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7-Eleven opens first mall location in the U.S.

7-Eleven debuted its first ever location in a U.S. shopping centre in Brandon Floria. last week, marking the first of seven mall stores to open this year, according to ABC Action News.

“This year we’ve opened new concept stores in sporting venues and airports to meet the convenience needs of our customers,” said Charles Bantos, 7-Eleven director of corporate development. “Our entry into shopping centers is aligned with our strategy of meeting customers when and where they most need us. Shoppers and mall employees alike can visit this 7-Eleven store to refuel with a quick snack, treat and drink, or grab one of the many meal-time options including sandwiches, salads, hot pizza, chicken tenders and entrées. 7-Eleven continues to redefine convenience for consumers, and Westfield Brandon Shopping Centre presented the perfect opportunity to make the leap into a multi-store shopping venue.”

“The addition of 7-Eleven at our centre caters to the daily needs of our guests,” said Katie Woolridge, senior shopping centre manager of Westfield Brandon. “By adding daily conveniences such as these, we continue to give our guests more reasons to visit while creating a fulfilling shopping experience.”

Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven operates, franchises and/or licenses more than 69,000 stores in 17 countries, including 11,800 in North America.


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Juul Labs Canada opens retail store in Alberta

Today JUUL Labs Canada opened a retail store in Edmonton – the company’s first store in Alberta.

In a statement, the company said: “This 18+ store is a place to connect directly with adult smokers – to understand their switching journey and help them find products that can help them switch away from cigarettes. All visitors will be subject to strict age verification before entry.”

This is Juul’s second brick-and-mortar location in Canada. It debuted the concept in Toronto (19+ only) in July, along with Juul C1. The company’s connected device includes features that allow users to monitor their nicotine usage, provide access restrictions to prevent unauthorized use and find their device if it is lost.

“This store in Edmonton is our second location in Canada, and we’re committed to providing environments for adult smokers to better understand how vaping products, like JUUL, can help them switch from cigarettes, the leading cause of preventable death worldwide,” Michael Nederhoff, general manager, Juul Labs Canada, said in a release. “Staff at the JUUL store can work with current adult smokers to find what works best for them – selecting devices, flavours, and nicotine strengths that best meet their switching choice.”

While there is much furore in the United States, with moves to ban flavours, flavours are still legal in Canada. At one time, Health Canada stated: “Flavours help make vaping liquids palatable to adult smokers seeking a less harmful alternative to tobacco. Therefore, the use of flavours in vaping liquids is not prohibited under the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act.”


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Juul opens first North American store in Toronto

UnknownE-cigarette maker Juul is opening its first retail store in Canada .

The Juul store in Toronto’s west-end, which opened to customers Monday, marks the California-based company’s first brick-and-mortar location in North America.

The stores opens mid mounting concern about the rise of teen vaping. Upon entering, Juul says all visitors will be asked to provide identification to prove they meet Ontario’s legal age of 19 to purchase vaping products before they can pass through the clouded glass doors concealing the offerings from public view.

Those who gain entry will find Juul’s devices and cartridges laid out on tables in the sleek showroom style of an Apple store. Patrons can interact with the devices, but not test them, because vaping is prohibited indoors.

At a media preview this week, Michael Nederhoff, general manager of Juul Labs in Canada, said the store was designed to be an “educational venue” for adult smokers looking to learn about vaping.

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But as Juul has emerged as Canada’s leading vaping brand, critics say the company is at risk of creating a new generation of nicotine addicts in light of recent research suggesting that the prevalence of teenage vaping has nearly doubled.

In May 2018, Ottawa formally legalized vaping, opening the door for international vaping brands such as Juul to enter the Canadian market.

Since then, Juul has captured a 78% share of Canada’s vape market, with its products available at more than 13,000 vape shops and convenience stores across the country, said Nederhoff.

Nick Kadysh, Juul’s director of government relations, said the company sees youth vaping as “completely unacceptable” and has taken steps to prevent its products from getting into the wrong hands.

He cited efforts such as using third-party age verification for online sales, and sending secret shoppers to check roughly 150 stores per month to make sure they’re carding customers and following Juul’s restrictions on bulk purchases. He said retailers who don’t comply may either be “blacklisted” or reported to Health Canada.

But David Hammond, a public health professor at the University of Waterloo, said Juul and other e-cigarette makers need to go further to stem the 74% surge in vaping by Canadian teens that his research suggests.

Hammond led a study published in the British Medical Journal in June based on online surveys of Canadians aged 16 to 19 in 2017 and 2018.

The researchers found that the number of Canadian teens who said they had vaped in the last month increased to 14.6% in 2018 from 8.4% in 2017.

Hammond said the 2018 surveys straddled the month before and after Juul hit stores in Canada, and within weeks of becoming available, the brand had surged to become the third most popular among Canadian teens.

He said the brand’s soaring sales in Canada are particularly alarming in light of trends in the U.S., where researchers found the increase in Juul use accounted for more than two-thirds of the overall rise in youth vaping.

Last week, Juul executives were called before U.S. Congress to field questions from lawmakers about whether the company tried to market its products to youth.

House members pointed to internal documents indicating that Juul planned to push its products on social media and offered funding to schools for anti-vaping education in a program that was quashed after the company learned that big tobacco had backed similar anti-smoking efforts decades earlier.

Juul executives in Canada said neither of those strategies were attempted in Canada, and the company has even advocated for Ottawa to ban social media marketing of vaping products.

Earlier this year, Health Canada proposed new measures to ban the promotion of e-cigarettes in public places, stores and media where young people are likely to encounter them, including point-of-sale advertisements.

Kadysh said the restriction would hinder Juul’s ability to reach adult smokers when they’re buying cigarettes at their local convenience store and encourage them to switch to what is believed to be a less harmful alternative.

For Hammond, this reluctance speaks volumes about Juul’s commitment to preventing youth vaping.

“I think it is (disingenuous) at best for any company to suggest that those types of ads don’t reach kids when it is literally inches from the candy,” he said.

Last month, San Francisco banned the sale of e-cigarettes in a bid to curb underage use. But Hammond said he doesn’t think a similar prohibition would be feasible or desirable in Canada.

“We can actually control these products more by having them regulated than just trying to push them under the blanket,” he said.

“I think it would be a shame if we had to ban them outright because of their potential to help with adult smokers, but we need to find some way of reducing access to kids for sure.”

The retail store will sell JUUL C1, the company’s connected device, which includes features that allow users to monitor their nicotine usage, provide access restrictions to prevent unauthorized use and find their JUUL device if it is lost.

The JUUL C1 connected device can be paired via Bluetooth to a new mobile application. The app is being piloted in Canada to explore and refine its functionalities.

The device, when paired with the app, will include a usage monitor that provides adult smokers with greater visibility into their usage, allowing them to monitor in real-time the number of puffs they take daily, weekly and monthly. The connected device will also provide access restrictions at the user level to prevent unauthorized use and provides adult smokers with the ability to find their JUUL device if it is lost.

“As a company, we are always looking to build on our product portfolio to reach a broader range of smokers, while limiting appeal to youth,” said Nederhoff. “We believe the connected device will provide current adult smokers with features they will find valuable. Based on feedback, we plan to refine and enhance the functionality of the app to further improve the user experience.”

The pilot program will continue to run over the coming weeks. JUUL Labs Canada will evaluate feedback and determine whether to expand the device and app further in the country.

With files from Michelle Warren


Store inspections should not be a surprise

checklist-teaserWhen I was growing up, one of my tasks was to keep my room clean and tidy. Every day, I was to pick up my clothes, books and toys and put them in their proper places. I tried. I really tried. Seriously.

Before being allowed out to play on a Saturday morning, my room had to pass inspection.  Inevitably, as I stood by the front door, I would be told that I needed to clean my room. “But Mom, my room is clean,” I’d protest. I would then be led back to my room and items that I hadn’t noticed would be pointed out to me. My being in the room on a day-to-day basis had blinded my objectivity and I didn’t see what others saw.

Sound familiar?

The title of this article is not completely accurate. I think surprise store inspections are important and very helpful. Thanks to the power of the English language, the statement “store inspections should not be a surprise” can have two meanings. What I actually mean is that the result of store inspections should not be a surprise. You must be able to objectively see what your store looks like.

You may not realize it, but your store is inspected multiple times a day. Every customer who walks into your shop is a mystery shopper grading your store on cleanliness, out-of-stocks, pricing and customer service. Unlike the professional mystery-shopping companies, however, your customers won’t leave you with an inspection report. If you fail any of the categories, the customer will vote with their feet — and their wallet — by going somewhere else.

The eternal question is: How do we keep our store at the standards we expect? It is important whether you own one store or 100 stores. The condition of your site is one of the main drivers of customer loyalty and increased sales. Maintaining a high standard is hard to do. Working in a store every day makes it difficult to see the areas that need to be improved.

The best way to have an objective eye is to imagine yourself as a professional inspector. A professional inspector has a checklist that he or she uses to make sure that every item is checked during a visit. Leaving the inspection to memory causes items, and problems, to be overlooked because they are taken for granted.

We use a checklist called Every Store Every Visit (ESEV). A store inspection is performed at least once a week. The store is graded based on the inspection, and the report is reviewed with the team members running the store. We leave the report in a binder at the store and review it after the next inspection to see what items were fixed and what areas still need to be worked on.

“What a great idea,” you are probably thinking, “but how do I get one of these checklists?”

If you are already having mystery-shop inspections because of your fuel or store brand, ask your brand owner for a copy of the inspection checklist and use it as the basis for your own list. Add to it items that you think are important for the success of your business.

If you don’t currently have a mystery-shopping program, don’t despair. You can make your own checklist.

The next time you visit a competitor’s store, pay attention to what you are seeing. What do you look for? What do you notice? Where are your competitor’s flaws? What do you think they can improve on? What are they doing right?

Next, go to your site. Pretend you are someone from another planet trying to figure out what the building is and what goes on inside. Stand outside the property (but not in traffic!). Start at the curb with your eyes and slowly make a mental movie of the parking lot and the front of the store. Are the trash cans empty and clean? Is there litter in the parking lot? Are the weeds growing up through the cracks or over the curb? Are the fuel dispensers clean and working? Are the lights working? Does the air and water work? Do the building, curbs or canopy need painting or repair?

As you enter the building, check to see if the windows are clean or cracked. Inside, slowly look around. Is the floor clean? Do the lights work? Is there any old food smells? Are customers greeted when they walk in the door and thanked when they leave?

As you walk around the store, notice if the shelves are clean. Is everything priced? Are there any empty spaces on the shelves? Is there trash on the floor?

How about the foodservice? Is the foodservice area clean? Are the cups and supplies stocked? Is the food being kept at the right temperature? Is the food being stored properly? Are the coolers and freezer holding temperature correctly?

How’s the staff? Are they in uniform? Are they attentive to the customers (greeting and thanking them)? Are they working the floor when not waiting on customers? Do they have a name tag on?

And, always fun, how does the bathroom look? Is it clean? Does it have soap, towels and toilet paper? Is the hot water working? Does it smell?

Finally, how about the things the customer doesn’t see? Is the store room tidy? Is the cooler clean and tidy? Are the air filters clean? Is the office space in order? Are the proper cash controls being followed at the point-of-sale? Are all permits and licenses posted?

As you are walking around, list everything you notice on a sheet of paper. I suggest you organize the items into categories such as cleanliness, customer service, products, outside appearance, etc. Another option is to list them in the order you would see them when walking around.  In either case, the more detail you add to the list, the better. A good inspection list should take 30 to 45 minutes to complete. This doesn’t include the time it takes to fix the mistakes.

Once you have your checklist completed, add a space at the top for the date and who was on duty. Make a dozen copies of the checklist and put them on a clipboard. Carry the clipboard around and do your first inspection. In addition to feeling very professional (carrying a clipboard will do that to a person), you will be setting the standard for future inspections.

If you are honest with yourself, the first inspection will be terrible. No matter how good we think we are as operators, there is always room for improvement. If you look hard, with an objective view, you will find areas that need improvement. Anytime you find a new issue or problem, add it to your checklist.

The good news is that each inspection will get better if you use them as a training opportunity. Don’t immediately fix the problem yourself, unless there is a safety issue. Walk the store with whomever is on duty with the checklist in hand. Point out the areas that need improvement, as well as the areas that are done to perfection. Fix any issues as a team so that everyone can learn what is expected and what needs to be done.

After the next inspection, compare the newly completed checklist with the previous one. If the same areas continue having problems, it is a strong indicator that more coaching needs to be done. Go over the list again with the team members on staff. Once they understand there is a written standard they are being held to, they will be more motivated to achieve it.

As a training side note, providing people with definitive goals and targets is an excellent way to improve performance. Once someone knows what is expected of them, they find it easier to meet, and exceed, that expectation.

Becoming your own mystery shopper is a quick and inexpensive way to raise your store standards and improve your customer service. It makes your site ready for when the real inspectors — your customers — arrive.

Originally published at Convenience Store News.