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LAS VEGAS -- The convenience store industry descended upon Sin City Tuesday for opening day of the 2014 NACS Show where education and networking opportunities greeted showgoers.
Attendees had their choice of more than two dozen educational sessions addressing such varied topics as inventory matters, cybercrime, appealing to female customers and menu planning.
Here's a flavor of what was presented:
Any given c-store today probably has 10-15 percent excess inventory, according to David Bishop, managing partner at Balvor LLC, who moderated "Inventory Matters: Processes & Planograms." The session looked at how c-stores can manage and reduce excess inventory with low-tech, inexpensive approaches.
Ray Johnson, operations manager at 20-store chain Speedee Mart Inc. in Las Vegas, was presented as a trailblazing retailer who works with direct-store-delivery suppliers to come up with effective solutions, enabling him to carry electronic cigarettes imported from London in 2007 and craft beers two and a half years ago.
More recently, he saw a “less is more” opportunity in half-gallons of milk, doing away with milk by the gallon and thereby, some excess inventory. After observing the product from the field, he realized “we could not compete with Wal-Mart and grocery stores and dollar stores. So, they win. No more gallons for us.”
Instead, Johnson worked with his milk distributor to set the price of one half-gallon at regular price and then offer the second half-gallon for a buck — “exactly what we were previously selling the gallon for, but this way, my margin went from 10 [percent] to 30 [percent],” he stated.
Attention Female Shoppers
Retailers that want to appeal to women may have to do something surprising –- think like a man.
"In order to understand what women want, you need to know what men want," said Michelle DeLamielleure, global consumer insights senior manager for General Mills Inc.
Speaking during the "Appealing to Female Consumers" session, DeLamielleure and Christopher Quam, General Mills' global consumer insights manager, pointed out that women and men cite the same top 10 factors in choosing to shop at a c-store, but women view the factors differently in terms of importance.
The factors comprising the top five are convenient location, cleanliness, safety, prepackaged foods that are not out of date, and the ability to get in and out quickly. Because of these similarities, appealing to women will not alienate men, DeLamielleure explained.
"It ultimately boils down to six key factors that women view differently than men," Quam noted. To attract the female consumer, retailers should focus on appetizing treats; better-for-you offerings; child-friendly stores; deals and prices; experience and freshness, he said.
Food, Glorious Food
Foodservice is the name of the game for all convenience stores, but it's not enough to just implement a program and sit back.
"Never be satisfied where you are, because you are never where you could be," said Jerry Weiner, vice president of foodservice at Rutter's Farm Stores, adding that retailers need to keep evolving their foodservice menu year to year based on consumer demands, needs and wants
His insights came during the "Menu Planning: Serving Up Success" session with Keith Boston, director of prepared foods for The Cumberland Gulf Group.
According to Weiner, c-store retailers can always find ways to prove their food offering program. For example, they can improve sales, improve margins, improve labor efficiencies, and discover ways to better control spoilage and other costs.
"If you want to be in foodservice, cost accounting is important," Boston added.
Cybercrime is definitely the technology topic receiving the most press lately, and it is certainly on the minds of most convenience store retailers.
“Why are we here?” asked Phil Schwartz, manager of I/S, credit card systems and POS applications support at Valero Energy Corp., moderator of the “Cybercrime: Don’t Get Breached” session. “We want to avoid becoming a member of the ‘Breach of the Month Club.'"