Thriving on Teamwork

Getting one store back in order in just two-and-a-half days proved to be the ultimate retail challenge.

By Jim Callahan.

One of my retail clients recently had to take back two failed convenience stores—that were in extremely bad condition—from a franchisee on a Wednesday and wanted them back online by the weekend. I love a good challenge, but this sure was a doozy.

I work with a well-tuned team of experienced retail veterans and even we would not have been able to accomplish this turnaround without the complete buy-in from the entire team. While one store was in decent shape, the other was horrendous. To understand what we were up against, picture a potentially great, but absolutely filthy c-store devoid of any stock with just shelving and Ruby cash register systems.

The interior literally had cobwebs sprouting from above the deli area, while dust turned to dirt on the counters and shelves that was so thick you could actually write the words “clean me” in it. Badly stained floor tiles and poor interior lighting created a permanent twilight condition and neglected ceiling tiles were rotted so badly they needed to be replaced. On top of all this, the entire store interior begged for fresh paint, and I won’t even discuss the bathrooms.

In addition to the interior, the exterior windows were so dirty that, along with the dim lighting, it created a security hazard. The forecourt sported blacktop and sidewalk areas in dire need of pressure washing, trash cans beyond redemption, bagged ice dispensers lined with green mold and a diesel area that exuded neglect. Despite all of this, there was potential for this store, given its strong location.

The Clean Up
To get started, we had to put together a staff. Obtaining background checks, drug screening and conducting training on the fly is no small accomplishment, but some very dedicated people willed it to happen. We were able to borrow enough current employees from the chain’s other stores to temporarily staff these two units. You should also know that we kept the fuel island open during the entire transformation so as not to lose all of the business. Despite the horrendous conditions, both stores maintained a decent fuel business.

Once cleanup was underway, we alerted vendors that we took back the stores and asked them to be there Friday morning so that we could open the store that same afternoon. As you will find throughout this industry, our vendor partners didn’t let us down when we needed them most. Sincere kudos to the likes of Coke, Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Lance, Little Debbie, Monster, Red Bull, Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard and so many others.

Special thanks to the Eby–Brown team for rushing the process of setting up new accounts, tagging shelves, placing orders and stocking the shelves in record time. In less than three days we were able to execute the turnaround flawlessly. I can’t begin to tell you the pride all of us feel every time customers come in and tell us how much they appreciate the magical transformation of these two stores.

But this isn’t just about two stores. As we head into March and the spring selling season use this time to review your entire operation and find ways to improve before the summer drive time arrives. Use a fresh set of eyes to critically—and objectively—examine where you can improve. Tour other convenience stores and QSR chains like McDonald’s so they don’t beat you to the punch with fountain and coffee promotions. Above all work on your image and cleanliness. The competition is improving every day and your customers will not tolerate a lack of excellence.

Jim Callahan has more than 40 years of experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on CSDecisions.com. He can be reached at (678) 485-4773 or via e-mail at jfcallahan502@msn.com.

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