Watching Wages

Wages is a subject on which the company keeps a close eye, he said, adding that they recently boosted the starting wage to $12.50 per hour. “And we’re in the process of doing another (internal) wage survey.”

Last Minit Mart offers healthcare, dental and vision benefits and, for those who have been at the company more than a year, a 401(k), to which the company contributes. It also offers paid vacation for full- and part-timers. The company, which has about 58 employees, also is managing retention via employee surveys; a recent survey garnered an 80% response rate, a number with which he was happy.

“For the most part, everyone was very positive about how managers treat them in the stores.”

“And for the most part, everyone was very positive about how managers treat them in the stores, that the managers do provide recognition on a consistent basis, and that we provide them with a work-life balance that they think is tremendous,” Taylor said. “Overall, we were really pleased by the results of our survey.”

Taylor thinks labor and hiring will be about the same in 2024. To advertise openings, Last Minit Mart uses the internet. In addition, “We’re on a program called Better Teams, and they publish to 10 other places,” he said. “We have signs in our stores, and we also use Facebook to recruit.

“We’ve got some pockets where we’re able to hire and some pockets where we’re always struggling,” he said. “We’re looking at how can we fill the void in those pockets and contemplating having a different wage scale in those areas where we hire.”

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