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ATLANTA -- It was two and a half years ago that the NACS/Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council first convened. The convenience store retailers on the council began wondering what customers could tell them that could make their stores more profitable. The result was the creation of the Playbook for Success, the topic of an educational session on day three of the 2013 NACS Show.
"The purpose of the Playbook for Success is to define the foundation, then the next level, and then the final, new growth platforms for convenience retailing," said Bill Bishop, the Council's research director and moderator for the session.
The speakers -- all members of the Council -- represented large convenience retail chains that have used the Playbook's findings to build upon the success of their own stores. The report has value for independent operators as well, according to Bishop.
Carol Jensen, chief marketing and brand officer for Wawa Inc. and current Council chair, emphasized that of all the retail channels, convenience stores ranked worst in providing a clean, safe environment. "That means from a customer expectation and what they see in their shopping experience, we are not doing as well as dollar stores, drugstores, big-box retailers and grocery stores. …This is a real call to action from the research," she said.
Jensen shared the four areas that Wawa focuses on in providing a desirable environment: physical security, crisis management, operational excellence and customer feedback. Having a crisis management plan was crucial to Wawa during Hurricane Sandy one year ago, she explained.
The next two retailers each presented case studies based on the four growth platforms identified by the Council: Fresh Value Fast, Family Time, My Time and Female Friendly.
Brent Blackey, president and chief operating officer of Holiday Stationstores Inc., detailed the course of action that led his chain to expand its fresh and healthy foodservice offerings to appeal to younger, female customers. Holiday reached out to a Minneapolis-based foodservice operator with expertise in fresh and healthy foodservice, including tasty salads and healthy to-go snack pairings such as apples and peanut butter.
"We've had some learnings along the way, [and] we got some good customer feedback," he said. "But the one thing we learned a lot was that if you create something that tastes really good, customers will try and like it."
Brad Williams, senior vice president of store operations at Mid-Atlantic Convenience Stores (MACS), provided a case study that represented the most advanced way a retailer can use the Council's insights. MACS conducted research on its more than 8,000 SKUs and 10 million basket profiles. "As a result of this pilot, MACS is moving from a traditional category view of our business to more of a mission-driven approach," said Williams.
MACS has tailored its new fresh-food offerings based on the growth platforms found in the Playbook for Success and seen incremental basket growth.
In mid-2012, MACS became the exclusive developer of the Circle K brand in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C. Two weeks ago, MACS was purchased by a Sunoco affiliate, as CSNews Online reported.
The educational session concluded with an open invitation to retailer attendees to get involved in the Council's research efforts. "We call it research for retailers by retailers," said Bishop.
The NACS/Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council will present a total of six case studies, including the three covered during the session, in a new report that will be released in February. Retailers can download a copy of the Playbook for Success and other research studies at www.ccrrc.org.