1. If you were creating a convenience store concept from scratch, where would you start?
I would start by identifying consumer segments that are underserved or not specifically targeted by convenience retailing competitors in my marketplace. Because our industry conducts more than 160 million transactions per day (half the population of the United States) most convenience retailers think that they should be all things to all people. That’s a mistake because your offer becomes so broad that it doesn’t really excite any specific customer segment and it is very difficult to differentiate yourself from your competition. That doesn’t mean that customers in other segments won’t come to your store, it just means you’re not targeting their unique needs. Let me give you two examples of what I mean. Sheetz targets millennials with a hip and edgy offer and Maverik targets adventure oriented consumers; that’s what those brands stand for…and I shop at both (and I’m nether hip nor adventure seeking).
2. Looking back on when you operated convenience stores, what are the biggest changes in the industry between then and now.
Channels are much more blurred today. 20 years ago drug stores didn’t have a convenience food and beverage offer. Dollar stores hardly even existed. Foodservice was a minor part of our offer. And Amazon certainly didn’t deliver stuff in a couple of hours!
3. What is the No. 1 attribute you believe successful c-store operators should have?
A passion for people and the ability to really “listen” for what they need. I’m talking not just about your customers but just as importantly about the people that work for you, the people that serve your customers.
4. When you talk with other retail leaders, what is their perception of our industry?
Great question! Today most of them wish that they were as well positioned as we are. Because of all sorts of things (urbanization, smaller household sizes, busier lives to name a few), the demand for convenience has never been greater and it continues to grow every year. They also think that because so much of our offer is immediately consumed we are far less vulnerable to internet commerce than almost any other channel (although we certainly aren’t immune to it).
5. When you’re on the road visiting NACS members, what is the one (or several!) item you always go for in a convenience store?
Immediate refreshment, whether it’s a cold drink or a cup of coffee or tea. And I’m jerky junky!
For an extended version with more information about how to run a successful convenience store, check out our downloadable guide, 3 Quick Tips for Running a Successful Convenience Store.
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