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One Retailer’s Pump-to-Store Strategy

Consistency is key to this East Coast retailer’s approach to driving shoppers in-store

CHICAGO -- Traditionally, 60% of profit in a convenience store comes from fuel and 40% comes from inside sales.

But when those numbers are flipped?

“That’s when we really make hay,” said Leroy Kelsey, director of research for NACS, at an education session at the 2017 NACS Show titled Getting People From the Pump Into the Store.

Converting fuel-only customers to in-store shoppers is a problem almost as old as the fuel pump itself, made new only by the strategies c-store retailers employ to fix it. With 50% of the U.S. population earning $53,700 or less in household income, of which 70% are c-store shoppers, those strategies are paramount.

“In fact, 36% of our shoppers make $30,000 or less in terms of their household income,” Kelsey said. “When we think about more dollars being forced to go into the pump … then it’s likely that less will find their way inside the store.”

Money isn’t the only factor keeping shoppers out of the store: Fifty-three percent of fuel-only shoppers say they don’t need anything from inside the store, but nearly 22% say they don’t have enough time to stop in. Only 28% of fuel customers say they’ll pay inside, compared with 32% in 2012. The top two categories shopped when these fuel consumers actually enter the store are packaged beverages (21%) and cold dispensed beverages (16%), according to NACS data.

“When we try to figure out what levers to pull and what nobs to twist [to get customers in-store] … it’s important to keep that immediate-consumption piece in mind,” Kelsey said.

At Chapel Hill, N.C.-based Holmes Oil Co.’s Cruizers shops, COO John Zikias said the company does just that, pushing the hot and cold dispensed products through signage in the forecourt.

For him, that message, regardless of where it is in the forecourt, has to be consistent. Each Cruizers marketing piece has a simple tagline: “Are You Hungry Yet?,” as well as mouthwatering photography of the retailer's most popular foodservice items.

“Consistency in your messaging results in consistency in [shopper] habits,” Zikias said. “We’re not trying to do too much; we’re not trying to do too many things. You can’t be everything to everybody at the same time. You want to have something that’s relevant to enough people to drive them in.”

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