C-Stores: unusual & oft untapped retail partners

A fine new list is out, reminding me how promising Convenience Stores (‘C-Stores’) are as a distribution partner, notably for:

  • impulse-oriented items (snacks, gift cards, etc)
  • off-hours purchases
  • on-the-run commuter items (water, antifreeze, sunglasses)
  • cottager or vacationer items (last-minute HABA items**, bug repellent)
  • addiction-oriented fill-in purchases (caffeine, smokes, lighters, energy drinks, soda,…)

The 1st new promotion I brought to P&G Canada was to suggest P&G try a first-ever C-Store display event (Kudos to SalesMerch colleagues JFM & MattG!) targeting summer cottagers en-route, or at point of destination. Within P&G, we referred to it a the “Small-Size” event; the name understates the importance of these comparatively ‘low volume’ events.

  1. Although the event wasn’t just about making profit, it was nicely profitable (small sizes¬†typically being the most profitable sizes!).
  2. It was strategic, preventing OUR customers (Crest, Scope, Always, Pampers buyers) from leaving our brand due to a temporary shortage. Holding loyalty before that was much of a revered idea elsewhere.

[side note: A big tip of the hat to the “crazy risk-takers” in the Sales Merch Dept who creatively massaged a way through P&G’s conundrum-creating criteria #2. ie It wasn’t hard to prove it’d pass #1. “On Strategy” nor #3. “Profitable”; the dilemma for entrepreneurish staff was showing an idea is already #2.”Proven” – when it has never been done before!]

C-Stores’ potential goes WAY beyond selling gas, lottery tickets, tobacco, rolling papers, Doritos. I worked in one for years & respect their resilience; when grocery stores added late-night hours, C-stores profited by selling lottery tickets. By the time grocery stores started selling lottery tickets, C-Stores had significantly upgraded their self-serve coffee & brought in lines of 24/7 RTE fresh prepared meals. Now, some C-Stores sell fine-quality fresh-cut flowers. And other- get ready for it- sushi!

So don’t count’em out. C-Stores are wiley; they’re flexible; they’re open-minded to make a buck. And they might be your next distribution partner!

The Top 100 USA list is here: https://csnews.com/top-100-convenience-store-chains-2018

Steven

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