ATLANTA — Retailers shared how to reduce the time it takes to bring new products to shelves, develop a strategy to prepare employees for selling new products and understand how new items enhance a brand at the recent 2019 NACS Show in Atlanta.
Here are tips four convenience-store operators gave to help retailers succeed …
Maximize partnerships and innovation
Maximizing vendor partnerships, embracing schematic innovation and organizing your calendar are key to increasing store profitability, said Daniel Moran, category manager for Rotten Robbie Convenience Stores.
The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chain has 35 sites in the San Francisco Bay area and is a family-owned, fourth-generation company.
Contracts are a great opportunity to get money back for products retailers are already selling, Moran said. Depending on the vendor, there typically needs to be 10 to 15 stores to participate.
While reviewing schematics, Moran said to keep in mind the 80-20 rule: Eighty percent of sales come from 20% of the items in a store. Retailers need to bring in innovation while also understanding and paying attention to their core items, he said.
“If you’re going to put something in that really tight amount of space that our stores barely have the space for, then you really need to be confident in the item,” Moran said. “So you really need to think, is it either a core item or innovation? You really have to rationalize dedicating that retail space to the item.”
For single-store operator Lonnie McQuirter, thinking small is key. McQuirter said he works with smaller suppliers to bring unique and locally popular products into Minneapolis-based 36 Lyn Refuel Station.
Some benefits to small vendors are they monitor their brand closely and have a strong social-media following, McQuirter said. They also become partners and can help share a c-store’s social-media posts or refill a shelf if they notice it is empty.
McQuirter said it may be easy for a small vendor to run to their car to refill their product on your shelf.
“That extra touch there really makes a difference,” McQuirter said. “None of us want to see holes in our shelf because we can’t sell what’s not on the shelf.”
Sometimes, staff members get tied up in the day-to-day business of the store and can miss when a product is running low.
“Having another eye there and having the vendors be the extra support has helped us tremendously,” McQuirter said.
Believe in new brands
Bill McCloskey, COO of Rmarts LLC, said new items can enhance a c-store’s brand and bring in additional profit. The introduction of Monster’s new brand, Reign Total Body Fuel, into his stores in the Chicago market did both.
McCloskey said he included Reign in the Deerfield, Ill.-based chain’s 2019 sets. The drink, which has no sugar or artificial flavoring, would be a good one to try to appeal to more health-conscious customers, he thought. To help make the decision to sell Reign, McCloskey tried it—and liked it.
“You have to believe in it so that when you take it to your staff, or your salespeople, or your cashiers—that they believe in it, too,” he said.
See the payoff
At Rmarts stores, the drink was set away from Monster so it would be considered a performance beverage, rather than a traditional energy drink. McCloskey brought in 30-case deals to build floor displays and bring customer awareness to the new brand and category. The drinks sold for $2.79 each or two for $4.
To promote the drink, Reign was in the grab-and-go section and advertised on in-store signs, and staff was given sell sheets to educate them on the brand, McCloskey said. New customers started to come to the store to look for Reign, he said.
In the first seven months when Reign was introduced, overall packaged-soda category sales were up 6.7%, McCloskey said. Overall merchandise sales were also up, and the introduction of Reign led to discounts in other beverages, too.
“New brands are necessary and they’re an important part of our everyday business,” McCloskey said. “Remember, new brands can become your core brands in a quick amount of time.”
Seize the day
Jared Scheeler, CEO of Dickinson, N.D.-based The Hub Convenience Stores Inc., said retailers can improve sales by seizing the day with pop culture. Scheeler said he’s brought in many “one-off” products to his stores to boost sales.
One of those was eclipse glasses for the Aug. 21, 2017, solar eclipse.
Scheeler bought about 100 glasses for $1 apiece about two months before the eclipse. Weeks before the event, $7 per unit was the best price he saw for the glasses. He sold 143 units at $4.99 a piece. “And I could have gotten a lot more,” he said.
Fidget spinners and Angry Birds merchandise were two other trends Scheeler said he brought into his stores. The average store sold 470 units of fidget spinners for an incremental $9,000 in sales, he said.
“Take advantage of what’s going on in pop culture to keep that freshness in our stores,” Scheeler said.