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Get social! Savvy convenience retailers create vibrant online communities


We’ve seen remarkable change in our lifetimes, but what we’re experiencing now is different. It’s not just evolutionary change; it’s transformative change that requires us to alter our patterns of behaviour and learn new skills. Just having a nice store with nice products and services in a good location isn’t enough anymore.

Consumers are seeking modern conveniences such as mobile apps that can connect them directly with their stores, and you must be willing and able to meet those needs. Although specific apps may not be feasible for certain c-stores, the likelihood that your customers are already using social media is high.

With social media establishing itself as a viable online marketing opportunity, how can you use technology to promote your store and its products and services?

It’s time to get social

The most important point about social media is that it’s a marketing channel not a standalone marketing strategy. Your online marketing objectives should include aiming to grow your business, convert shoppers, educate your shoppers and/or engage your shoppers with a social media plan that offers visibility and connection as well as convenience. The result can be time and money-related savings of your scarce resources for marketing, as well as increased customer loyalty.

Social media allows you to connect with your loyal customers on another, deeper level. Are you considering using or enhancing your social media to promote your business in 2019?

Find your audience

This phrase is used a lot when discussing social media marketing. And it sounds intuitive, right? You must find the people who will want your offerings and target efforts towards them. But putting this phrase into practice can be a bit daunting. You might be asking yourself: Where is my audience? How do I find them?

The first step to answering this question is simple. You must understand the environment of each social media platform. Not only does the type of communication available on each platform differ, but the expectations for communication differ as well. It’s hard to keep up with the many types of social media. So, let’s break this down and look at the social mechanics of each site in this infographic that uses donuts to explain the differences.

Schedule content as you discover it

Creating an effective social media plan can be overwhelming and time-consuming, but by staying organized and planning as much in advance as possible, you can manage all your social media in one place by using a dashboard service for posting.

BothHootsuiteand Bufferoffer free or paid options. On a free version they each allow up to three social sites to post to, and on a paid basis there are plans to suit your needs. If you’re early stage the best strategy to begin is to use both as a free service; that way you’ve got six sites you can post to.

Then measure the impact of your social media campaigns through comprehensive reporting. Both dashboard services come with robust analytics to help you get the most from your activity.  It’s easy to set up, but maintenance can be complicated, so your store should be running well before getting involved in social media because it needs to be consistent and maintained to be effective.

Social media for business

A large portion of social media activity should be generated by the c-store itself and should relate to non-promotional content, such as photos from community events and other activities. About 10% of the content should be generated elsewhere, such as retail news from other sources, and another 10% of content should relate to promotions occurring at your store.

Don’t forget, social media must have that personal touch. It’s what makes your c-store your c-store.

Recommended posting frequency for the most popular social media sites for business:

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Experience accumulates

Don’t get overwhelmed with all the options you hear about. Pick two or three to get started; dip your toe in the water, and wade into the pool from the shallow end first.

Above all…don’t just set it and forget it. Make sure to engage and have conversations with your online community. These conversations just might lead to customers making a visit to your store to engage with you instead of patronizing another retailer.

Screen Shot 2019-09-12 at 12.01.30 PMGerry Spitzner is a business management consultant with an optimistic approach to improving life and business results. Fascinated with why customers buy, trends and a passion for retail, he is dedicated to sharing his thinking with business development strategies to create, engage and keep great customers. For more on his approach, contact him at



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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.

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

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

5 steps to crack down on shoplifting

shoplifting-TEASER_0If you’ve been in retailing for more than a few weeks, you know that shoplifting is a fact of life. What you may not know, however, is how widespread shoplifting is and the impact it has on retailers, regardless of their size or what they sell.

Some retailers have been unwilling to take action against shoplifters due to a certain level of acceptance that shoplifting is just a part of the cost of doing business, but more and more retailers are fighting back. By employing a combination of good retailing practices, improved staffing policies, technology improvements, and partnerships with law enforcement, these retailers are reducing the opportunity to shoplift.

With that in mind, here are five steps to help convenience store operators crack down on shoplifting:


Improving store layouts and displays will make it easier for employees to monitor what’s happening in the store and what customers are up to. This can be accomplished by reducing the number of exits and blind corners, carefully placing mirrors, and providing good, even lighting. To the extent possible, place goods away from store entrances and create clear sight lines in aisles by eliminating clutter and reducing the height of displays.


This means more than just hiring security guards. Convenience store operators can also adopt policies that will impact shoplifting, such as restricting the number of unaccompanied minors allowed in the store and requiring proof of purchase for refunds. Encouraging shoppers to use supermarket-style baskets for purchases removes the excuse for putting items in shoppers’ own bags. Keeping high-value items in locked displays and sealing the bags of legitimate purchases can reduce impulse theft.


This can help to inhibit shoplifting, although it may not be feasible for small store operators. Where possible, though, having more staff available to assist customers means a stronger retailer presence throughout the store and greater opportunities to surveil customers.

Training staff in procedures for dealing with shoplifting incidents can also help sustain a prosecution. For example, because retailers need to prove that stolen goods were not just taken away, but there was intent to avoid payment, trained staffers will know they should wait until suspects have left the store before apprehending them. Otherwise, shoplifters can simply claim they intended to pay before leaving.


Using advanced technology, specifically facial recognition software, has become a viable tool for targeting shoplifters, as costs have dropped and the technology has improved. Using image processing and machine learning algorithms to match a photo of an unidentified person against a database of photos of identified persons who previously have been arrested for shoplifting or other crimes, the software produces a list of possible matches, with each match having a score that indicates the quality or likelihood of a match. The police then use that list to either rule out or further investigate each match, just as they would with any other investigative lead.

Facial recognition software has risen in popularity as shoplifters have become increasingly sophisticated. Professional shoplifters who steal solely for resale or profit now comprise 10% of the total dollar losses due to shoplifting. These professionals include hardened criminals who steal as a lifestyle, international shoplifting gangs who steal for profit, and drug addicts who steal to feed their habits.


For retailers, this has proven to be a highly effective means of cracking down on shoplifters, particularly in those instances where retailers are dealing with gangs of organized shoplifters.

While these steps won’t stop shoplifting, they can go a long way toward helping your store avoid becoming another statistic in the battle to stem this alarming problem.

Column by Nick Coult, a senior vice president for law enforcement and public safety at Numerica Corp. He is one of the creators of Lumen, a platform for law enforcement search, analysis, and data sharing. 

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 

How c-store chains are using technology to connect with employees

labor-technology-teaserOver the past several years, there have been countless conversations around technology in the convenience channel.

However, many of the conversations revolve around consumer-facing technology. How can convenience store retailers tap into innovation to reach their shoppers? Is it through digital signage? Messaging at the pump? Loyalty programs? A mobile app?

Yet, there is another side to the tech coin: employee-facing technology.

A growing number of c-store operators are turning to tech solutions to manage everything from communicating with employees to scheduling.

“In technology, you are always chasing the bouncing ball because consumer expectations, and client expectations, change fast and get more demanding every time. We clearly see that in our industry. Consumers have ever-increasing expectations of what retailers can do for them,” said Rick Sales, president of Abierto Networks, a digital engagement technology provider.

“But what I think is interesting, and what we are discovering, is that sometimes retailers forget that their employees are consumers, too,” he added, noting that retailers also need to look at their employees as consumers of the information they are trying to get across.

“If you look at your employee as a consumer of information, then you can appreciate that, with information presented at the right time and in the right way, you can modify the behavior of an employee just as you can modify a behavior of a consumer,” Sales explained.

Here’s an insider look at three U.S.-based c-store chains using technology to connect with employees:


The Altoona, Pa.-based convenience store retailer is utilizing Abierto Networks’ employee engagement kiosks. The kiosks are deployed at all Sheetz stores as a key piece of the retailer’s employee engagement and internal communications strategy. Through the kiosks, Sheetz can relay store metrics to employees and mix that in with other messages — such as store meetings, uniform ordering, training tips, and employee recognition like birthdays and anniversaries.


The Des Moines, Iowa-based convenience store chain is partnering with Branch, a mobile-first technology provider that helps organizations increase schedule and financial flexibility for hourly employees. Through Branch, Kum & Go associates can now find coverage for their shifts by sending notice out to everyone in the district. Since deployment, general managers have gone from covering two to three extra shifts a week to maybe one per month.


The Watkinsville, Ga.-based operator of 37 c-stores earlier this year selected HotSchedules, a provider of workforce and back-office solutions for the retail, restaurant and hospitality industries, to support its scheduling, forecasting and labor management initiatives. Employees can leverage HotSchedules — whether through the app or online — to request time off, trade shifts and change availability. Managers can build schedules based upon employee availability. In addition, built into the platform are compliance needs specific to state regulations like overtime, child labor or predictive scheduling.

Originally posted at Convenience Store News. 

5 top tips to increase your curb appeal

Don’t curb your enthusiasm!

For convenience retailers, with or without a gas offering, making your location look inviting, safe, well-stocked, up-to-date and thoroughly modern is an ongoing battle. But it’s a battle well worth waging.

It is imperative that certain aspects be maintained, as often a site’s outward appearance is the first step to getting a customer to further explore what else you have to offer. First impressions are key in convenience retail.

Screen Shot 2019-06-07 at 11.00.04 AMHere are five tips every c-store should consider to keep customers coming back, bring new shoppers through the door, and increase that all important curb appeal:

  • Be a clean machine. Cleanliness is key, both inside and outside your location. If you have a fuel offering, the pumps will need regular attention. Emptying trash cans, sweeping up unwanted debris and maintaining equipment should become standard part of yours or your staff’s routine, and schedules should be created to ensure things aren’t missed.


  • Stock fully. Full merchandisers reinforced your commitment to provide customers with both selection and price choices. Keep the washer-fluid, firewood, ice, etc. fully stocked and ready to sell. In the winter, brush off excess snow and keep your products as visible as possible in off-season. In the summer, make sure you have enough ice and coolant. 


  • Shine a light. A well-lit location implies safety. Keep canopy lights, exterior signage and any specialty lighting fully lit. Having canopy letters or feature-lit sections that do not work, or work only partially, speaks volumes to the perceived service a customer will receive.


  • Don’t forget your outdoor space. Innovative and seasonal exterior products help to make both the exterior look full and drive what can be a high margin category, when done well. For example, propane exchanges, firewood and ice all have a place in the exterior layout, and if there are seasonal factors, perhaps a featured position or specialty product is warranted.


  • Make it visible. Good visibility of the interior of the store from the exterior is often highly underrated. Having an exterior setup that works with the glass, windows and entranceway of the location makes it easy for the customer to see into the location, and your employees to see out. Keep site lines and heights in mind while positioning exterior categories to help keep the overall store looking open and inviting, plus adding an extra level of safety.


With summer just around the corner, what better time to do a little spring cleaning and operation refreshment?


Russell Large is vice president of retail services for Hugh Large & Associates Inc., the Convenience Guru,

If you are looking to attract Gen Z, technology is the way

Screen Shot 2019-06-07 at 9.49.38 AMGeneration Z, the generation after millennials, is the first generation that has truly grown up in a purely technology-driven world.

Accordingly, Gen Z — more so than any other generation — is primed to respond strongly to technology offerings. Tech is an important tool to gain and keep these consumers.

Convenience store retailers must remember “this generation, even more so than millennials, has only known a mobile world,” noted David Brewis, chief marketing officer at New York-based Amplience, a provider of ecommerce retail solutions.

“While it’s no secret that traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are being pushed to embrace omnichannel models, they’re now going to have to capture this new generation of shoppers on mobile first,” he explained.

Generation Z — made up of those born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s — currently accounts for about 18% Canadian population. Ranging in age from pre-tween to 21, they already claim more than $40 billion in buying power globally and are predicted to be the driving force of the consumer world by 2020.

If retailers want to connect with Gen Z shoppers, they need to “meet them where they’re at and create an engaging experience connecting physical and digital realms — namely, through the smartphones these consumers already carry with them,” said Davor Sutija, CEO of Thinfilm, a NFC mobile marketing solutions provider.

Gen Z shoppers are becoming the trendsetters and tastemakers in society.

“They’re increasingly looking for more interactive and personalized ways to shop, with online platforms like search engines, social media and ecommerce marketplaces changing the game for these digitally-savvy consumers and the retail world at-large,” Sutija said.


Gen Z is “all about social media,” according to Todd Maute, partner at New York-based brand agency CBX. He recommends c-stores put their brand out there in a way that is both meaningful and emotional to get Gen Z to respond. Working with “influencers” can be a part of the strategy.

“In particular, video gamers’ fast-paced lifestyles dovetail very well with the offerings of c-stores,” Maute told Convenience Store News. “Pro-gamers reach massive online audiences: L.A.-based gamer and YouTube star Mark Fischbach, for example, reportedly made more than $12 million last year. He now has more than 21 million subscribers. The right influencer collaborations certainly can bolster a c-store brand’s resonance with Gen Z.”

Marketing expert Angie Read agrees that the best way to capture this generation is to feature a social media influencer who is “their age, music and humor.”

Read is the co-author of Marketing to Gen Z: The Rule for Reaching This Vast — and Very Different — Generation of Influencers, a recently released report from FutureCast.

“Gen Z doesn’t watch television like older generations, so don’t waste advertising budgets on traditional TV ads,” Read said. “They do, however, voraciously consume digital media and, while they skip traditional ads at nearly all cost, they will sit through ads they find entertaining. They have a short attention span — 8 seconds or less.”

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 

4 strategies for delivering a more experiential confectionery shopping experience

unnamed-1Like all things retail these days, the confectionery shopping experience is in flux. New technology and the rise of e-commerce is shifting the way shoppers behave, as they’re now looking for a more experiential confectionery shopping experience.

“The in-store experience now has to offer a holistic approach that incorporates this shift and creates a cohesive shopping experience. This can come to life in a lot of ways for retailers,” said Jim Dodge, vice president of convenience at Mars Wrigley Confectionery.

For example, although it’s still a highly impulsive category, there is an opportunity to help products become planned purchases, making it from the aisle to the basket by connecting online communications with those in stores, Dodge explained.

“This is done by matching external promotions, such as web banners, with the internal merchandising experience,” he said.

Millennials are the driving force behind the confectionery shopping shift, and this generation is embracing the small format of the convenience channel now more than ever. C-stores stocking unique flavors, textures and pack types are helping meet the needs of this generation.

“In addition to product mix, incorporating unique fixtures and signage is improving the c-store experience and increasing shopper engagement with the category,” McLane Co. Inc. Confection Category Manager Kraig Morrison advised. “New technology and increased services are also evolving the shopper experience. For example, e-commerce and delivery are a couple of the future driving forces of the c-store shopping experience.”

As consumers’ confectionery shopping expectations continue to evolve, it’s becoming increasingly important for c-store retailers to provide a seamless, integrated experience.

Here are four recommendations from confectionery category experts on how to win more sales.

  1. Merchandising

The best planograming strategy for confection places the top-performing items and brands in the area of the setwith the highest visual penetration rate, also known as the “strike zone.”

Positioning top items within the strike zone not only optimizes the placement of the best items in the set, but it also allows for king and standard pack types to be blocked separately, making the aisle more shoppable, according to Morrison.

“Grouping pack types helps to put king-size, standard and non-chocolate in their own prominent locations. With 32% of consumers only looking for king and

29% only looking for standard, creating their own blocks allows the planogram to cater to each customer’s need state,” he said.

Mars Wrigley Confectionery recently conducted a global, multi-month survey to understand what influences shopper purchasing decisions and developed a few key strategies:

  • Carry a balanced assortment of gum, mints, fruity confections and chocolate to meet the shoppers’ needs and drive sales.
  • Reorganize products based on what motivates shoppers to purchase certain items. For example, pack type is the top purchase driver for fruity confections, while brand

name is the top purchase driver for chocolate.

The candy aisle has traditionally been where shoppers seek confection, and 64% of confection purchases still originate from this primary location.

However, the candy aisle has earned a reputation as being one of the most difficult areas of the store to shop.

“Optimizing the candy aisle and arranging the planogram to place the products the shopper most often seeks in the ‘strike zone’ can decrease product search time by

50% and yield a 4-percent to 6-percent increase in sales,” noted Alan Tobin, director of category management, convenience channel, at The Hershey Co.

This strategy ensures that the strike zone is reserved for only the very best items, which should include all sizes. Getting the merchandising strategy right in the primary location is key to success in the confectionery category.

“If shoppers are unable to locate an item they desire immediately, they will walk away from the category completely,” Tobin acknowledged.

Core-Mark International Inc.’s Michael Caporusso, director of marketing and category management, shared a similar sentiment:

“One of the barriers to the category is wrong pricing and another is if the candy aisle has low visibility, so prioritize the placement of products.”

However, retailers must also be cognizant that the candy category is driven by brand and innovation. “Shoppers are looking for specific brands, but they’re also looking to indulge in what they haven’t eaten before,” said Caporusso. “It’s a contradictory experience, but for a c-store retailer to provide convenience, you have to have both experiences.”

  1. Signage

The average time spent in a convenience store is only two minutes and 42 seconds. And of this short period of time, only 18 seconds are spent in-aisle.

“Signage helps the shopper navigate the store and directs the shopper through the aisle to make the most of this valuable time. Good examples are window and

pumptopper signage to help drive shoppers into the store,” said Morrison.

Mars Wrigley Confectionery’s Dodge agrees with this strategy and recommends retailers leverage a mix of in-store and out-of-store signage by advertising power brands on the lot during key holidays and leveraging pumptoppers and gas TV ads to promote high-margin basket builder categories, like confection.

  1. Promotions

Promotional effectiveness is becoming more of a must have to generate gains year over year.

The anticipated lift in sales that the “right price” will trigger, combined with the successful application of marketing, has to accomplish the goal of producing more net profit at the reduced price for the period of time. According to McLane’s Morrison, two-for pricing is one of the most successful drivers in candy, leading to the “win-win-win result.”

“The shopper recognizes the value of a 2/$2 or 2/$3 offer for multiple products and, at the same time, the retailer and the manufacturer are gaining sales and penny profit gains with the larger basket rings,” he said, adding that fountain drink bundling is another successful driver.

  1. Last Interruptions

Aside from the candy aisle, counter unit displays, under the counter and queue lines are critical secondary purchase points for confectionery, as shoppers approach the pay point from these different vantage points. It’s important for c-stores to maximize checkout given the brief time customers spend in the store.

With that in mind, Dodge has these three final tips for c-store operators:

  • Redesign the checkout by using large-footprint and ground-up builds, as well as register toppers that feature power categories and power brands.
  • Make sure products are easy to shop and well organized around the checkout. If shoppers can easily locate impulse products, they are more likely to add them to their basket.
  • Provide a variety of product choices to satisfy different shoppers’ end-of-trip needs.

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 

Shoppers enticed by illuminated signs: Study

Signage from NeonPlus

Signage from NeonPlus

A survey by NeonPlus found that 64% of customers are more attracted to stores that have eye-catching illuminated digital signage.

The UK-based company surveyed 1,000 people by showing them a  selection of store signage and asking which was more appealing and best grabbed their attention, according to a press release.

Cutting through the clutter competing for consumers’ attention isn’t easy. The company behind the survey maintains that illuminated signs provide a neon look, which can help attract additional customers.

“Neon signs have become a huge trend in retail settings and are commonly used to exude fun and give a store a modern yet retro feel,” Graeme Hoole, head of product development, NeonPlus, said in the release. “Neon is often associated with parties, which can make shoppers feel happy, excited and encourage them to buy something spontaneously.”

3 in-store strategies to drive impulse purchases

shopping-basket-icon-TEASER_0The convenience channel has long been known for its cokes and smokes, but if you ask any convenience store retailer, supplier or distributor what really has the ability to drive profits by increasing basket size, they will tell you it’s the highly profitable and highly impulsive candy and snacks categories.

“Candy and snacks — both salty and sweet — are very important to a c-store’s profitability. These categories carry above-average margins and provide a strong impulse purchase opportunity for many of our guests,” Ken Hagler, senior director of merchandising for Tri Star Energy LLC’s Twice Daily Convenience Stores.

Alan Tobin, senior manager, c-store category strategy and insights for The Hershey Co., agrees that candy and snacks play a key role in building baskets at c-stores.

“With 47% of purchases being unplanned, and more than 80% of purchases consumed within an hour, a candy and snacks consumer is in the market for these products on pretty much every trip,” Tobin pointed out.

So, the question becomes: What are the most effective ways convenience store operators can lean into the candy and snacks categories to drive both impulsive and purposeful purchases?

Retailers and suppliers shared the following tricks of the trade:


Twice Daily, operator of 50 c-stores across Tennessee and Kentucky, focuses on its fresh food and beverage offers to drive in-store traffic. Once in-store, Twice Daily emphasizes its candy and snack items to entice extra buys. It does this by strategically displaying these categories on the way to and from destination zones, such as the beverage cooler, fresh food area, and along the sales counter.

“We believe this provides us with the greatest opportunity to garner that additional add-on sale of a candy or snack item to go with a customer’s food or beverage purchase,” Hagler explained. “We also merchandise top-selling candy and snack items at the sales counter to capture that last-second impulse purchase to go along with the other items being purchased.”


The front counter is where shoppers spend the most time dwelling, notes Hershey’s Tobin.

“About 17% of a shopper’s total time in-store is spent at the checkout. With an average of 23% of candy and snack sales coming from the checkout area, retailers have a huge opportunity to increase basket sizes through maximizing merchandising in this space,” he said.

Tobin recommends incorporating one of three merchandising systems at every pay point:

  1. Counter unit: With limited space, retailers should only merchandise the best-selling brands and items here. About 75%t of candy sales from a counter unit are incremental, he reports.
  2. Under the counter: Retailers who have executed this method saw an average of a 10 to 12% lift in category sales, with a 36%t increase in frontend conversion, according to Tobin.
  3. Queue line: Recent Hershey research showed a 56% increase in buyer conversion at the pay point after a queue line was installed.


Although it seems like an obvious solution, clear and simple signage is a must to communicate specials and promotional offers to capture incremental basket rings.

“One of the biggest gaps we see with the c-stores we work with is not having enough signage and callouts to grab customers’ attention, especially when it’s a bundle or a price-driven offer, so the customer sees it and gets the chance to make that decision,” said Joe Thrash, national trade relations manager for McKee Foods Corp., manufacturer of Little Debbie packaged sweet snacks.

Too often, signage doesn’t make sense in focusing on the bundle offer or is just not there, he explained.

Originally published at Convenience Store News.