How many of you that stop at a gas station or convenience store actually remember anything about it? If you get gas at the same place you probably remember some of the people that work there, especially if you live in a more rural area. How many of you remember the gas station or convenience store because it was COOL? Can I see by a raise of hands? I can’t say that I see any outstretched hands! Gas stations and convenience stores are for the most part BORING. Other than fuel, cigarettes, sodas and packaged beverages (and lottery tickets if it’s in your State) will always be the best sellers and that probably won’t change for years to come.
I’d like to illustrate a point that not only are most gas stations and convenience stores BORING, they don’t sell to their market. Recently in the same month, I was in Danbury CT and I made it a point to stop in quite a few convenience stores. There is a large Brazilian population in Danbury. I went into a lot of convenience stores and how many stores did I find that had Brazilian stuff? None. Not one Renaldo jersey, not one Brazilian soccer schedule, nada. I’m quite sure that there is a store or two that caters to the Brazilian market, but I also observed quite a few people who were Brazilian in the stores and they were purchasing their coffees, their cigarettes and other items. How many sales did they lose from not having merchandise for them?
In the same month I was in a convenience store near Daytona Beach, FL. The store was next to a retirement community of mobile homes. I walked in expecting to see items for senior citizens but boy was I wrong. I saw Pac Sun stuff all over the place. I couldn’t find anything that appeared to be geared at that community.
Many owners of gas stations and convenience stores have been so programmed by the vendor reps in terms of what items to carry and where to carry them that their stores have never developed a “personality.”
There are some general rules of the road about always having a clean store, especially having a clean bathroom. We know that women tend to buy at gas stations that have flowers. These are a given.
But again, I ask you the question that I started with. How many of you can remember going into a station that was COOL? Probably nobody.
I like to go into truck stops and travel plazas because the larger ones have stores for truckers. You’ll find CB radios, scanners and other things like that. I like to go in because I like gadgets and I can always find a gadget.
If you’ve ever gone into a mall where there is a Spencer’s gift shop, you’ll know why. You go there because it’s cool! You should make YOUR store cool!
Even though it may not appear like it because the price of fuel is so high, but many gas station and convenience store owners are struggling. Their profit margin is going down to absorb the rise in prices and they’re selling less fuel, even though they’re bringing in more revenues. If you’re going to stay in business, you need to develop a unique plan on bringing people into your store. Make sure you know your nearby demographics and cater it to that crowd. And for Pete’s sake, make your store cool!
Harold Jaynes is with PetroMAC, the premier source of financing gas stations and convenience stores. If you want more information about financing a business, come to the professionals.