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    Front End Best Practices Revealed in CSNews/ECRM Roundtable

    Product, placement and pricing are keys factors to successful selling at the checkout.

    ORLANDO -- From candy and energy shots to unique novelties and even music CDs, convenience store retailers shared their point-of-sale best practices during the Convenience Store News/ECRM Front End Merchandising Roundtable, held here last week in conjunction with ECRM's Convenience and Front End Efficient Program Planning Session.

    Nearly a dozen retailers attended the roundtable, which featured discussion on such topics as maximizing candy and snack profits at the front end; matching products with special occasions; and discovering innovative general merchandise and novelties.

    Among the best practices shared by participants during the event were:

    -- Investing in inventory is a must. Stocking only two or three of an item places the convenience channel at a disadvantage compared to drug and mass retailers.

    -- Prepaid cards may carry a low margin, but this customer almost always buys other things.

    -- Unique gifts and souvenirs priced under $5 sell well from the front counter.

    -- C-store retailers with stores in areas that boast seasonal fishing, boating or camping traffic should consider selling fresh bait, such as earthworms, and fishing rods.

    CSNews Editor-in-Chief Don Longo, who moderated the roundtable, also presented results from an exclusive CSNews survey of convenience retailers on their Front End merchandising practices. According to the study, 65 percent of c-store retailers carried more products at the front end of their stores in 2009 than they did the previous year, with candy/gum, lighters and energy shots being the top products on display. Energy shots were the most successful product at the front end, according to 36.5 percent of respondents, followed by foodservice items, 11.1 percent.

    Attendees of the roundtable also participated in the ECRM Convenience and Front End Efficient Program Planning Session, which consisted of pre-scheduled one-on-one planning sessions between buyers and sellers to review new items, marketing initiatives and strategic direction. Nearly 100 retailers from the convenience, grocery, drug, dollar and specialty retail channels attended the ECRM event this year.

    Full coverage of the Convenience Store News/ECRM Front End Merchandising Roundtable will appear in the March 22 issue of Convenience Store News.

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