When One Size Fits All Doesn’t Fit

I have always been a c-store guy, I just did not realize it until I became affiliated with this publication and started paying more attention to the intricacies of the segment. 

Thanks to my wife, I rarely go to the grocery store anymore–she actually likes the experience. I also rarely take the time to enjoy an extended sit-down breakfast or lunch, and going out to dinner has become a complicated indulgence due a hectic lifestyle that revolves around the kids’ activities and busy travel schedule. Yet, I’m not a big fan of most fast-food offerings, so I rely on convenience store options.

I have always enjoyed the trip to the c-store whether it’s for my morning coffee, a newspaper or just a pack of gum. Now it is more an occupational requirement to see what retailers have to offer from their various suppliers and to scope out the latest trends.

Locally, there is one convenience store that I had really come to count on. Notice the past tense phraseology.  Due to its location and its offerings, I have found myself having lunch at this spot at least once a week, even more if I am in the office all week. Most times I add a paper, bottled water and more if I sit down to eat.  The food was of high quality, the servers always friendly and I was able to get in and out quickly with nary a hiccup. More often than not I was joined by other diners on their lunch hour. Most of these folks were fellow business people on the same mission–a good meal in a convenient, comfortable setting.

I’m disappointed to say that someone recently made the decision to completely revamp the foodservice program. I walked into the store only to find the food that inspired my many repeat visits was gone. I’m sure that a lot of analysis went into this decision, but they seem to have forgotten one element– asking consumers what they wanted.

I have visited the store several times since during the lunch hour simply to observe traffic and see how things have changed. I’m told that I am far from alone in missing the previous menu and a few employees actually told me they miss me and several other loyal customers.

The point here is that one size does not fit all.  Local customers’ demographics and shopping patterns need to be a part of the equation. This store is surrounded by a high concentration of businesses that employ the types of people that are looking for quality options, and they will pay a premium for fresh, custom offerings. What’s more, they will spend more to sit down and eat in the location.

These same people most likely filled their tanks there, spent incremental dollars there and made additional stops there based on their loyalty to their food program. Now it’s become just another convenience store on the corner to and from the office.

My opinion was not solicited in the beginning and hasn’t been asked for since, so the only way of knowing how loyal customers reacted to the change is by viewing a number on a spreadsheet measuring performance for this core category.  My guess is that the numbers will not roll up very well. My only hope for this retailer (and its fantastic employees) is that they have the flexibility and hindsight to reconsider what was already working.  If the shoe fits, don’t change it.

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