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ATLANTA -- Playbooks aren't just a tool for athletes and coaches. In 2012, NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, and the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council (CCRRC) teamed up to conduct intensive research that formed the basis of the Playbook for Success, which defined the foundation, the next level and the new growth platforms for convenience retailing.
Today, retailers that have embraced the Playbook as a guiding force are seeing success in different ways, according to the newly released NACS/CCRRC Get in the Game report, which shows how c-store operators are using the Playbook for Success to grow their businesses.
The Playbook outlines three main steps:
- Deliver on the basics, providing a clean, safe environment, frustration-free shopping and consistent value
- Defend your turf by enhancing consistency of service, friendliness and courtesy.
- Attract new business by serving shopper needs that go beyond grab-and-go.
It also offers retailers the ability do shopper research using an easy-to-field Shopper Satisfaction Score survey, and to evaluate store performance using two self-evaluation tools.
A year after the Playbook was introduced to retailers, the Get in the Game report takes a look at how several convenience retailers are using it and what the results have been.
Mt. Olive, N.C.-based Handy Mart decided to focus on basics and conducted more than 400 shopper interviews at 36 stores. Next, managers and supervisors evaluated how well stores were delivering on Step 1 and Step 2 shopper needs.
Survey results showed that while most Handy Mart stores scored well, there was still some "significant variation" among the different locations. The self-evaluations identified areas where the company could improve on the basics and prompted some specific ideas on how to defend their turf. Less clear was where the chain could go with Step 3 -- some stores wanted to target different consumer groups, which made it difficult to design a program that would be effective at all locations.
Meiners, a six-store chain based in Kansas City, Kan., chose to use the Playbook to gauge the effectiveness of its messaging without investing a large amount of money. The survey revealed three opportunity areas: strengthening the price appeal of sandwich and hot dog combos; increasing the cigar assortment and improving its prices; and consistently communicating weekly specials.
The programs and promotions Meiners developed to achieve these goals are now planned months ahead of time and automatically roll out on a weekly basis.
"This more consistent approach will improve Meiners' reputation for good promotions and will increase sales," said company owner Virginia Stanton.
Mid-Atlantic Convenience Stores (MACS/Circle K)
Unlike the first two c-store chains, Richmond, Va.-based MACS had already planned the launch of a new commissary line and wanted a way to measure its impact. It made contact with consulting group 5one through CCRRC and undertook a pilot project to perform market basket analysis. This shopper insight technique involves directly observing shopper behavior by looking at what items shoppers purchase together to understand the "mission" they are trying to accomplish when they visit a store.
MACS wanted to know how its new products affected shopping missions and identify ways to fine-tune program execution. Together, MACS and 5one focused on small, on-the-go meals, and impulse salty snacks and drinks. They found that the new products were well received and aligned with the needs of MACS customers, but also discovered that pairing sub sandwiches and wedges created new growth potential in the "hot and ready" area.
The next step for MACS is to focus pricing strategies on missions instead of typical product combinations; develop more mission-specific promotions that encourage customers to add items to their basket or trade up to items higher in quality and/or price; and adjust store assortments to align with shoppers' most popular missions.
This Bloomington, Minn.-based chain was attracted to the Playbook's Fresh Value Fast growth platform, and partnered with a foodservice company to launch a line of fresh salads and grab-and-go, better-for-you snacks. In a 20-store test, Holiday displayed the new items prominently, offered customers a free beverage for completing an online questionnaire, and handed out coupons for a free bottled water or a discount on a salad purchase.
"We wanted to make sure there was a clear value proposition for trying something new, especially something that maybe isn't quite as well accepted in a convenience store," said President and Chief Operating Officer Brent Blackey.
Sales were modest at first, but grew as the weather became warmer. Holiday found that fresh and healthy items also appealed to their core adult male customer segment, which wasn't necessarily the target. In 2013, Holiday added the line to approximately 150 stores in the Twin Cities area, and is planning an ad campaign and major promotional emphasis for this year.
Loaf 'N Jug
This Pueblo, Colo.-based chain decided to target the Playbook's Female Friendly growth platform by cultivating a more open atmosphere and showcasing products preferred by female shoppers. Five control stores saw no changes, but at others, signage and outdoor displays were reduced to avoid blocking the windows; some interior signage was redesigned to be more contemporary; interior clutter was reduced; point-of-sale offers were changed to products usually preferred by women; and fresh, healthy food items were made more prominent, among other changes.
As a result, the test stores outperformed control stores in all foodservice categories and all major categories but beer. Control stores outperformed test stores in all programs where a rack or display was removed from the test store, as well as some key subcategories. Overall, the changes resulted in a small improvement in sales growth, but the test highlighted the challenge of balancing the needs of female shoppers with traditional c-store shoppers.
More information on these NACS/CCRRC reports can be found at the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council website.