While things are looking up for the convenience store industry now that we’re on the other side of the pandemic, there are still a number of challenges facing convenience store operators in 2023 and beyond — from high gas prices and unprecedented inflation to the rapidly evolving expectations of consumers and increasing competition as other business sectors try to meet them.
The most successful convenience stores will be the ones that continue to live up to the industry’s promise of — you guessed it — convenience, while setting themselves apart with a superior customer experience. This is where the manager’s role comes in. Keep reading for some ideas on how to manage a convenience store in today’s marketplace in order to drive sustained growth.
How to Manage a Convenience Store
Pay attention to trends
Elevating the customer experience has never been as important than in today’s competitive environment. Thanks to the global pandemic, we’ve seen the acceleration of industry-changing trends such as click and collect shopping, which has increased competition with grocery stores and restaurant businesses for quick grab-and-go shopping. Other trends include the rise of health-consciousness among consumers who demand more fresh, natural, and organic products. (For more trends, check out 4 Convenience Store Trends to Grow Your Business in 2023.)
Staying on top of the industry is a must, but don’t forget to ensure you’re meeting your own customers’ specific needs which may vary regionally from national trends. A strong inventory tracking system can help you keep a finger on the pulse of your own customer base and the products they prefer to see on your shelves.
Appearances are everything, especially when it comes to convenience stores. A dirty, disorderly, poorly maintained, or poorly illuminated store can send shoppers running in the other direction. This makes maintaining curb appeal and interior appearance a top priority for convenience store managers who want to ensure repeat business.
- Ensure your forecourt and signage is well-illuminated.
- Keep your store interior well lit, uncluttered, and clean.
- Keep your bathrooms clean and in serviceable condition.
- Make sure fuel pumps are clean and working properly.
- Replace any stained or damaged ceiling tiles and floor tiles, a commonly seen eyesore in c-stores caused by issues such as roof and refrigeration line leaks.
- Keep up with exterior maintenance needs, including landscaping, pressure washing, and sprinkler repairs.
Prioritize customer service
You can keep up with all the latest technology trends and have the cleanest store around, but if your employees aren’t taking care of your customers, you’re going to see a negative impact on your bottom line. While staffing amid rising wages is one of the biggest challenges facing convenience store managers, it’s well worth making the extra effort to hire friendly associates. Additionally, emphasizing customer care in training and rewarding your staff for providing helpful service can help elevate your store’s customer experience.
In addition to improving interactions with your customers, pay attention to the other details of their experience. Make sure your storage is well-organized and intuitive for your customers to navigate, ensure bathrooms are well-stocked with paper products, and stay on top of popular inventory. For a faster and easier checkout experience, consider adding a designated area for self-checkout and online order pick-ups. While it may be challenging in today’s market, offering competitive pricing and a loyalty program can make a big difference in enticing customers to come back to your store.
Invest in lighting
One of the most important investments you can make in the appearance and energy efficiency of your convenience store is lighting. Not only can lighting determine whether or not your customers decide to shop at your store in the first place — as a dimly lit exterior can drive away business — it can impact customer shopping decisions. Not to mention, bright lighting is important for customer and employee safety.
Making sure all lighting, including case lights and specialty display case lighting, is fully operational should be a top priority for convenience store managers Addionally, they should ensure proper brightness levels inside and outside the store.
As convenience stores continue to offer more fresh and ready-to-go meals to stay competitive with restaurants, picking the right lighting becomes increasingly important. This is due to color tones, which can dramatically influence the appearance of meat and produce — and either drive customers away from, or attract them to, those products.
Implement a strong facilities maintenance program
How do you maintain a convenience store? Cristee Monahan, Vice President for Central Operations at City, offers a few tried-and-true strategies:
- Have a strong PM (preventive maintenance) plan in place: A PM program should be a top priority for convenience store maintenance. This will serve as the foundation for increasing equipment uptime, avoiding costly emergency repairs, and extending the life of assets.
- Ensure you have reliable reactive support: Even with the best preventive maintenance programs, equipment can break down. An integrated facilities management company, which takes a holistic approach to maintenance and performs service calls using its own technicians, can help drive down both short-term and long-term costs.
- Ensure internal operations staff are maintaining equipment correctly: “We’re seeing more convenience stores have more of a food presence, moving to more of a full-service fast food restaurant model,” says Monahan. Proper daily care of equipment is vital, especially when it comes to food equipment.
- A solid capital program: An experienced FM provider can help you understand when to repair and when to replace equipment that goes down and ensure you have the funds in place as needed.
One of the most important things a convenience store manager can do is secure a partnership with a reliable integrated facilities management provider. When dealing with repairs, managing multiple subcontractors can lead to issues with accountability and communication, not to mention higher costs.
To avoid these issues, Monahan explains, City technicians perform up to 95% of critical maintenance trades directly because they receive extensive training across multiple skills. Their multi-skilled technicians are trained to take care of anything from electrical and cold beverage equipment to fuel and refrigeration problems.
A Disruptive Approach to C-Store Facilities Management
Gaining the competitive edge is critical in today’s convenience store industry. And with the rising costs of energy and increasingly strict net zero legislation, managing energy consumption and overall costs will play a significant role in determining success. At City, we offer an industry-disruptive delivery system for facilities management that can help your convenience store business get ahead. Learn more about our Integrated Facilities Management services.