By Chris Blasinsky
LONDON—Global Convenience Store Focus kicked off its first Shop Talk Live discussion of 2021 with a journey to Denmark. In “Convenience Store Transformation—the Danish Way,” Jesper Østergaard, managing director of Reitan Convenience Denmark, shared some of his team’s long-term strategies to completely reimage and transform their kiosk-like 7-Eleven store that exclusively sold traditional c-store items like candy, snacks and magazines, to a destination for fresh, local and healthy foodservice ranges.
Østergaard shared that his team’s transformation strategy began about a decade ago. Recognizing that some of the top-performing categories had been declining, coupled with retail hours of operation regulations that changed in 2012, the convenience retail industry overall gained new competition from retailers that were previously not able to operate overnight and on holidays.
“We knew this [hours of operation] regulation would not survive,” said Østergaard, noting that food was identified as the differentiator to propel the store forward, engage new customers and help future-proof the business.
Part of the strategic plan focused on bringing smaller, local start-ups into the fold, like the Protein Kitchen, which prepares and packages its dishes in a Copenhagen-based facility, six days a week, for its retail partners like 7-Eleven. “I love the way we work on this vision together,” said Cecilie Lind, founder of Protein Kitchen. (Reitan operates the 7-Eleven brand in Denmark.)
In the years since its transformation strategy took off, Østergaard noted the importance of never losing sight of the customers, who are their “ultimate boss.”
“Never forget who is paying your salary at end of the day and that’s the customer,” he said, adding that his team sought ways to improve the customer experience by delivering above and beyond what the competition offered, such as greater foodservice and bakery offers, and introducing better products that suit healthier lifestyles. “Give customers a choice,” said Østergaard. “If they’re on the go, you have to give them an option to eat healthier, and we have the product range” to meet their needs.
Østergaard said that one of the best results of his team’s work came in June 2019, when Reitan Convenience Denmark won the NACS International Convenience Retailer of the Year Award. “We have chosen the right strategy, and it’s still the one we’re working on today,” he said, adding that customer growth is one of the KPIs they are focusing on, particularly throughout the global pandemic.
Although 2020 was challenging, Østergaard said his store fared better than many of its competitors, citing the shift from traditional kiosk products to the food business. Magazines and newspapers, for example, “were not ever going to be sustainable,” he said, and early in the pandemic the focus was to remain open. “Instead of focusing on 25% of customers we lost, we focused on the 75% who were coming in” to showcase that 7-Eleven Denmark has the best food and product ranges.
Read more about how Reitan Convenience Denmark propelled 7-Eleven into one of the biggest retailers in Denmark in this NACS Magazine article, “Danish Transformation.”
Also, listen to even more European retail insights by hopping over to Sweden. In this episode of Convenience Matters, “Nordic Retail Trends,” Mariette Kristenson, CEO of Reitan Convenience Sweden AB, continues to change the traditional concept of convenience retail.
Chris Blasinsky is the content communications strategist at NACS.