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By Mehgan Belanger
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Be nice. The two simple words stand at the backbone of successful customer service, and come first in convenience store operator Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes' mission statement. They were also the focus of the opening remarks made by chain founder, President and CEO John MacDougall, during the manager meeting held here at its annual trade show April 15.
View images of the Nice N Easy trade show.
Holding a plaque with the company’s mission statement written on it -- Be nice. Sell stuff. Have fun. Be the best. -- MacDougall told the room of 250 employees, "If I boiled it down to one basic factor, it’s the first line -- be nice." He added later the two words are the "heart and soul of what we do."
To emphasize his point, the executive read aloud customer comments submitted over the past year via a company hotline, and called up store management from those locations mentioned for recognition. The chain received increasingly more of the positive messages each day through the hotline, which McDougall said it "tells me you get the message."
Last year was a record year for the company, which grew sales 8.2 percent for 2008, MacDougall said. The trade show was a chance for the company’s leadership to recognize the successes of the past year, which "mean more to me this year than in the past," given the tough retail environment in 2008, he said, noting the economy has made it hard for businesses, and those that aren’t prepared for the challenges, will not succeed.
McDougall credited the success to the company’s focus on people and customers.
"Customers are looking for QVC [quality, value and convenience]. If they find it at Nice N Easy, they will come back," he said, adding, "Most of all, we try to give [customers] convenience. If we can give them the opportunity to get more things done in one place, we win. And we won big time in 2008."
He also challenged the room of employees to embody the words "be nice" in the coming year, explaining it would be difficult given the tough economy.
"We’re going to have to be extra nice this year to make it happen," he said.
During the meeting, Nice N Easy also recognized and awarded its outstanding employees, including the top 20 stores based on sales and sales increases, the top stores by foodservice sales, along with awards for community involvement.
Take a tour inside three Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes.
Several stores were recognized for topping $3 million in inside sales during 2008. The store receiving an award for the top sales increase experienced a 55 percent jump in sales during 2008 compared to the previous year.
Foodservice awards were presented by Jack Cushman, vice president of foodservice for Nice N Easy, and given based on a store’s ability to reach specific weekly sales levels in the category. Of the chain's 82 stores, 38 were awarded pins for surpassing the plateaus.
The Nice N Easy store located on East Taft in East Syracuse, N.Y., was recognized for its connection with the community. Hanging in the store is a note written by a member of the community, thanking the store for its friendliness toward the writer’s husband, who suffered from Alzheimer’s and had passed away, explained a Nice N Easy district manager. In the note, the author explains how when her husband wandered out of the house, she could find him at the Nice N Easy store. And when asked why he went to the store, he said it was because of the welcoming staff.
The trade show also included a Vegas-themed expo of 120 Nice N Easy vendors, along with a booth where Nice N Easy employees could win prizes and get free massages. "Elvis" dressed in a rhinestone-encrusted white jumpsuit provided entertainment, and key Nice N Easy corporate personnel were spotted as Vegas personalities in life-size cardboard cutouts.
Following the expo, a dinner was held to recognize individual Nice N Easy employees, franchisees, products and vendors. Winners included:
-- Manager of the Year: Valerie Conley
-- Assistant Manager of the Year: Brandon McConnell, Chaumont
-- Foodservice Manager of the Year: Greg Short, Manlius
-- Store of the Year: Ilion, N.Y.
-- The Sharon Jordan Memorial True Spirit Award: Diane Conger, Penneville, N.Y.
-- Franchise Achievement Award: Clifford Fuel Co.
-- Trade Partner of the Year: Anheuser-Busch
-- Most Promising New Product: National Tobacco’s Zig Zag Wraps
Inside Look at Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes: tour three of the convenience store chain’s stores near Syracuse, N.Y.
View images of the Nice N Easy trade show.
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