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The New Year is a time of setting admirable goals for yourself, such as to eat less, exercise more, work smarter, control your temper better, be more charitable, tell your loved ones that you love them in general, be a better human being.
The start of a new year is also a good time to plan how you want your business to advance in the coming year. When a year ends as encouragingly as 2006– lower gas prices, strong holiday spending, and higher in-store profits for most retailers the temptation is to believe the good times will just continue. Indeed, Convenience Store News' annual Forecast Study, the industry's only research-based preview of the upcoming year's sales in key c-store product categories, paints an optimistic picture for 2007. However, smart retailers know that there's a big difference between trawling at the low end of a rising wave, and surfing at the crest with the winners. So, here's our suggested Top 10 New Year's Resolutions for convenience store retailers:
Drop what's not working and move on. Review what worked last year and what didn't. Don't just layer on new projects and programs over your current initiatives. Devoting your attention to fixing the unfixable is a waste of time and resources.
Learn something new. This is not just a good personal resolution; it's a critical business goal. Whether you are a store manager or CEO, do everything you can to increase your knowledge about your products, your company processes, your customers. If you are in finance, learn something about merchandising. If you are a marketer, see what you can learn from an IT person at your company.
Review last year's resolutions. If the same item is on the list, face up to the fact that you are not going to do it and take it off this year's list, or rededicate yourself more firmly to accomplish that goal.
Put this year's resolutions in writing. Otherwise, you won't be able to review them next year. Post them on your bulletin board. Talk about them with colleagues and customers. This will reinforce your will to achieve your goals.
Be positive. We're not saying you should be a Pollyanna, but no one wants to work with or follow a constant naysayer. If you are a leader, or if you want to be one, it is imperative to maintain a positive mindset.
Acknowledge your victories, and learn from your errors. Don't spend too much time dwelling on your successes or failures. But don't overlook them either. Celebrating even small wins will enhance the morale of your organization and provide the confidence it takes to win the bigger battles.
Promote and market your business. No one would ever accuse 7-Eleven or one of the major oil companies of not promoting themselves enough. But, many smaller c-stores overlook the importance of marketing and promotion to attract new customers. It doesn't take a multi-million dollar budget. There are dozens of low cost ways to create buzz about your stores and products.
Get involved in industry organizations and networking events. Nothing beats meeting with your peers at industry trade shows and conferences to uncover new ideas, look at old methods in a different way, and make contacts. One of the most productive venues for sharing best practices is CSNews' annual Future Forum, being held March 26-28 in St. Petersburg, Fla. (Watch your mail for your retailer invite, or contact Lois Miller at 516-868-9563 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for information.)
Become Web literate. The Internet is enabling retailers to reach customers that don't typically shop your stores. A strong online presence drives offline sales. See what other types of retailers are doing online and figure out what strategies you can adapt for your business. C-stores cannot afford to let the Internet pass them by.
Give back to your community. Give to local causes. Better yet, join a committee or be a volunteer to a group in your store's community that is trying to make it a better place. Of course, there's always the good karma that comes with doing good things for others.