Don’t Overlook the Little Things

We all know that customer service, bright lights and a clean store drive business, yet many stores are not getting the message.

By Jim Callahan.

Last month I took a close look at making the outside appearance of our convenience stores attractive enough to entice consumers to want to enter our stores and spend more of their disposable income. This month we’re going to look at how to spice up the inside of our stores to attract more business and increase sales.

What’s the first thing customers notice upon entering your stores? Well, there are several things we should focus on. First, the customers’ sense of smell should be set off by very pleasant aromas from the foodservice counter. In the morning, few things are more appealing than the scent of fresh-baked cookies and fresh-brewed coffee. In the afternoon, freshly-popped, popcorn is great way to call attention to snack time. Rate your stores’ performance along the way and plan to make improvements as needed. You may find dinner sales are not where they should be. Start baking fresh pizzas a little earlier to attract attention to your dinner menu.

convenience store display case

Very few stores have enough storage space. This places a huge burden on managers to keep stores from having an uncluttered look. Keeping aisles and product displays clean and safe should be a requirement for each shift.

As you push foodservice, remember customers should be greeted by a genuine, friendly verbal greeting along with a world-class smile. Nothing less will do anymore. It’s such a simple statement that breeds a winning retail culture, but often goes overlooked by many chains. Also remember that, at a minimum, employees must dress in a clean uniform shirt with a name tag. This ensures consistency in your brand from shift to shift.

Another important, but often overlooked tactic, is shopping a handful of your stores as a customer. Customers want to enter the store through clean, uncluttered glass doors with no more than two selling signs on them. I use only one at Green Oil. Reserve this key selling space just for special deals and rotate only professionally-made signs in and out as often as possible. We do our own signs in-house and invested in a laminating machine that allows us to reuse the signs.

Emphasizing Service

We’ve had as tough a Southern winter as I can remember in my 25 years. During the very worst of the storms, I looked out and saw that our competitors had their canopy lights out while ours were burning brightly. They saved money, which is good for them, but we, on the other hand, became a veritable beacon for road weary travelers. With that in mind, more and more I’m running into stores that are saving money on inside lighting, which is a tactical mistake because customers are greatly comforted by a well illuminated store. Great lighting is another key to growing your business.

Work on the cleanliness of your stores is an ongoing process that you should never be satisfied with. Stores can never be “too clean.” Here’s a quick test:  Go check the condition of your “Wet Floor” signs.  If they are not ultra clean, chances are very good neither is your store. A dirty wet floor sign is an advertisement signifying a dirty floor and chances are a dirty store. Is this the image you want customers to leave your stores with?

Clean restrooms is another obvious operational must that is critical to your long-term success. There is no way this point can be overemphasized. Customers do not trust stores with dirty restrooms.

Finally, embrace foodservice. Tobacco will continue to have its place, but the future is foodservice. The deli area cannot possibly begin to reach its potential without all the extra care you can give it. Make that investment based on what you can handle and grow from there. It requires dedication, commitment and sacrifice, but the upside will sustain your business for years to come.

Jim Callahan has more than 40 years experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on He can be reached at (678) 485-4773 or via e-mail at


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