Give Stores a Quick Makeover

customerChecking store sets daily for clutter and cleanliness is a simple solution for enhancing your location’s appearance.

By Jim Callahan

I went to check on a small convenience store recently that was in need of a little pick-me-up. One of the first things I noticed was the amount of free space the store had along the windows. That’s prime real estate, but it just didn’t look like it was being used effectively.

I was also surprised to see that the bottom section of one of the four-foot displays near the main entrance was being used just to hold additional shelving. While most of us do not have excess or even adequate storage for these type things, I think we all can agree that this was not a good use for this valuable selling space.  
One way or the other we pay for every square foot of our store and, accordingly, we must try and make every square foot pay for itself.

In our stores I’d be hard pressed to find another 18-inch space that nets a greater return than the area occupied by our ATMs. But even the great and super profitable ATMs should not be asked to carry the weight of a four-foot section of the store capable of housing shelving displays.  It is imperative that we regularly examine our stores thoroughly to make sure each section is carrying its own weight.

Focused Product Mix
In another small store that has room only for two aisles, I noticed that the two front end caps were both filled with competing brands of salty snacks. While salty snacks are a great draw, if you only have two front end caps, they should not both be dedicated to the category.

I mentioned this to the operator and he asked what I would recommend instead. Without hesitation I mentioned that big, strong brands like Hershey, Mars and Nestlé all have programs where they allow you to earn rebates for end caps or counter displays, if the positioning is strong and the customer demand is there. In doing a quick evaluation of this store’s location, I noticed a high school nearby and several businesses. That alone is a good starting point to begin negotiating with additional suppliers.

While this may seem like a small move for some, this is an entirely new way of thinking for some smaller convenience store chains, but it’s also one that will reap immediate rewards to the bottom line.

I suggested that we walk the balance of the store and see what other opportunities we could find. I started asking questions and my first thought was, “Why don’t we enlarge your store?”  He quickly responded that he couldn’t afford the investment. I said, “But what if we could do it without any additional investment?”  

He gave me a strange look. Still, my questions continued. “Do you really think you need two brands of ketchup and two sizes of Mustard?” “Do you really need four sizes of deodorant?” “Could you reduce your inventory to two brands of shaving cream instead of the four you’re carrying?”

I reminded him that a traditional grocery supplier would be able to furnish him with timely velocity reports that highlight the top and bottom movers in each category, and he could let that be his guide for making product assortment decisions.

During this process we were able to reduce his SKUs and inventory and created enough new selling space that it seemed as if he had, indeed, enlarged his store.
I like to tell people that I am a generalist in that I know something about every section of the store, but I always surround myself with specialists who know one section really well. With that in mind, call your grocery supplier and get with your vendors and challenge them to help you improve. If they are worthy of your business they will jump at the opportunity.

Jim Callahan has more than 40 years of 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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