playmaker

Mark Redding may have had to say goodbye to his dreams of becoming a professional baseball player, but he's been a playmaker in the convenience channel for years now.

He got his first taste of the industry when he accepted a position as a route merchandiser for McLane Grocery Distributors in 1983. From there, Redding became a district manager and finally an area sales manager. That's where he first started working with Tucson, Ariz.-based Quik Mart, the company he has served for seven years as general manager.

"Being a district manager for McLane really helped prepare me for the position I hold at Quik Mart," said Redding. "I had to learn to manage lots of different people, and it's really an acquired skill. I manage a great deal more with Quik Mart, but it was great background for me."

Today, Redding overseas operations of Quik Mart's 28 stores and its 160 employees. True, he gets a hand from his three area supervisors, but it's a great responsibility.

Quik Mart prides itself on being a family-owned, locally grown company. Having been in business since 1965, the company's motto is "We're Tucsonians," and it's become a sort of an icon for the city.

"We've seen competitors come and go, but the Little family has established us as a neighborhood store that customers could use for groceries and fill-in convenience shopping," said Redding. "One of the things I've tried to stay on top of is our grocery mix. We want to use the most of our space to deliver the products our customers need."

Quik Mart's grocery mix wasn't the only thing that needed to be kept in check. When Redding came on board stores were greatly overstocked with cigarette inventories, and it was costing the company valuable dollars and merchandising space.

At about the same time, McLane was introducing a cigarette inventory management program that Quik Mart was quick to implement. Redding was able to eliminate 20% of the unneeded cigarette inventory while also being able to manage the category on a store-by-store basis, so stores could stock what was actually selling in each location versus what the entire chain was selling.

"A huge part of my job is controlling costs," said Redding. "It's not the easiest task, but having the right tools sure makes it easier."

Redding's current project is a company-wide remodeling. With stores that havebeen operating since 1965, he admits that they're showing wear and tear, sothe company is modernizing the facilities to create a safer, smarter environmentfor both employees and customers.

One of the major differences will be new, elevated checkouts that will provide employees with more visibility throughout the store. The project is coming along gradually, but the company is not shutting down any of its stores for the two to three days the renovations require, and Redding said business hasn't suffered.

"For the two to three days of remodeling, stores are a flurry of electricians, construction workers and plumbers," he said.

"Amazingly, our customers are unfazed by the whole thing. They're excited to see the changes we're making and how we are improving the stores. Once the project is done, it's gratifying to hear customers comment about the difference it makes."

As Redding gazes into the future, he looks forward to the growth Quik Mart has on its agenda. He also sees the convenience channel becoming much more efficient from manufacturers to distribution all the way to store level, and one way to streamline a growing chain is through technology. The company is up to the challenge, but Redding would hate to see a push for technology take away from the homey environment the Quik Mart has created.

"As technology continues to grow, we can get carried away with it and, at times,forget about what really helps sell our merchandise

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