Leveling The RYO Playing Field

In recent years, roll-your-own tobacco machines have surfaced at various retail locations putting convenience stores at a competitive disadvantage on price. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor America, and in particular its lawmakers, remains caught in a love-hate relationship with tobacco. That push-pull has resulted in very well-publicized attempts to dissuade Americans from using tobacco, or

Cultivating Loyal Customers

Savvy c-store operators are using loyalty programs to improve merchandise planning and forecasting to spur long-term growth. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor. Loyalty programs, when administered well, offer c-store retailers solid benefits—the ability to react to trends quickly, make more informed decisions, improve cost effectiveness and aid in merchandise planning and sales forecasting. “Loyalty programs

Service to the Fleet

With fuel costs again on the rise, a fleet card network can attract new business while offering fleet managers the safety, security and reporting tools they need to be successful. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor. Fleet cards are a nice piece of business for c-store operators. But the key to keeping that business growing is

Cash Isn’t King at Cleveland Car Washes

American Pride has switched from cash-based operations to tokens, and customers are coming back stronger than ever. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor. Brian Costa operates five American Pride car washes in the Cleveland area. All told, there are 29 self-service bays and six touchless automatics. Until early 2000 each location was quarter-based. Then, when the

Secure in the Convenience Store

Internet-based surveillance systems are combating shrink and protecting employees. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor. Increasingly in society, it seems security equals surveillance, especially at retail. Internet-based security systems are part of that trend, helping operators by tracking and recording every transaction and thereby decreasing the amount of thefts by both customers and employees. Even better,

Salty Snack Sales Surging

Healthier fare is certainly not the only trend in packaged snack foods, but it is by far the most important and widespread one affecting convenience stores. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor. Salty snacks and chips is abuzz with activity: new products and line extensions, multi-million-dollar advertising and promotional campaigns and innovative in-store merchandising. When combined

Building Bottled Water Sales

New products and core beverages will always drive cold vault sales. Retailers have to know how to market them effectively to maximize profitability. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor. Bottled water sales continue to rise steadily, which is good news for overall packaged beverage sales in convenience stores. NACS reported recently that in the wake of

Maintaining Compliance with Fuel Tank Standards

Out of sight, out of mind could land convenience store and gas station owners in serious trouble if they neglect their underground storage tanks (USTs) any longer. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor. With fines for leaks on the rise, regulations for tank compliance data retention getting longer and reporting frequencies increasing, the time has come

Boosting Energy Sales

Although some c-store operators admit to being worried about regulators turning their focus toward energy products, many believe the category has at least another year of strong growth ahead. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor. Sales of energy shots are soaring despite the lingering recession. New products, flavors and marketing messages are making it one of

The Impact of Restrooms on Food Sales

Poor safety and sanitation practices will turn customers away. Going above and beyond what’s required is the key to a healthy program. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor. The numbers tell an interesting story: according to a recent research study by Cintas Corp., fully 95% of people avoid patronizing a business in which they have had

Smokeless Sales Show No Signs of Dipping

Enhancing variety will continue to be a key for this high growth category. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor. Sales of smokeless tobacco products keep increasing and convenience store operators are enjoying the ride. But keeping that graph line headed north means keeping a wary eye on proposed federal regulations, keeping sets fresh, properly allocating shelf

Preparing for Future Payment Systems

First it was PCI, now retailers have to prepare for the widespread launch of Near Field Communications, which is expected to become a widely used system for making payments by smartphone in the U.S. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor. The convenience store industry is increasingly turnings its gaze outdoors to the forecourt, not only for

Perfecting Pizza

A top-notch pie and artistic appeal help differentiate the offering for this important foodservice segment. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor. Pizza, a perennial favorite of American culture, is grabbing headlines as some restaurateurs and retailers devise gourmet versions with a variety of innovative toppings and crusts. And while that’s all well and good, c-store shoppers

Getting Crafty in the Cold Vault

Beer sales are hot right now and driving the push are specialty brews and imports. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor. Consumer interest in more flavorful food and beverages has led, among other things, to the rise of craft beers. Retailers: Start your engines. Craft beers offer more challenging tastes, authenticity and often even a quirkiness

Boosting Fresh Food Sales

Americans are more amenable to buying meals at convenience stores, but won’t budge when it comes to quality, price or convenience factors like portability and packaging. By Howard Riell, Contributing Editor. Takeout food was invented for on-the-go consumers. But a takeout program has to do more than travel at high speeds. Today’s consumers want quality

Adding a Spark to Tobacco Sales

Customized and novelty lighters offer customers an opportunity to express themselves. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor. In simpler times, lighters were used chiefly as a means to an end—lighting up a cigarette, birthday candles or even restarting an oven. Today, however, with the growth of the tobacco accessories category, lighters have become an end in

Cultivating Loyal C-Store Customers

An effective rewards program can drive new business and increase the average ticket ring with existing customers. By Howard Riell, Contributing Editor. There was a time when loyalty programs were tools used by large chains to reward customers for their daily business. But the times have changed. Convenience store operators of all sizes are now

Seizing Control of Smokeless Sales

Convenience store retailers are still concerned over the FDA’s involvement in smokeless tobacco, but many expressed optimism that the category can continue to thrive. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor. While taxes and regulations haven’t impacted sales of smokeless tobacco products as much as some had predicted, it remains up to retailers to continue aggressively marketing

Developing a Menu for All Customers

The flexibility of chicken as a menu item allows convenience store operators to develop profitable branded and proprietary programs without sacrificing quality or value.    By Howard Riell, Associate Editor. Whether it’s sandwiches, tenders, wings, fried, breaded or sliced, customers have affordable options which can offer them a new experience during each trip to the

Capitalizing on Coffee Trends

Hot beverages anchor the industry’s foodservice offering, but the category is also a top in-store destination and among the most profitable.   By Howard Riell, Associate Editor. Numbers don’t lie–and when it comes to consumers and coffee, they show a category poised for even greater growth in the months ahead.Coffee consumption among consumers aged 18-29

Beefing Up Snack Sales

The prevalence of meat snacks has grown a great deal in recent years as the market has expanded with innovative flavors and new varieties. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor. The meat snacks category, which many Americans consider all but synonymous with convenience stores, continues to build sales as well as prestige. New and exotic flavors

Revitalized Roller Grill Sales

Hot dogs and tornados continue to provide chains with inexpensive, labor-friendly meal solutions that allow store operators to expand their fresh food offering. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor. One of the most maligned pieces of equipment in all of foodservice—the roller grill—remains the backbone of many convenience store foodservice programs, offering an inexpensive, labor-friendly way

Choosing the Perfect Pizza Program

Whether going with a branded option or developing a proprietary menu, pizza appeals to a wide variety of pallets.     By Howard Riell, Associate Editor. Everybody loves pizza, but which pizza? And what will it take to get it to your customers? These are the kinds of questions convenience store operators need to ask themselves

Securing the Convenience Store

Effective cash management solutions can be networked and integrated into existing POS systems to provide remote cash monitoring, further enabling a safer retail environment. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor. Retail success doesn’t just mean keeping money coming in, but preventing money from going out. And while normal business expenses are inevitable, theft is not. Being

Effective Visual Merchandising

By using creative store displays, retailers are making a certain connection with potential customers, one that is long lasting and makes them more apt to make a purchase. By Howard Riell, Associate Editor. Are you showing your wares as effectively as possible? According to the Convenience Consumer Insights (cci) Panel, the first-of-its-kind mobile research panel

css.php