As the sales and marketing manager for Jaco Oil Co., which runs 53 Fastrip stores in California and Arizona, Fred Faulkner’s job is a busy one.
Faulkner holds the responsibility of buying for all categories, selecting in-store equipment from deli cases to fountain machines, shaping the deals for purchases, creating the point-of-sale for promotions and working with suppliers to create promotional calendars.
When it comes to remodeling locations, he gets involved in everything from setting the planograms and schematics to getting the stores back up and running.
“We’re a small company, so we wear a lot of hats here,” Faulkner said.
In college, Faulkner embarked on his career by working for Sears Roebuck Co. where he participated in a year-long management training program. He then spent three years as a sales consultant for 7-Eleven before he started at Jaco Oil, where he learned a great deal from his early role with the company.
“When I first came here, we did not operate any company run stores, so my job was to set up a company store. We went from zero to about 14 company operated stores in two states with 250 employees, and my job involved pretty much every aspect of the business except the gasoline side,” Faulkner said.
Meeting Current Challenges
In today’s economic climate, drawing consumers to the store and keeping them enticed by new items is crucial and one of the biggest challenges Faulkner faces in his position.
“Everyone is concerned with the economy,” he said. “Customers are all trying to figure out ways to save money, and they are very conscious of prices. They are looking to see what we have on promotion, what kind of values we have compared to other places around here.”
One area where consumers are making price-conscious decisions is cigarettes, with many moving away from pricey carton purchases and instead opting for three-pack premium brand bundles. Still other consumers are shifting to third tier cigarette purchases to save money.
As consumers grow more careful about what they purchase, Faulkner uses promotions to entice consumers. He also includes a steady stream of new items to pique consumer interest when they run in for just gas or cigarettes. By combining these promotions with employee incentives, Fastrip is able to gain their help in suggesting certain products to consumers.
Cashiers, for example, earn $1 for every pair of sunglasses they sell. “We weren’t selling very many pairs when we started and now within a given month between nine stores we probably sell 450 to 500 pairs. That one promotion at a 50% margin pays for most of the incentives we do,” Faulkner said.
Fastrip’s main goal is to provide consistent, profitable growth and to continue working on improving the customer experience.
“Most people come to c-stores because they’re looking for their favorite products. You may have alternatives that are more profitable, but you have to have those basic items,” Faulkner said. “You’re always looking for the best mix of products for your stores and, beyond that, you try to run the right promotions and come up with the ideas that help sell and offer outstanding service. “