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Developing A Winning Foodservice Strategy

By: John Matthews, founder of Gray Cat Enterprises. In the convenience store marketplace, margins continue to tighten on core products such as candy, snacks and tobacco. Prudent operators are attempting to stem the tide by introducing foodservice items into their stores. Most facilities provide plenty of customer traffic and space within the store to enable

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Category Management Planning

By: John Matthews, founder of Gray Cat Enterprises. With the New Year upon us, planning for your annual merchandising and promotional schedule should be in place. For the multi-store operator, identifying the key initiatives for each of the merchandising categories is critical to remaining on plan (and on budget) throughout the year. Each category should

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8 Years, 244 Days

By: John Matthews, founder of Gray Cat Enterprises.  It is official. As of Dec. 5, Gray Cat Enterprises marks the longest consecutive stint in my background for one place. Gray Cat Enterprises hit eight years, 244 days old on Dec. 5, which now surpasses the time I spent at Little Caesars. It is hard to

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Improving Customer Service in the New Year

As the calendar turns to 2013, convenience store retailers should embrace the challenge of exceeding their customers’ expectations. By Jim Callahan. Let’s face it, the great majority of us struggle miserably to drive sales during the very first week of each New Year. Here’s a resolution that every retailer can wrap his arms around—one that

Sandy Brings Out the Best and Worst in Marketers

The buildup leading up to superstorm Sandy was met by many along the East Coast with skepticism. We’ve all heard these doomsday scenarios before, but rarely has the storm matched the hype. As such, many residents ignored the warnings to fill up their gas tanks and gas cans in preparation for power outages and fuel

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Aftershocks from Hurricane Sandy

In a time of need for our customers, one bad apple can spoil all of the good will done by others. By Jim Callahan. “One bad apple spoils the bunch.” That is an old saying that certainly rings true, even more so when faced with public scrutiny over the availability and pricing of petroleum products.

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The Basics Of Franchising

By: John Matthews, founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc. Upon opening their first store, many single-store operators come to an, often premature, conclusion that they are going to franchise. While this may be a noble end-game goal, what is often missing from this proclamation is determining whether or not their concept is “franchishable.”

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Local Store Marketing: Chamber of Commerce

By: John Matthews, founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc. Joining and becoming active in your local chamber of commerce is an excellent way to increase your store’s visibility within your local business area.  In addition to meeting a number of key local business contacts who can turn into group sales and individual patrons

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Small Business Management

By: John Matthews, founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc. Running a small business has its share of ups and downs. When I launched Gray Cat Enterprises nearly nine years ago, running my own small business has been both rewarding and challenging. Gray Cat has enabled me to establish greater balance in my life

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Self-Service Kiosks

By: John Matthews, founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc. Self-service kiosks continue to be a growing trend in retailing and is expected to accelerate over the years.  By the end of 2012, nearly 2 million self-serve kiosks will be in place, and savvy retailers should consider capitalizing on this trend.  This exploding industry

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Local Store Marketing: Employee Recognition

By: John Matthews, founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc. Looking for a way to invigorate your store staff and sales? Employee peer recognition is often more influential among your workers than achieving actual prizes or monetary rewards.  Developing ongoing peer recognition programs will keep your employees excited about their jobs and their enthusiasm

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Know Thy Customer….Or At Least Be Able to Reach Them!

By: John Matthews, founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc. The conversation usually starts like this: “So, do you know your customer?” “Of course, I know my customers, most by name.” “Great, let’s communicate to them that you have a sale this weekend.” “[cricket sounds]” Call me a pragmatist, but this is a typical

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Embracing the Lipstick Theory

When times are tough, customers substitute bigger purchases for more inexpensive, feel-good items. By Jim Callahan. According to economists the lipstick theory works like this. You’re in the store, checking out some new gear. Then you check your finances and think, “No, better not.” You buy a new lipstick instead. The theory is that if

A Night to Remember for Team Tedeschi

In front of nearly 300 convenience store industry retailers and suppliers, Peter Tedeschi, president and CEO of Tedeschi Food Shops, accepted Convenience Store Decisions’ 2012 Convenience Store Chain of the Year award at a banquet in Las Vegas. Tedeschi is CSD’s 23rd Chain of the Year winner, the oldest and most prestigious award offered in

Driving Retail Opportunities

The NACS Show is my annual reminder of just how much innovation exists among the many talented retailers and suppliers I communicate with every day. I expect this year’s NACS Show to be one of the most interesting I’ve ever attended. While the event has so much to offer, retailers can’t lose sight of the

Chains Worth Watching

Despite the global recession, convenience stores have thrived thanks to their ability to provide fast service, quality products and great value in strategic locations. As service and location remain the industry’s primary competitive advantage over supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers, many of whom are moving into the fuel and fresh food business, convenience stores

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Local Store Marketing: Customer Appreciation Days

By John Matthews, founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc. Customer Appreciation Days are excellent ways to attract consumers that have similar backgrounds or interests. Honoring your best customers with a distinctive recognition day is a terrific way to create a “call-to-action” for specific selected groups.  Whether it is for school personnel or administrative

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Relocating A Store

By: John Matthews, founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc. The lease is up at your existing location, and the new center down the street is happening. The thought of relocating your business is daunting—when will you find the time and will you lose customers? An important decision faces your brand—do you relocate your

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The Importance of Making a Great First Impression

Something as simple a smile and a “thank you” goes a long way in elevating the customer service experience. By Jim Callahan. The saying goes, and I so agree, that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.In the business world, when you are expected to be a leader, this is something

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Merchandising! Merchandising!

By John Matthews, founder of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc. “Merchandising, merchandising, where the real money from the movie is made. Spaceballs the T-shirt. Spaceballs the lunchbox. Spaceballs the coloring book. Spaceballs… the flamethrower! Kids love it. And my favorite, Spaceballs the Doll — me!” — Yogurt from the movie Spaceballs Merchandising is a critical aspect

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Managing A Retail Real Estate Portfolio

By John Matthews, founder of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc. For the multi-unit operator, managing a retail real estate portfolio is tricky business. Keeping winning stores in tip-top condition—both physically and financially—is the key to long-term success. The best multi-unit operators actively prune their portfolios in a proactive way and overtime, minimize the organization from becoming

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Facility Management

By John Matthews, founder of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc. It was the situation that everyone dreads. Out of the blue, the anxiety-filled request was made—the CEO had summoned me to his office. Thoughts raced through my head—mostly bad thoughts, mind you—of why I was being asked to join him and the COO in an impromptu

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Local Store Marketing: The Business Traveler

By, John Matthews, founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc. Ah, the glamour of business travel. The security lines, the $8 airport beers, the ongoing game of “how much can I stuff in an overhead bin,” all for the privilege of boarding a bus with wings. Well, this week I passed a milepost of

Dealing with the Long Arm of Government

The onslaught continues. It never ceases to amaze me that why, in these trying economic times, lawmakers insist on introducing legislation that costs retailers sales opportunities. Virtually every chain I’ve covered over the past 15-plus years in this industry has counted on earnings and profits to reinvest in the business. That means buying more real

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Keeping the C-Store Safe and Secure

Employee safety requires a strong training program and commitment from everyone in the company. Store security is an issue that we all take extremely seriously. There must be procedures in place for all employees and managers to follow, and they must be followed to the letter. No exceptions. A couple of stories illustrate and reinforce

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