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7-Eleven’s parent company sees opportunities for fresh foods

7-eleven-logo-500x4007-Eleven Inc.’s parent company Seven & I Holdings Co. Ltd. is giving two thumbs up to the convenience store’s efforts in fresh food.

On July 18, the Japanese company announced that 7-Eleven’s U.S. operations reported the highest operating income in its history, and saw a 3.4% comparable store sales increase during the first quarter of 2019, with fresh food and 7-Select private brand products driving results, reported the Dallas Morning News.

Looking forward, the company intends to continue down this path and lend some of Japan’s strengths to the United States branch.

“The development and improvement of fast food items is important and something which we will be doing going forward,” Tokyo-based Seven & I Holdings wrote in its Q1 report. “We also believe changing public perceptions of 7-Eleven in the United States to be important. In order to change public perception when it comes to buying food products at 7-Eleven, like is common in Japan, we will be strengthening store cleanliness and improving customer service.”

7-Eleven’s recent efforts include the opening of a lab store and experiential testing ground in Dallas. Highlights of the lab store include made-to-order smoothies and aguas frescas, street tacos with handmade tortillas, baked-in-store cookies and croissants, a growler station that pours local craft beers, and both patio and in-store dining areas, as Convenience Store News previously reported.

These solid results continued into the second quarter. Same-store sales at U.S. 7-Eleven stores were up 5.2% in April and 2.8%. Additionally, the 7Rewards loyalty program and introduction of 7-Eleven private label products at the c-stores it acquired from Sunoco in 2018 increased profit margins, according to the company.

Looking ahead, the retailer plans to continue renovating U.S. stores and testing a scan and payment system that enables customers to pay using their smartphones. The latter is part of the company’s personnel-saving efforts and designed to increase profitability.

Seven & I Holdings also reported that 7-Eleven’s U.S. operating income reached $161 million during the quarter, up $31 million from the previous year, allowing the parent company to post profits exceeding its guidance for the three months ending March 2019.

Irving-based 7-Eleven operates, franchises and/or licenses more than 68,000 stores in 17 countries, including 11,800 in North America.

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 


5 things to know about consumer attitudes towards grab-and-go foods

fresh-fruit-grab-and-goConsumers increasingly want food that is fresh and convenient to their lifestyles, but capitalizing on this opportunity requires foodservice operators to have a plan.

Culinary Visions’ new Fresh Perspectives Study identifies five things operators should know about consumers’ cravings for fresh, convenient food they can eat on the go.

“Modern consumers’ lives are getting faster, and they expect their fuel to be able to keep up,” said Sharon Olson, executive director of Culinary Visions. “We found that many consumers are struggling to strike a balance between fresh versus fast, healthful versus convenient and global versus local. Fortunately, the food industry has picked up their pace, meaning consumers won’t have to compromise-or slow down.”

Five key findings from the study include:

1) Younger consumers lead the way. The study found that they show the most interest in grab-and-go foods and consistently express the most interest in concepts across the convenience, deli, prepared foods and foodservice markets: 68% of consumers ages 18-34 said that they were likely to purchase grab-and-go sandwiches from a deli vs. 57% of consumers ages 35-54 and 44% of those ages 55 and older. The division between age groups is even wider when it comes to convenience stores. Fifty-two% of those ages 18-34 say they enjoy eating food from c-stores vs. 40% of those ages 35-54 and 20% of those ages 55 and up.

2) Fresh amps up the appeal of healthful and indulgent offerings. A whopping 85% of consumers say that transparent packaging is important when it comes to defining fresh food. However, the healthfulness of ingredients might not matter as much as the fact that food inside the packaging is fresh. Consumers were split when choosing between healthfulness and indulgence, as 48% agree that they do not care about healthfulness when it comes to snacking on the go. Fresh is important, but consumers do not necessarily view fresh and healthfulness as one and the same, according to the Culinary Visions.

3) When grab-and-go beats delivery. Food delivery apps have grown very popular in recent years, but when it comes to freshness, grab and go wins: 58% of consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 agree that delivered food is rarely fresh, while 64% say that refrigerated prepared foods do taste fresh.

4) Loving local while relying on favorite brands. Consumers consider locally sourced ingredients to be one of the top indicators of freshness, with 84% agreeing that locally sourced food is the freshest food. Despite this, trusted brands continue to appeal to consumers. Brand loyalty might play an even bigger role in evaluating freshness, as 88% of consumers agree that there are certain brands they trust to be fresh.

5) More fresh produce, please. Fresh produce is one of the most highly desired grab-and-go concepts, as 75% of consumers say they would be likely to purchase raw fruits and vegetables they can eat on the go and 75% say they would be likely to purchase fresh food from a salad bar. Still, 66% agree that it is difficult to find fresh snacks on the go, which suggests that plenty of opportunities remain for prepared fruits, vegetable and salad options to grow, the firm noted.

Chicago-based Culinary Visions is a food-focused insights and trends forecasting practice that studies a wide range of culinary topics important to consumers and food industry professionals. It is a division and registered trademark of Olson Communications Inc.

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 


Kathy Perrotta

Kathy Perrotta to deliver keynote at Star Women in Convenience event

Kathy PerrottaConvenience Store News Canada is delighted to announce that Kathy Perrotta, Vice-President, Ipsos, will deliver the keynote address at the Star Women in Convenience Awards Breakfast event on October 8th.

In her keynote – Food Forward: Canadians Want Convenience Without Compromise – Perrotta will offer insights and explore the key socio-economic and macro trends shaping consumers’ consumption choices. Attendees will garner valuable information designed to help them capitalize on these trends to deliver solid foodservice programs, grab-and-go options and snacking solutions.

Perrotta, who also leads the Ipsos FIVE Food and Beverage tracking service, started her research career more than 40 years ago in the law libraries of Davies, Ward & Beck as a Law Clerk compelled by a curious need to know to why.  Over time, it became clear to Perrotta that the people in the case law were decidedly more interesting than the law itself.  In 2001, curiosity finally spawned a paradigm shift into a new career focused in consumer research.  Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles focused on bringing the voice, habits and beliefs of diverse Canadian Consumers to her clients.

For more information about Perrotta’s keynote, Star Women panelists, the winners and the event, visit the Star Women website.

The event will take place at the International Centre in Mississauga, Ont. from 7:30 am to 10:30 am – and tickets are now on sale. Space is limited.


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Couche-Tard celebrates global Circle K rebranding accomplishments

Circle K Logo Sm_121317In September 2015, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. embarked on a journey to unite its vast convenience store network under one umbrella: a new global Circle K brand.

The move followed several acquisitions Couche-Tard made in Europe, including the retail assets of Statoil Fuel & Retail ASA in Norway, Topaz in Ireland and Shell in Denmark; as well as its purchase of The Pantry Inc., parent company of Kangaroo Express, in the southeast United States.

Now, three years in, the Laval-based retailer has reached a significant milestone in the journey, Couche-Tard President and CEO Brian Hannasch announced during the company’s fourth-quarter fiscal 2019 earnings call in July.

According to the chief executive, Couche-Tard “has made tremendous progress” this year expanding the global Circle K brand to more than 5,600 stores in North America and more than 2,000 stores in Europe.

“The most exciting benchmark this quarter was the finalization of the rebranding project in Europe, as Ireland is now complete,” Hannasch said, adding that “the march west” in the U.S. is proceeding at a rapid pace.

Approximately 98% of the company’s sites in its U.S. Rocky Mountain Business Unit and 550 stores — roughly 80% — in the Texas Business Unit are now sporting the new global Circle K brand.

Couche-Tard expects to finish the rebranding efforts in Texas, which are mostly CST sites, in fiscal 2020. In addition, the Grand Canyon Business Unit — previously the company’s Arizona Business Unit — is more than halfway completed.

“This ambitious rebranding strategy, which began about three and half years ago, continues to be a real win for our business,” Hannasch said. “With our key partners, we are now able to leverage national promotional campaigns and gain penetration in our private label products.

“For our customers, the aided and non-aided awareness across the globe has been outstanding,” he continued. “For our team members, there is now a foundation for our shared employee culture and pride in Circle K — which is probably the best payoff of all in this journey.”

CIRCLE K FUEL BRAND

In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019, Couche-Tard also continued to grow its Circle K fuel brand. In Europe, the retailer is almost finished converting its Statoil, Topaz and Shell locations to the Circle K fuel brand. In the U.S., 900 sites were offering the brand by the end of the fiscal year.

“This unification of the Circle K brand inside our stores and at our fuel islands is contributing topline growth, and our easy pay ACH program — which gives customers a discount on fuel — is growing in penetration every day,” Hannasch noted.

As of April 28, Couche-Tard’s network comprised 9,866 convenience stores throughout North America, including 8,629 stores with fuel. Its North American network consists of 19 business units, including 15 in the United States covering 48 states and four in Canada covering all 10 provinces. In addition, through CrossAmerica Partners LP, Couche-Tard supplies road transportation fuel under various brands to approximately 1,300 locations in the U.S.

In Europe, Couche-Tard operates a broad retail network across Scandinavia, Ireland, Poland, the Baltics and Russia through 10 business units. As of April 28, Couche-Tard’s European network comprised 2,709 stores.

In addition, under licensing agreements, more than 2,150 stores are operated under the Circle K banner in 15 other countries and territories, which brings the worldwide total network to more than 16,000 stores.

 

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 


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Circle K partners with delivery service in Houston

Circle K Logo Sm_121317Circle K is joining the list of convenience store chains that offer delivery.

The convenience store retailer has partnered with Texas-based Favor to add the service to more than 160 stores in the Houston metropolitan area.

Customers can order a wide variety of products, including snacks, beverages, beer and receive them in less than an hour. There is no minimum order.

“We are excited to partner with Favor and to see our Circle K stores in the metro Houston area venture into home delivery,” said Paul Rodriguez, vice president of Circle K Texas.

To order beer and other items, customers can search for “Circle K 21+” in the Favor mobile app or at favordelivery.com. Circle K 21+ delivery is available 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Monday through Friday; 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday; and 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday.

New Favor users will receive free delivery for the first 30 days, after which time there is a $3 delivery fee.

The retailer plans to expand delivery across the state to 550-plus Circle K stores later this year. Circle K is a wholly owned subsidiary of Canada-based Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.


Are c-stores delivering Return on Experience?

PwC Canada’s Consumer Insights Survey shows that on top of traditional Return on Investment (ROI) metrics used to determine success, companies need to introduce another metric that zeros in on consumers: Return on Experience (ROX).

Screen Shot 2019-08-12 at 3.00.09 PMCSNC talked to Elisa Swern, partner, consumer markets, PwC Canada, who explained what c-stores need to know about the evolving consumer and delivering ROX.

 

 

PwC Canada’s Consumer Insights Survey highlights the importance of the consumer experience: How does that play out for c-stores?

ES: Regardless of the type of store, consumers want convenience and ease. They want a seamless experience that will draw them back to the store. Retailers should focus on technology to capture as many insights as possible to understand consumers’ preferences for products.

Convenience stores can focus on their consumers and how their employees impact this seamless experience to generate sales and repeat consumers. C-stores are a community hub with small footprint stores that provide the potential for unique and friendly experiences between customers and employees.

 

How do c-stores deliver ROX?

ES: Return on experience helps companies understand the return they’re getting on investments made into parts of the organization directly related to how consumers interact with their brand.

PwC Canada’s Consumer Insights report indicates that more Canadians are engaging in micro-trips to the grocery store throughout the week rather than going only once per week. They want fast and convenient shopping experiences and convenience stores can offer it.

Consumers who go to convenience stores are usually there for a few minutes to pick up what they need. Anecdotally, we know that consumers are now expecting convenience stores to have more items than just newspapers and gum. They are looking for hot food options, health food and even more toiletries.

 

How are consumers changing and what does this mean for the future of c-stores?

ES: PwC Canada’s Consumer Insights report indicates that some consumers prefer in-store trips versus online ordering because they like to see and touch products, while others enjoy the experience of discovering new products in-store. Nearly half of respondents said they have concerns over the quality of products. Seeing items firsthand and with assistance from knowledgeable employees can help with their decisions.

Also, sustainability is becoming a top priority for Canadian consumers, regardless of the type of shop. Food items being organic, sustainably packaged and ethically produced are top of the shopping list.

Finally, consumers still like their loyalty programs. Tracking what consumers normally buy and acting upon it, demonstrates that the retailer has applied their knowledge of what’s important to the consumer to improve their return on experience. Providing this value back to the consumer in exchange for their data is important.

 

What needs to evolve in stores to deliver these experiences?

ES: A greater focus on data and insights. Collecting insights about consumer behaviour will help c-stores focus on the right product mix and services—making sure that items most important to consumers are available and increasing awareness of this with their customers is key. It’s equally important to deliver consistent experiences for consumers through employee training and investment. Experience doesn’t necessarily mean creating a VIP or niche one.  It can be, and is typically, centered around creating a positive experience for the consumer. Where they leave the store with a feeling of ease and intent to return.

 

What role does technology play in building these relationships?

ES: Voice-enabled tech is creating a new communications channel for retailers and consumers: 17% of Canadians we surveyed are already using smart home voice assistants to make purchases.

Retailers need to start tapping into rich voice data information, as it adds context to consumer interactions. By tapping into this data, retailers will be able to improve their relationships and interactions with consumers. For instance, they’ll be able to suggest a new product while the consumer is shopping or direct consumers to their closest c-store to purchase the item searched.

 

Any specific insights for independent c-store operators?

ES: Get to know your consumers and their preferences. Typically, consumers will go back to their closest convenience store if they offer the right products and knowledgeable, friendly service. While investing in technology might be more difficult for independent c-store operators, they can start by using point-of-sale data to gain insight into the products consumers buy and record feedback on what they want and couldn’t find, for example, specific products and brands.

Being knowledgeable about the product is always key for a strong consumer experience. If you know the product and can share information with consumers, they are more likely to purchase it from you.

 

What macro retail trends do c-store retailers need to know about?

ES: Technology is key, but if retailers collect data they must treat it with respect and protect it to build a long and trusted relationship with the consumer.  The consumer needs to see that there is an equal value of exchange between their data, and what they are receiving in return.

 

What is the biggest challenge for this industry?

ES: Rapidly changing and growing consumer demands because of technology. C-stores need to stay on top of technology trends if they want to keep interacting with their consumers and provide them with the products and the experience they are looking for.

 

What is the big opportunity?

ES: Making c-store a community hub where consumers can do their one-stop-shop.

 


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Square brings new checkout device to Canada

Screen Shot 2019-08-12 at 2.34.21 PMCanadian checkout counters could soon look quite different as a Silicon Valley giant looks to shake up the retail payment space – dominated by the ubiquitous grey terminal – with a new option introduced Thursday.

Square Inc., which started about a decade ago with a smartphone-based credit card scanner used mainly by small businesses, has launched a device in Canada aimed at disrupting a market of larger retailers dominated by Canadian banks.

Square’s white plastic device, called the Terminal, replaces the physical keypad design with a glass touch screen that it says allows for more clarity at checkout with a variety of display options, such as a full breakdown of the bill.

Jesse Dorogusker, head of hardware at Square, said the portable device with a built-in receipt printer and ‘all day’ battery life is also easily updated to take advantage of the company’s latest software offerings, unlike some of the more limited designs commonly found at the checkout.

The company hopes to see quick adoption of its device from new companies, but noted that many existing merchants are already tied to multi-year contracts, Dorogusker said.

“For some, we have to wait them out. Honestly, it’s an unfair contract they got locked into and they’re checking the days and doing the math.”

To help encourage adoption of Square’s Terminal, which first launched late last year in the U.S., the company has offered substantial discounts on the hardware to sell the devices below cost.

Square is also touting its straightforward transaction rates for the device of 2.65% for credit card payments and 10 cents for every debit payment, without the contracts and what it calls opaque pricing offered by Canadian banks.

The Canadian payment space is dominated by Moneris Solutions Corp., Canada’s largest payments card processor, and owned by Royal Bank of Canada and Bank of Montreal.

Square’s Terminal rollout comes as a number of retail service providers are fighting to capitalize on a rapid blurring of lines between online and bricks-and-mortar retailers.

Ottawa-based Shopify Inc., which started as a platform to make it easier to create online stores, has been pushing more into physical stores with an expanded suite of hardware offerings, including a simplified payment card scanner and tablet-based checkout device announced in April.

Square, meanwhile, has been pushing more into the online retail world. The company released a redesigned online store platform in April after buying website builder Weebly last year.

The company is pushing for more of an omnichannel offering as merchants find it increasingly important to serve both walk-in and online customers, said Square CEO Jack Dorsey.

“It’s about making sure that independent of the channel, the seller makes the sale,” he said. “Where their customers originate from is becoming less and less of a thing that matters.”

“There’s certainly direct competition with a lot of our peers,” he said, adding that as competition increases, Square plans to distinguish itself through its wide array of software offerings, including payroll and capital management tools.

Square will also have to compete with incumbents who are cautiously, but steadily moving forward in the hardware space.

Moneris launched a new suite of devices in April that have 3.5-inch touch colour screens while still keeping a physical keypad, and in 2017 launched a mobile device aimed at smaller merchants.

The company also rolled out new retailing software in April, noting that the consistent navigation of the devices means it will be easier to train staff and ensure smooth transactions.


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Meet the Star Women in Convenience Leadership Panel

Convenience Store News Canada is thrilled to announce the Leadership Panel for the Star Women in Convenience Awards Event on October 8th.

Five of the 17 2019 Star Women will take the stage to discuss their careers, advice, industry trends and opportunities.

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The panel includes:

  • Bonnie Birollo, Vice-President, Operations, Circle K – Western Canada Division
  • Caroline Evans, Head of Corporate Affairs and Communications, JTI-Macdonald Corp.
  • Marie-Helene Jauron, Director of Sales, Convenience & Gas, PepsiCo Inc.
  • Wendy Kadlovski, Director of Operations, Nicholby’s Limited
  • Azra Khan, Owner, RanaCorp Inc. O/A Shell Canada

The discussion will be moderated by Tony Chapman. For more information about the panelists, the winners and the event, visit the Star Women website. Also, read about Keynote speaker Kathy Perrotta.

The event will take place at the International Centre in Mississauga, Ont. from 7:30 am to 10:30 am – and tickets are now on sale.

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The inaugural awards breakfast event is a fantastic opportunity for organizations and individuals to honour women in the industry. We will also take this opportunity to recognize the 2018 Star Women in Convenience.

Click here for more details and to register. Space is limited.


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7-Eleven teams up with Honeywell to reduce environmental footprint

7-Eleven Long Logo_Sm_0822187-Eleven Inc. is taking another step toward reducing its environmental footprint.

The convenience store retailer is adopting the Honeywell Solstice N40 (R-448A) refrigerant as its standard for remote condensers supporting the retailer’s refrigeration cases. Installation will roll out across the United States and Canada.

Based on hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) technology, Solstice N40 offers global warming potential (GWP) that is approximately 60 percent lower than legacy HFC refrigerants like R-404A. In addition, Solstice N40 also consumes less energy.

Solstice N40 is the most widely accepted, lowest GWP, nonflammable replacement for R-404A in stores globally, according to maker Honeywell Fluorine Products.

“7-Eleven has responsibly elected to adopt Solstice N40 to help lower their carbon footprint, save energy and meet regulatory requirements without undertaking massive changes to their systems,” said Sanjeev Rastogi, vice president, Honeywell Fluorine Products.

In 2016, 7-Eleven set measurable corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals to reduce its environmental footprint. The company’s CSR mission has three focus areas: planet, products and people. Using 2015 as a baseline, 7-Eleven committed to continuing to reduce its carbon footprint and increase community engagement in the U.S. and Canada by concentrating on energy, packaging and philanthropy.

7-Eleven, which aims to reduce its energy footprint in stores by 20% by 2027, has already invested in several energy and sustainability programs to increase efficiency, reduce waste and resource consumption. Last year, the c-store retailer also selected Honeywell’s GWP alternative for retail refrigeration in Japan, becoming the first leading retail chain in the country to adopt the refrigerant, according to the company.

“In the past few years, we’ve implemented several innovative measures, such as LED lighting, energy management systems, wind energy in select stores and high-efficiency HVAC units to reduce our CO2 emissions,” said Ann Scott, 7-Eleven director of energy, engineering and store planning. “The use of Solstice N40 is an environmentally preferable alternative for 7-Eleven. Joining forces with Honeywell, which also embraces a mindset and goal to serve as environmental stewards, was a natural fit.”

Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Honeywell is a leader in the development and production of high-performance fluorocarbon refrigerants and thermal working fluids. The company is committed to inventing technologies that address some of the world’s toughest challenges in energy efficiency, clean energy generation, safety and security, globalization and customer productivity.

Irving-based 7-Eleven operates, franchises and/or licenses more than 68,000 stores in 17 countries, including 11,800 in North America.

Originally published at Convenience Store News.


5 in-store technologies to drive sales and improve customer experience

 

Screen Shot 2019-07-30 at 8.02.19 PMIt’s hard these days to keep up with the speed at which technologies are developed. In fact, it can be downright mind-boggling. And for smaller independent retailers with fewer resources to draw from than their larger competitors, understanding which technological solutions to invest in can be daunting.

Retailers are seeking out any advantages in a time of unprecedented retail competition. In-store technologies that help retailers create more engaging and positive retail experiences with convenience and speed are essential. 

  1. Update your router. Speed matters in a world that’s not only moving fast, but also accelerating. Routers are now required to work harder. With smartphones, tablet computers, Internet-enabled store equipment and more all competing for the same Internet connection, the router must work harder than ever before. If you’re not getting the Internet speed you expect, it could be due to your wireless router. Even if you upgrade your Internet plan to a higher speed tier, you might not enjoy a faster Internet connection until you update your wireless router. And, make sure the router features the latest firmware.
  2. Consider context. It’s no longer only about the screen, device, platform or the physical store. Does your business’s mobile experience match where it’s being used? I.e. on the bus, watching TV, at the coffee shop or in your store? A tiny version of your website that’s unreadable on a smartphone screen is totally unacceptable. Make sure your online marketing activities and website adapt to the size of screen that it’s being viewed on. Responsive web design is mobile-friendly, helping increase visibility on search engines, which can mean more visitors to your website. More traffic results in better lead generation, added conversions and increased sales—three big reasons why you need a responsive web design.
  3. Get your Google on.  The increased visibility that Google has placed around Google Local listing results on mobile means that Google My Business is essential for local SEO. It’s free to set up and will enable you to appear in local search results for enquiries specific to your products or services. Keep your business listing information up-to-date: Change your address, hours, contact info and photos to help potential customers find you and learn more about your business. Encourage customers to leave reviews, which can help your search ranking. If you haven’t already, add or claim your business, then verify your business listing so it’s eligible to appear on maps, search and other Google services.
  4. Tap free research services. Uncover the latest marketing research and digital trends with data reports and articles from Think with Google. Use Diagnostic Tools & Industry Benchmarks to measure your brand’s site and campaign performance, and then get tips on improving key metrics. Use Culture & Trends to find out what your potential customers are engaging with and searching for. See what’s trending in your category or market. Use Competitive Analysis to see how you stack up against the competition. Find opportunities to differentiate your brand, product or service. Use Consumer Insights to explore real-time data to glean insights about consumer research, shopping and purchase behaviours. Make more strategic decisions about your marketing campaigns and ad spending. Use Google Ads Keyword Planner to choose the right keywords. The keyword research tool will help you find the keywords that are most relevant for your business.
  5. Embrace email marketing. Some say email marketing is dying or dead, but that’s a myth: It remains the best way to engage. People still open emails. In modern business, email dominates marketing channels. If you’re thinking about using this proven technique, my advice is to start harvesting email addresses. This is where you should consider using a CRM system like Constant Contact or Mailchimp to market prospects that have opted into receiving your email newsletters. Also, make sure to investigate and follow the requirements of CASL.

 

There’s no question that, in the modern business landscape, a big part of your operations and marketing strategy is digital. Whether it’s to better serve the customer; to enhance experiences for the customer to improve operational efficiencies; or to exploit previously unseen opportunities, retailers are constantly seeking ways to leverage technologies that can help them drive traffic to their stores and loyalty among their customers.

 Gerry Spitzner helps retailers develop marketplace strategies to create, engage and keep customers for life. For more information about his approach, connect at retailSOS@gmail.com

Originally published in the July/August issue of Convenience Store News Canada