Shell Games

Maybe there’s still a bit of debate on the medical merits of catharsis, but Bobak Bakhtiari could be the man to put the issue to rest. "Does it further ignite aggression?" asked Bakhtiari, a former counselor at a California psychiatric facility who now runs Tanforan Shell, his family’s convenience store and carwash in San Bruno,


Shoppernomics 2.0: The Not-So-Perfect Storm

There’s a host of ingredients contaminating the retail environment these days, with shoppers dogged by rising costs in energy, food and basic necessities. As a result, shopping habits are being radically reshaped in this new and uncertain environment, said Thom Blischok, president of consulting and innovation at Information Resources Inc. (IRI). "We are living in

Alaskan Energy Crisis Solved

Faced with almost six weeks of daylight when the summer solstice hit their town on June 20, residents in Barrow, Alaska, were finally provided an answer to their age-old question: How do you make it through a 1,992-hour day? In honor of the summer solstice, the makers of Jolt Energy drink airlifted 370 cases of

Reshaping the Convenience Landscape

For some marketers and distributors, Exxon Mobil Corp.’s decision to get out of direct-store operations could present the chance of a lifetime; an opportunity to acquire the rights to stores for an entire market, maybe more. For others, the announcement caused immediate fear and panic concerning the long-term viability of their operations and, in some

Prepaid Reaping Financial Rewards

While gift card malls have been getting a lot of attention, prepaid debit, credit, gift and especially gas cards offered by Visa, MasterCard and American Express are quietly booming in popularity. Prepaid’s profit potential is fueled by shifts in the marketplace, wider social acceptance and the nation’s growing population of "unbanked" lower-income consumers. And while

Packaged Beverage Sales Heating Up

New products and flavors, including some with healthier ingredients, are helping soft drinks and teas experience a healthy resurgence in already jammed cold vaults nationwide, even as traditional carbonated soft drinks continue to decline. For operators, keeping tabs on trends and adjusting sets to match ever-changing dynamics remains a full-time job. According to the National

Consumers Rush for Energy

John Scully got started on Red Bull before Red Bull got started on him. Now 41 and working as a mortgage broker in Cleveland, Scully remembers that first sip, taken in a bar in Thailand where he’d backpacked when he was a 20-something college graduate long on adventure and short on money. "You sort of

The Lean Scene

Some are kind of freaked out, and some kind of like the idea. The hardscrabble soda-and-cigarettes crowd, they’re still on the lower hump of the learning curve. "They’re kind of like, ‘Hey dude, where’s my Doritos and cigarettes,’" said Alvaro Garza, co-owner of The Green Spot Market and Fuels on the outskirts of Dallas. But

Technology Driving Safety and Cash Management

Safeguarding c-stores and the people and property in and around them is getting easier and more economical thanks largely to incremental advances in a variety of technologies. Among them: safes that do more, software systems that communicate better and electronic eyes that see more. Theft and mayhem of all types, from gas pump drive-offs and

Hot Dispensed Beverages: Consumers on the Prowl for Premium

The days of battery acid brewing in a pot on a hot plate are long over, and c-store coffee programs will be hard-pressed to win drinkers these days without recognizing that consumers are on the prowl for premium coffees at palatable prices. A shortage of minutes and money among consumers nationwide is driving demand for

Alternative Energy (Shots and bars): Buying Energy by the Shot

Make room for the new kid on the block: Energy shots, those concentrated versions of energy drinks that are beginning to mirror the high sales figures of their parent product. Granted, some customers buy energy shots to add to their energy drink in a kind of shot-and-chaser strategy. But for an increasing number of buyers,

Faith-Fueled and Furious

At a jail in Valparaiso, Ind., there’s a rebel musician who’s probably wishing he’d sung just a little bit louder. At a church in San Francisco, there’s a holy man wishing he and his flock had prayed just a little bit harder. And in a backwater town just outside Kansas City, Mo., there’s a new

Cold & Frozen dispensed beverages: Mixing it Up in Cold Dispensed

Average per-store sales of cold dispensed beverages experienced modest gains that shouldn’t give retailers pause when they manage this category, as leading c-store chains are showing that big profits can spurt from some tiny fountain heads. Ricker’s c-stores, for instance, a 30-store chain headquartered in Anderson, Ind., has shaped much of its identity on its

Carbonated Soft Drinks: Strong, But Losing Ground

Most carbonated soft drink companies found 2007 a good year, but not because of CSD sales in the U.S. Increases in carbonated beverage sales outside North America plus profits from their non-carbonated acquisitions are keeping Coke and Pepsi strong, despite the introduction of new products such as Coke Zero and Diet Pepsi Max, industry analysts

The Customer: Wine Appetites and Beer Wallets

The 2008 consumer, complex and roiling in its many needstates, has become a multi-headed hydra whose rituals and habits are being altered by external forces. It is, however, a creature predictable on at least one front: It always appreciates the convenience and value of the neighborhood c-store. Pinched by rising costs of fuel, food and

Cigarettes: Taxation Taking a Toll

Cigarettes by far continue to be the top in-store category based on sales dollars. On a monthly basis, the industry per store average for 2007 was $39,127. However, its gross profit contribution slipped to 3.2% to $6,152 falling behind package beverages ($6,526.) The reason tobacco fell to No. 2 is simply taxation. Since 2002, 43

Bottled Water: New Water Pours Forth

Conventional wisdom says the bottled water market is flooded, but that may not be the case at the high end, according to Beverage Marketing, which reports that high-end brands like Iceland Spring and Iceland Glacial, Voss and Isbre appear eager to parlay an exotic source and upscale packaging into an above-premium business, much as Fiji

The Competition: Discretionary Spending Looms Large

For the past decade, the list of retailers that have cut into the convenience store industry’s consumer base has included the usual suspects: Wal-Mart, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Walgreens and a slew of other national brands in a smattering of channels. C-stores are predictably pitted against those same powerhouses in 2008, but the environment is far more

Other Tobacco products: OTP On The Rise

A surefire marketing strategy: Develop a need where consumers don’t even know they have one. The flipside: Wait until a need becomes so apparent, so prevalent and so overwhelming that it can no longer be justifiably ignored as a legitimate need. A pocketful of lawsuits and a barrage of tax increases in its portfolio, and

Juices and teas: Fruit Drinks Flat, Teas Growing

Information Resources Inc. (IRI) reported that the total count for the sparkling juice category is $78 million and rising. Even so, it’s a bit difficult to tell how much traction the average c-store retailer can get from them given the huge number of beverage choices available in this category today. Other than specialty sparkling beverages

Car Wash and Motor Fuels: Fueling Frustration

Fuel price volatility is here to stay. Marketers must learn how to manage it to their advantage. That was the cold, hard message conveyed in the 2008 NACS State of the Industry (SOI) report. Marketers are urged to pay attention to sales volumes, but also focus on gross margin dollars and to always look at

Candy, gum and mints: Candy Continues to be Dominant

The U.S. retail confectionery category generated approximately $29 billion in sales in 2007 and the profit margin for the category was approximately 35%, according to the National Confectioners Association’s (NCA) U.S. Confectionery Market report. Convenience stores accounted for 15%, or $4.5 billion, of overall candy sales in 2007, surpassing drug stores and dollar stores, but

Security and operations: Security and operations: Security and operations: Operating Costs Rise Across the Board

The cost of operating a convenience store is up significantly thanks in part to a number of factors, the most glaring being interchange fees and credit card costs. But labor and utilities also experience significantly higher year-on-year gains. The industry’s operating expenses on a per-store, per-month basis rose across the board in 2007, according to

Salty And Meat Snacks: Healthy Trend in Snacks Sales

Like other retail channels, the convenience store industry is witnessing a change in consumers’ snack choices. "We’re definitely seeing a shift to healthier snacks, but I think it’s a little slower than some of the other channels just because our customer base is still predominantly younger males who aren’t as much into healthier eating as

Technology: Plural Platforms Top Priority

Today’s c-store retailers want technology platforms that will allow them to manage fuel brands, foodservice operations, remain PCI compliant, easily access data and help improve customer service simultaneously. Sound like a tall order? It’s really not, said Jenny Bullard, chief information officer of the Jones Co., which owns 177 Flash Foods stores in Georgia and