Heading into this holiday season, there is much to be thankful for.
At the top of this list is the wedding of my first daughter, Melissa, to my new son-in-law, Jesse Peretz. (See photo below.) A more perfect ceremony could not have been scripted. This “beer-themed” union was the first wedding ever on the grounds of the historic Anheuser-Busch brewery in St Louis. The pre-wedding activities included a brewpub tour and a 13-inning Cardinals game vs. (who else?) the Milwaukee Brewers.
The ceremony featured a “unity beer” in place of a unity candle and the bouquets included live hop flowers.
Growlers decorated with barley stalks and hop flowers were table centerpieces, and the offerings at the bar included home brews from the bride and groom. Thinking about those September days, I can’t help but smile and be grateful.
This is where this column normally turns to drawing analogies between personal experiences and practical business applications. It would be a fruitless attempt, though, because nothing can compare to the pure joy you feel when you see your children and family at the peak of genuine happiness. (So let’s just continue with the theme of the season of thanks and pretend that the remainder of this article links seamlessly to the opening.)
The c-store industry has much to be thankful for. This year has offered much opportunity for growth for suppliers. Lining up internal resources to continue to deliver on the evolving needs of our retail customers and the ultimate consumer continues to pay dividends. Most important, the ability to understand our retail partners continues to improve through the availability of more refined, relevant data.
The industry forums for gaining insights into what these trends indicate are best in class. We are grateful for the NACS State of the Industry Conference, Outlook Leadership and the most productive trade show on the planet, the NACS Show. These give us the knowledge to go back to our organization with targeted, actionable and powerful investment strategies.
For retailers, you can be grateful that 2014 is the year that suppliers across the board embraced the concept that your stores are the place to launch new categories, products and packages. Trial of “new” has shifted as thousands of single-serve items have been brought to market with your profitability and customer in mind. Suppliers are looking through the c-store lens early in the process.
Consumers and suppliers alike are grateful for the next generation of “ground-up” convenience formats. These larger, foodservice-oriented stores raise the bar and afford time-starved shoppers a great alternative for healthy, on-the-go meal solutions. These progressive stores also simplify merchandising the many new items being brought to market.
The Space Race
More good news is that suppliers are responding to the opportunity for “new.” However, the bad news is that retail space remains fixed. Good suppliers are spending millions of dollars to launch a cool item that the data shows the consumer will want. Those who do their homework will clearly articulate when and who will be buying the item. Achieving appropriate retail shelf placement, the successful supplier often ends up with two or even three facings and may even get POP to announce the product’s presence.
For the retailer, sorting out space, placement and promotion strategy for hundreds if not thousands of SKUs, even with great data, is growing in complexity. So many opportunities to sell more stuff—and so little space in which to feature it.
How to decide? In an ideal world, the store lets the customer decide; they vote with their dollars, and everybody wins. The current situation is far from ideal for most stores. But if necessity is the mother of invention, then innovation that creates effective space will not be far behind.
When Thanksgiving and the year-end holidays roll around in 2015, maybe in this column I’ll be expressing gratitude about how the industry started to solve this quandary—unless, of course, I have another wedding to write about.