1. If you were creating a convenience store concept from scratch, where would you start?
I would start with my market place. The market place where the store is going to be located and operating in will dictate what kind of convenience store I would build. For example, if I were to build a convenience store located of a major interstate or highway I would skew my product mix more towards transient people and travelers. On the other hand, if I were to build a neighborhood store I would want my product mix and services to reflect the needs of my surrounding demographics.
2. Looking back on when you operated convenience stores, what are the biggest changes in the industry between then and now?
We sometimes tend to lose focus of what kind of business we are in and that is the convenience business. The changes I have seen are the addition of more products and services, which translate to more profit centers in a convenience store than we used to have. Which in turn have increased the size of the convenience store. Customers like one stop shopping today more than they did in the past, because everybody is in a hurry.
3. What is the No. 1 attribute you believe successful c-store operators should have?
This is going to sound bland, but I think the first thing a store should be is clean. The store should be clean in every aspect of the store, which includes the MPDs, islands, trash containers, shelves, counters, everything. A lot of operators don’t realize the negative signal they are sending to their customers when they see an unkept dirty and unorganized store. Recently I watched a new operator take over a convenience store in my neighborhood and they cleaned the store up and added some ancillary items to sell and their sales are up 30% and climbing. Cleanliness does translate to increased profits.
4. When you talk with other retail leaders, what is their perception of our industry?
I am very fortunate, because the people I talk to in the convenience store industry are all upbeat and see a bright future for the industry. They may get bogged down and aggravated at the increased regulations and bureaucracy that is in the industry, but they all believe as I do that the convenience store industry has a great future ahead of 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?
I am on the road constantly covering thousands of miles a year and am in hundreds of stores, because of my travels and when I go into a convenience store coming off the road I first visit their restroom, which as corny as this may sound is very important to all kinds and ages of travelers. Then I am going to check out their coolers for what kind of selection of drinks they have available and what kind of food offerings they have. Since I am a highway traveler my needs are more skewed to getting in and getting out with everything I may need so I can get back on the road. And yes, I can list some of the places you don’t want to stop at, but I will save that for another story.
Read the extended version of this interview with additional tips from Terry Monroe on opening a new store in the downloadable guide, Deciding Where to Open a Convenience Store.