Maximizing Summer Opportunities

Often, the difference between great sales and mediocre sales is attention to detail. There are certain tasks that c-stores can accomplish that will generate a positive impression in the mind of a customer.

By Jim Callahan

Strong retail sales growth in January and February indicate that consumers are still confident in the U.S. economy.

Indicators of consumer confidence are hitting highs not seen in a decade and should bolster the U.S. economy even more in 2017, according to a recent Kiplinger report.

While it may feel a bit premature to begin forming—then executing—a summer plan that begins with the long Memorial Day weekend and ends with the Labor Day weekend is, be assured most of the major players in retail have already mapped out their plans for the entire year and are thinking beyond summer and looking at holiday strategies.

But, let’s tackle one season at a time. Now is the time to prepare your stores—inside and out. That might include everything from new windshield squeegees for motorists who pull in to fill up; to a new beer cave with an automatic temperature control that keeps the product at a steady temperature.

THINGS BIG AND SMALL
Of course, squeegees are a lot more economical then a beer cave. In the end, your operational budget will dictate the level of upgrades. Still, the point of this article is to remind retailers to keep their eyes on the details, no matter how big or how small.

Here are just some of the items to consider:
• Employees: Make sure to inspire each of your team members by letting them know how critical their appearance, attitude and involvement is to the business. If there are some performance shortcomings that should be addressed, now is the time to handle it.
• Vendor Participation: Get with the top supplier of every popular, key category and offer to trade key display space for discounts, free goods, advertising money, giveaways and other considerations. Then, start to work with secondary suppliers.

If these major operational components are in hand, then you can begin digging into the nitty gritty aspects that directly impact store appearance and customer perception. Some things to review include:
• Advertising/Signage/Flyers/Specials/Prizes: Invest dollars to advertise and give space on flyers/signage to top vendor partners.
• Uniforms/Name Badges: Make sure they are clean and attractive—every day.
• Paint/Touch Up: This includes the forecourt and outside amenities. Your petroleum supplier can help.
• Air Machine/Water: Ensure that air machines are working well and vacuums cleaned out and hoses checked.
• Drive Area/Parking/Sidewalks: Traffic areas should be clean, uncluttered and clearly marked.
• Lighting: Good lighting is important so all customers feel comfortable and safe.
• Canopies, Dispensers: Fix canopy leaks if needed and wipe dispensers daily. Remember the squeegees.
• Interior floors, Ceilings, Lighting, Walls, Base board: Ensure all of these important surfaces are clean. Don’t forget to clean the corners.
• Gondolas/Counters/Shelves/Merchandise: All should be dusted and clean, especially before any sale.
• Coolers: The doors and the interiors should be cleaned, and merchandise should be accessible.
• Deli Area/Equipment: Well-cleaned, well-stocked stores with fresh product draws traffic. Use “sell by” dates and strictly abide by them.
• Restrooms: Bathrooms should be graffiti free, deodorized, squeaky clean, well stocked and well lit.
• ATM: Your cash machine should be working properly and stocked extra well to accommodate those summer travelers.
• Lastly, review all policies with your employees including safety and security measures, emergency phone number and the importance of checking IDs.

That’s a lot to accomplish, not to mention you will find other things unique to your store. I strongly suggest you start now especially to get vendors on board, providing them ample time to get you the best product deals possible.

Nothing is truer than the old song, “Ain’t it funny how time slips away.” Instead, the song to be rehearsing should be, “Feels like summer again.”

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 jfcallahan1160@gmail.com.

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