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    Keeping the Cooler Cool

    Retailers address the challenges of packaged beverages.

    NEW YORK -- "The average juggler will juggle about three balls at a time. Managing a beverage vault is like juggling about 30 or 40 balls at the same time - it's pretty difficult,” said Keith Broviak, marketing manager for the 32-store Ricker Oil Co. chain, based in Anderson, Ind.

    Simply put, a beverage category manager's life isn't easy. When managing the cold vault, a retailer must look not only at how a particular item is selling, but how that item's sales relate to the total category. And with the constant influx of new products knocking on cooler doors by the day, there are a lot of heavy-hitting decisions to be made by the end of the week. Knocking off one item to sell another doesn't necessarily mean the overall business will benefit.

    Retailers that don't constantly introduce a steady flow of new products, however, are doing a disservice to their customers. “If a company has some strong marketing and advertising, it's important to jump on that product quickly so when customers come looking for it in your store they can find it,” said Rich Mione, vice president of marketing for Wilmington, N.C.-based Worsley Companies Inc., with 146 stores under the Scotchman Stores, Young Food Stores and S&E Food Mart banners.

    Now the only question - where is it going to fit once it arrives?

    Even the beverage manager who wants to try as many new products as possible faces two major roadblocks: distribution access and space constraints from limited doors and manufacturer contracts. If a small beverage company has a promising new product but hasn't aligned with a wholesaler yet, a retailer has limited options getting the product on the shelf.

    “It's very tough for the small beverage companies. We usually go through the wholesaler, and it's tough for them to get the product into the wholesaler portfolio,” Mione said, adding, “The major beverage companies have entered into all the different segments, so it's tougher and tougher for somebody to come out with a new water or juice or carbonated beverage that they can really support and compete with.”

    To learn more about how Ricker, Worsley and other retailers address the challenges of the cooler, look for “Tight Squeeze” in the July 18 issue of Convenience Store News.

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