Light Boost to Beer

Despite tough economic times, sales of beer and wine remain constant even though many consumers continue to “trade down the box,” according to Dan Roane, category manager of alcoholic beverages for Circle K’s Southeastern stores. “The below premium beer segment is doing much better than it has in years,” Roane said. “We actually are seeing

Variety Spicing Up Salty Snacks

Salty Statistics According to a study by The Nielsen Co. that outlined c-store trends, pretzels and popcorn sales saw strong growth during the 52 weeks ended March 21, 2009, with sales for pretzels up $164 million, a 10.1% increase. Popcorn sales totaled $119 million, a 14.3% increase from the previous year. Potato chips lead the

Mixed Results for Carbonated

The U.S. refreshment beverage market contracted by 2% in 2008, according to Beverage Marketing Corp., making last year the first volume downturn on record. Nonetheless, beverages still performed better than many other industries, such as automobiles and the financial sector. Several beverage types continued to shine, including carbonated soft drinks in many parts of the

Products, Packaging Key to HBC

Private Label Predicament Private label categories are increasing across all product categories, including HBC. While consumers still want the brands they know and trust, in today’s economy many are looking for a more optimally priced equivalent. In the first aid category, private label sales are up 10% compared to last year, according to Nielsen for

Wild Ride Continues for Cigarettes

Once again, cigarettes dominated in-store sales, accounting for nearly one in every three dollars spent in stores, but cigarette gross margins continued to plummet, falling to 15.3%. These low cigarette margins dropped the category to third in terms of gross margin contribution (16%) behind foodservice (23.9%) and packaged beverages (16.6%) Margins promise to continue falling

High Margins Propel General Merchandise

The general merchandise/novelty category provides retailers with a unique opportunity to capture customers’ personal interests in a high-margin item. Novelty has evolved into a core category because retailers can anticipate 30-60% margins on novelty products. With such strong profit potential, chains in major markets can earn about $35,000 a year per store from the novelty

New Flavors, Demand Drives OTP

Despite the SCHIP bill and mounting state taxes, smokeless tobacco products have experienced a strong year packed with innovation, new flavors and increased consumer demand. According to the NACS 2009 State of the Industry report, smokeless tobacco sales surged 6.1% to $2.96 billion last year. The average c-store totaled $1,703 per month in smokeless sales

Prepaid Sales Surging

Whether it’s phone cards, credit cards or prepaid gaming cards being promoted by 7-Eleven, prepaid sales are hot, and retailers would be wise to get in on the action. For example, c-store operators with a high number of ethnic customers could capitalize on the growing reloadable cell phone card market. The top destinations for overseas

New Products, Fuel Dispensed Beverages

The cold frozen dispensed category is undergoing some major changes these days, with many c-stores adding milkshakes and even energy slushees to their offerings. The additions continue to make the cold and frozen dispensed category one of the hottest in the convenience store industry. “We’ve had great success with using energy drinks like Monster, Rock

Role of Technology Expanding

Whether it’s PCI compliance, overcoming high credit card fees or getting more out of a current point-of-sale (POS) system, investing in technology has never been more important for c-stores. With PCI compliance deadlines looming, many operators are still not up to speed on what they need to do, or how to do it. The Payment

The Many Hats of a Marketing Manager

As the sales and marketing manager for Jaco Oil Co., which runs 53 Fastrip stores in California and Arizona, Fred Faulkner’s job is a busy one. Faulkner holds the responsibility of buying for all categories, selecting in-store equipment from deli cases to fountain machines, shaping the deals for purchases, creating the point-of-sale for promotions and

Harm Reduction: The Voice of Reason

Despite all the naysayers, safer tobacco products are a reality convenience  store owners should embrace. Great strides have been made within the last year to introduce new tobacco products that would, from my perspective, reduce harm when compared with traditional cigarettes. I must say, though, that I would have never thought the quest for harm

Things I Learned on the Way to the Convenience Store

The term “blessed” is trite but, in this case, true: My journey through the convenience store industry has seen me blessed with the friendships of so many special people. More than a few of them fit the mold reserved for greatness. I’d like to share some of the wonderful wisdom I’ve learned from them.

Handee Marts Garners Ethics Award

Don’t think customer service makes a difference? Handee Marts’ President and CEO Mike Triantafellou would disagree. Handee Marts, which operates 67 7-Eleven convenience stores in Pittsburgh, was honored recently with the Pittsburgh Business Ethics Award (PBEA), presented by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Society of Financial Service Professionals, in conjunction with the David Berg Center

Staying Competitive in a Tough Economy

A moribund economy is not the best time to take over as a category manager in charge of identifying what customers will spend their money on, but Pat Zelechoski is up to the challenge. Zelechoski, named category manager for NOCO Energy Corp.’s 31 NOCO Express convenience stores in the Eastern New York, will take on

Building a Beer Strategy

Beer sales have held relatively steady despite the economic maelstrom of the past several months, and one reason is that c-stores are asking for help. Operators are seeking and getting assistance of various sorts from their suppliers in an effort to make up for lost dollars. Help is coming in the form of promotional programs

Concerns Abound for Cigars

The war over tobacco taxes to pay for an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) ended on February 4 when Congress passed the Senate’s version of the bill and new President Barack Obama signed it into law. What that means for c-store operators who sell cigars in an era of a rough

Growing Snack Sales

Sunflower seeds, which have quietly built a loyal following both as planned and impulse purchases, are garnering more shelf space these days as c-store retailers expand this category. Randy Adams, buyer for Huck’s Food and Fuel in Carmi, Ill., found that sunflower seeds have proven so popular that when he recently completed a nuts and

Foodservice Boosts Retail Growth

Not doing foodservice? Then you better start thinking about it. That was the key message from a host of retailers, consultants and foodservice experts as CSD presented its 2009 Foodservice Webcast Series. In fact, just having food items is hardly enough. Chains need to invest in specialty fare and ethnic cuisines in order to differentiate

Driving Car Wash Sales

Doggy Drive Throughs One of the faster growing car wash trends is the do-it-yourself dog wash, which appears largely driven by financial considerations on the part of dog owners. No wonder: With dog grooming salons charging anywhere from $25 to $100 to bathe Fido these days, a $5 or even $10 self-serve alternative is a

Prepaid Cards: The Sky’s the Limit

Prepaid cards have been used in the U.S. for about 20 years, and forward-thinking marketers continue finding new ways to use and promote them. This is a boon for convenience retailers, many of whom have been instrumental in growing the category. Prepaid cards were invented in Europe in the mid-70s when Italians found themselves short

A Call to Action

Of all the issues I’ve worked on at Convenience Store Decisions, this month’s issue stands out for the sense of urgency conveyed throughout the numerous stories. Beginning with Bob Gatty’s outstanding cover story on the opportunities in the candy category to PCI compliance, Hispanic marketing and emerging tobacco trends, retailers are being challenged at every

Understanding the Hispanic Market

Describe your perfect customer.  No doubt it would be someone who shops at convenience stores more often, spends more money during each trip and buys across more categories. According to the Greenfield Online/Mintel Hispanic Consumer report, you have just described the Hispanic consumer market. As the current recession continues to put a strain on retailers,

Sweet Opportunity

By Bob Gatty, Contributing Editor If manufacturers, distributors and convenience store retailers would embrace some basic changes and work more closely together, they could realize a potential bonanza of hundreds of millions of dollars in new profit, according to a new joint industry study. That is the message of the soon-to-be released “Convenience, Candy &

The Singers Strike Gold

The third time is indeed the charm for Bill and Loretta Singer, who own and operate Singer’s Chevron just outside the Oregon border in Walla, Walla, Wash. In 2006, the Singers were presented with Chevron’s “Customer First” bronze award. In 2007, they took home the silver. And, for 2008, they finally laid claim to the

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