How C-Stores Can Boost Profits as Parents Hit the Road Again

It’s that time of year again — and it’s been a long time coming. Back-to-school, in-person learning is finally a reality across the country. For parents and students alike, this time is filled with mixed levels of dread and anticipation. Among those who have been working and schooling from home for 15 months, it also means venturing out into town again and finally ending pajama days. Not to mention earlier mornings, more time driving in the car and, of course, more coffee in the morning and after-school snacking.

Convenience stores (c-stores) have a great opportunity right now to maximize customer value and grow sales. As people begin forming new habits for the next 10 months, it’s the ideal time to make a great impression to drive repeat business. CSP Daily recently suggested a few back-to-school tips for c-stores: clean up, enhance the taste and quality of prepared foods, and offer low prices. Good advice, sure. But I think there’s a more prescriptive approach for making the most of back-to-school demand.

Optimize foodservice

C-stores that offer quality foodservice are primed to capture more of the food-to-go market, which is set to grow 32% this year. We’ve already seen an uptick in the percent of fuel that head in-store to shop. So as school starts back, having an influx of hungry kids being driven around town may increase these sales even more.

To optimize foodservice, you must offer restaurant-quality food, quickly and consistently. But this can be expensive if not done well. It’s important to have  back software that provides a holistic view of demand by daypart and understand prep times and recipe requirements. I crave a good breakfast sandwich after school drop-off and the kids love hot pretzels after school, but we wouldn’t be happy if pretzels were only ready in the morning or if breakfast sandwiches were still sitting on the shelf at 3 pm. It takes detailed planning to ensure grab-and-go food is fresh and ready when demand hits. And it takes detailed recipe management production tools to ensure every order is made just right and waste is minimized. C-stores that do this well often see a 7.7 times increase in foodservice sales versus their peers.

Get inventory right

It’s no secret people like c-stores to be fast. The average shopper spends just 71 seconds searching for what to buy. That’s not a lot of time to make a good impression, but plenty of time to make a bad one. Clean c-stores are important, but so are shelves filled with products people want to buy — without having too much on-hand. We call this effective availability — the perfect balance of on-hand inventory aligned to demand. Not too long ago, clipboards, price books, and spreadsheets were good enough to place orders and maintain inventory. But that just isn’t true in today’s competitive environment when demand can shift suddenly and when there’s competition from virtually everywhere.

With the right back-office software, proper inventory management doesn’t have to involve a lot of manual work. Orders can be automated based on demand forecasting so that what’s arriving to the store is just the right assortment of goods to meet demand. Tracking inventory receipts against orders, pulling sales data from the POS and capturing transfers and markdowns can all be managed by exception, with alerts whenever there’s a discrepancy. Out-of-stocks can be detected with IoT-enabled shelf cameras. If there’s a recall, traceability at the product and lot number is key to keeping customers safe, your reputation intact and your business free from potential liability. Together, these things allow store personnel to focus on more important, like delivering exceptional service and a quick checkout. You optimize operations and reduce the cost to serve, all while delivering a better overall experience to the customers. Everybody wins.

Empower Your Employees

We all know the labor market is tight right now, and it’s about to get worse. This past summer when there was a big need, 32% of teens stepped in and took summer jobs, the highest since 2008. Now that summer is ending and kids are headed back to college, we’re likely to see a further dip in available labor.

C-store operators can focus on employee engagement to help increase satisfaction and improve retention. Empowering employees with mobile tools can make their jobs easier and more enjoyable. Doing daily tasks with a mobile back office system allows employees to stay out on the store floor, which helps build community and allows them to better serve customers. So, customer satisfaction rates increase as well.

How Luminate Store Execution Can Help

Blue Yonder’s Luminate Store Execution is a back office system designed to help c-stores gain visibility and control over the whole store, from inventory and pricing to advanced foodservice and integrated forecourt management. And it does so with a mobile-first approach that keeps associates on the floor to serve customers and help drive loyalty. Advanced food production planning and recipe management ensures food’s always fresh and ready, at the highest quality. Demand forecasting and automated ordering transforms inventory management from being a chore into a competitive advantage. The system simplifies daily back-office tasks such as shelf labels, wet stock management, cash handling, rebate tracking, invoice reconciliation and more. It works with any AP system and POS so you can keep the systems and hardware you like.

For me, back-to-school means adjusting to new routines, finding a way to balance everyone’s schedules, and packing up the flip-flops and pool towels. It’s about realizing the kids are another year older and making the most of these years that go by so quickly. And then there’s coffee – lots of coffee. Fingers crossed the talk about global coffee shortages is only a rumor.

To learn more about how c-stores can win during back to school with the right back office software, read our latest eBook.

Read the “Back-to-School, Back on the Road” eBook