Dan Naden

3 ways that convenience stores can get better

The convenience store industry is BIG business.

From its first iteration in Dallas, Texas in 1927, the average convenience store now has annual sales of about $2 million with a total footprint of 145,000 stores nationwide. That’s a bevy of 7-Elevens, CircleKs, QuikStops, and Stuckey’s.

I am fascinated by the ‘impulse/convenience’ market. When visiting a convenience store, it’s usually to pump gas, not purchase the pricey items inside. On the occasion when I do make it inside (it is usually to pick up a receipt from a gas purchase), I often think about:

What improvements can be made to the convenience store experience? (What can stores do to move me from a store visitor to a consistent shopper?)

1. No more long lines. Let’s attack the long line problem first. There’s just something wrong about waiting in a line at a convenience store. I equate it to a lengthy delay for ‘fast food’. The solution: How about ‘testing’ a self-serve model at a convenience store? Why not let people electronically swipe their items, pay with cash or credit, and depart? Similar to Home Depot or your local grocer, there could be someone on call to assist with the ‘first-timers’. Make it fast and easy – remove the hassle and frustration.

2. Clean it up. Yes, it is probably difficult to keep staff at a convenience store. I would imagine that turnover is rampant. Instill a sense of pride in the employees to keep the place looking neat and tidy – not a haven for rodents. If McDonald’s can do it, the local 7-Eleven can follow its lead. I just don’t feel like spending money when health code violations are lurking.

3. Bring the quality. When I think convenience store food, I still see microwaved burritos or hot dogs rotating on a ‘heat lamp ferris wheel’. Not exactly a culinary delight. I like the trend of ‘food brands’ (Subway, Burger King) snaring some of the convenience store real estate and offering their ‘trusted’ food choices alongside the gas pumps. Let the convenience store stick to the predictable: lottery tickets, Gatorade, and beef jerky. Bring in the experts for the real food.

Convenience stores allow Americans to save time out of our busy lives. There are still simple steps, however, to make this business even better. Who knows? If convenience stores implement these ideas, I might even buy a Gatorade and Snickers during my in-store visit.

Until next time,

Dan

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