Saluting Supplier Partners

Retailers may be on the front lines every day, but the presence of their supplier partners is palpable. It can be seen and felt in the marketing and merchandising found at the store level and in the intricate planograms category managers use to set their stores.

To get a better feel for the supplier companies that retailers believe are going above and beyond the call of duty, Convenience Store Decisions once again partnered with Hagen Marketing Research Inc. for our third annual Brand Preference Study, the results of which comprise our 2008 Reader’s Choice Awards.

The Reader’s Choice Awards issue is a must-read because the Top Performers and Honorable Mentions were chosen directly by you, the retailers. The information was gathered through surveys of buyers and merchandisers of the specific product categories studied. For example, 43% of respondents held the title of vice president, director of operations or marketing and merchandising manager; 35% were category managers or category buyers; and 22% were president, partner or owner. The 102 chains that participated in the study operate more than 15,200 stores and rang up sales of more than $17.2 billion last year.

Interviews were conducted at both headquarters and regional offices of top convenience store chains, defined as those operating at least 50 stores, as well as with smaller chains, those operating between 10 and 49 stores.

CSD’s Brand Preference Study yielded timely data and sales trends on a plethora of products and services.

While the purpose of these awards is to honor the leading suppliers in the channel, the bottom line is retailers need supplier partners that are willing to listen to their needs and offer innovative and profitable new ideas in this very complex industry. An occasional phone call is not enough.

Great opportunities exist for all suppliers to the convenience store market, the report found. In the cases where marketers have achieved "preferred supplier" level, the suppliers have demonstrated high levels of sales calls. Plus, they have a clear understanding of how to meet convenience store customers’ special needs through their services, merchandising, package size, promotional support, distribution and proven sales demand.

"Retailers demonstrated that they want supplier partners to answer their needs and to present innovative and profitable new ideas to help them be more successful in this very competitive industry," the report said. "However, research indicates that retailers are not receiving information on new products and promotions on a timely basis or in enough detail."

Missing opportunities to connect with retailers is oversight supplier companies can not afford to miss. "Convenience stores remain an important stop for the nation’s consumers and represent a powerful sales opportunity for product and service suppliers," the report said.

Read CSD’s Reader’s Choice Awards coverage beginning on page 16. If you have a supplier partner that did not make our list that you would like us to recognize, please let me know via email at jlofstock@csdecisions.com or phone, (201)836-5100.

 

Empowering Customers

Will self-service checkout prove a viable solution for c-stores? Depends who you ask. Some chains have tried and failed, however retail technology experts say self-checkout systems have advanced so much over the past two years that it’s not a matter of if we begin to start seeing these units at c-stores, but more a matter of when.

The motivating factor for self-checkout isn’t even necessarily convenience, it’s labor, said Paul Burel, director of marketing strategy for U-Scan, Fujitsu Transaction Solutions Inc.’s self-checkout line.

The future will see smaller operators going to self-service checkout. "Ultimately, customers are going to demand it. I don’t think it’s isolated to any industry. I’m seeing it everywhere. It doesn’t matter what business you’re in," Burel said. "We are in the hypermarkets and home improvement centers around the world. It has caught on."

 

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