Monday, March 28, 2011

Norton's Notes -- A Merchandiser's Perspective

Today's posting is a new feature that we will be incorporating into our blog on a regular basis called Norton's Notes, a look inside the convenience store world from a merchandiser's perspective. We will be periodically adding insight from our distinguished merchandising specialist, Jim Norton. The format of the articles will be in question and answer, and we encourage any questions or comments.

To get immediate feedback or assistance, email Allen Brothers Wholesale Distribution directly at, or visit the Allen Brothers Website.

To further assist you in your merchandising efforts, we will begin uploading photos of store sets from our past projects on our facebook page, Please take a tour of our Facebook Page for a flash back to our past with pictures and articles from our 101 year history. Don't forget to Like Us!

Like Allen Brothers on Facebook Today
Like Allen Brothers on Facebook Today!
Let's get started.

Ask the Merchandiser

Question 1.) How do you assist a customer in best managing their space?

Answer 1.) I ensure that the top selling items are on the shelves. I solicit feedback from store owners on their customers because it's essential to know your demographics. What sells in one store may not sell in another. Secondary locations are important to the overall store profit too. I encourage store owners to use point of sales to promote certain items. I also suggest ordering single units as not to overload your inventory, another great feature of using Allen Brothers Wholesale Distribution. You can't sell it if it's in your backroom!

Question 2.) What are some of the best in-store fixtures available?

Answer 2.) With the hectic lifestyles, more and more people are eating on the run. The customer can get breakfast, lunch & dinner from their local supermarket or convenience stores. Fast food modules are in many stores. I've also noticed more secondary item fixtures at the coffee station. In addition, many stores are using a candy rack to supplement the regular candy section. This should be close to the checkout for impulse sales.

Question 3.) Do you recommend switching your store set every few years or trying to remain consistent?

Answer 3.) I recommend switching your store set, but every few years is a stretch. I recommend some stores do resets at least twice a year. You have to keep a fresh look throughout your store. Items are constantly being discontinued, but just as many new items are being introduced. The reset is essential for rotating out the old stock and launching new items to optimize sales.

Be sure to check in regularly for continuous convenience coverage. Happy selling!

Monday, March 21, 2011

10 Tips for Running Successful Convenience Stores

Whether you're operating one or one-hundred stores, there are hard & fast rules that you as a store owner simply can't ignore. Anyone who's inside the business knows there are more than 10 guidelines for maximizing your ownership experience in terms of sales, but too often we all get so busy in our daily duties inside our four walls that we forget the need for continuous improvement. It’s not easy to improve, progress is a slow process, but with a commitment to perfection you can reach excellence.

The tips that we offer are logical and cost effective. Rest assured, you don’t need to be a billionaire to succeed with the business plans we lay out. At Allen Brothers’ we have enjoyed great success thanks to a corporate philosophy set in stone by President Jeff Allen. The mindset at Allen Brothers is even as our business continues to grow in size, we remain true to our roots as a customer-intimate company. With that in mind, in today’s blog we’ll take a small business approach to today’s tips in this week’s discussion.

1.) Always, or as much as possible given your finances, be open to testing new products: Sure, there will be certain products that just won’t work for your consumer base. But how will you know if you never tried? There are those overnight sensations that spring out of nowhere, and the beauty of a convenience store industry is that it’s intimate enough that your customers will recognize new products. Anyone in the industry of convenience retail knows the Big 3 that drive sales: Lottery, Tobacco, and Beverage. If you can hit a homerun outside that holy trio with a hot new candy item, a food service favorite, or an eye-catching floor display, think about how much further your profit margins can go.

2.) Keep it clean: A common theme, just keep it clean. We’ve discussed this topic before, but if you want women shoppers returning to your store, it better be clean! Don’t overlook this, organization and cleanliness are key components to your success.

3.) Control the Checkout Experience: When you overload the checkout space with too much product, you’re inadvertently taxing the sensory system of your customer. Every display in your store does not need to be filtered to the front checkout area. Instead, investigate which areas of your store are most popular beyond the checkout lane and consider display placements that can capitalize on some of that space. The front checkout should be reserved for the items that most conform to the impulse purchase, those small items we call “throw it in the bag” products. Once you figure out what those items are, take in the display from the customer’s perspective and confirm you’re creating a compelling presentation. For more feedback, reach out to your Allen Brothers Merchandising Specialist Jim Norton. To schedule a time to meet with Jim, contact Allen Brothers online at

4.) Solicit Feedback: OK, you need thick skin for this one everybody! But soliciting some outside feedback into ways to improve your store is a great way to get invaluable information for free. Who better knows how to improve the experience of shopping in your store than the customer themselves? You might be surprised to find out what it is customers are saying. Maybe you’ll get an idea for a new product that will prevent your customer from splitting his business with you and the local grocery store. That’s more business for you at no price thanks to consulting with your client base. It might seem insignificant, but what a great way to show your customer’s that you care.

5.) Avoid being Out-Inventoried: If I go into a store and I need 5 bottles of soda but there’s only 3 available, that automatically leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It’s not my fault that I want to give you more sales, you want those sales! Be sure to plan ahead by looking at inventory daily, bi-daily at the least, to make sure you have what your customer’s need. Sure, the seasons bring in and out different buying patterns, but with a little in-house research you can be ahead of the trends. Work with your sales representative to analyze inventory fluctuations and determine what’s the best way to control supply to amplify your earnings.

6.) Solicit Your Services: In case you live in a box, America has evolved into a service-oriented society. What type of services do you offer your customer for their in-store shopping experience? Have you ever considered implementing a fax or internet service, a copier option, or maybe even an in-store computer that customers can use at a reasonable fee? Or, how about incorporating other businesses into your store front? Perhaps you could run a money-order operation, a great way to bring people into your store. In owning a store, you have the option to create a brand of business entirely your own. Don’t limit yourself and never look past any opportunity to grow.

7.) Invest in your store: Human beings are sensory –oriented creatures, we are attracted to aesthetically pleasing settings. Keep this in mind when it comes to your stores design and upkeep. Work hard daily to make your store a preferable place to shop. Ensure that your aisles are kept organized and are wide enough for each of your customers to fit through comfortably. Spacing is so important, and you’ll need to be consistent in the appearance of your store so that a customer is comfortable knowing what to expect and where to find their preferred products when they walk into your store.

8.) Consider your Community: Sales in any industry are almost entirely tied to the community that the business is located in. No form of business adheres to this rule more prevalently than the convenience store industry. Always keep in mind who you’re selling to and what their preferences and needs are. If you live in an area with low socio-economics, price points are imperative. You’ll need to base a large part of your business on volume of sale, and you’ll also need to be resourceful in what type of products you’re bringing in. Your customers want the same things that people in more high-economic areas are looking for, but they are more conscious of the cost. As a store owner in that environment, you need to have those same thoughts in mind.

9.) Stay ahead of the industry: Reach out to your sales representative and find out what type of industry magazines they are reading to stay up-to-date on industry news. The only way to really succeed in the convenience store industry is to stay ahead of the curve, and magazines and newspapers are a great way to stay informed. There are so many resources available at your fingertips on a daily basis, including this blog!

10.) Customers Love Convenience: Remember you main purpose, and that is to be a convenient source of items such as candy, beverage, tobacco, and the like. Every convenience store has its strength and weaknesses, but every store should have a focus on helping the customer get in and out with ease. Think seriously on how to streamline all processes to help your customers get what they want most: Fast Service. This can seem daunting if it requires increasing your manpower, but I encourage you to consider the return on investment. Another option is to integrate new technology and navigation tools and signage that will increase the efficiency of the process from start to finish. The team at Allen Brothers Wholesale Distribution is renowned for the technological advancements, reach out today to find out how we can help you maximize productivity in your store by calling at 215-739-1083 or via email at

This is a small sampling of some of the essential elements to running a successful Convenience Store. There are obviously things we missed, so fill us in! Post below some of the ways you’ve succeeded in the convenience store business and some of your core principals that have helped you develop a successful business.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Smokeless Tobacco Use Sees Upward Trend

For today's convenience store owner, there's no mistaking the fact that cigarette sales are on the decline. But the convenience store business is healthier than ever. Were you aware that convenience store commerce forms nearly 12 percent of the U.S. retail industry? The statistics supporting a trend in the growth of the convenience business are staggering. I encourage you to visit CSNEWS and read more. But in case you're like me and prefer having all your information in one place, I'll lay it out for you. According to recently released statistics, "Growth in the convenience store industry will continue through 2013 at a CAGR of approximately 7.6 percent, market research consultant RNCOS reported. The convenience store industry, which currently forms nearly 12 percent of the U.S. retail industry, has seen several years of growth, with the number of individual convenience stores expected to increase as well," (CSNEWS).

It's easy to fret about lost units in certain categories, but rather than offer complaints our industry has found solutions! At Allen Brothers, we've seen first-hand how store owners, vendors, manufacturers, and distributors have become more creative & resourceful in finding new ways to generate revenues.

To that point, I came across an article regarding smokeless tobacco and wanted to share. The publishing syndicate Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner reports that the unit sales of smokeless tobacco products are offsetting declines in other areas of the tobacco industry. In fact, in a recent study it was found that 30% of the recent decline in cigarette sales is being offset by the robust sale of small cigars, snuff and roll-your-own products.

Smokeless tobacco products are certainly one way that the convenience world has adapted to declines in other areas. But it's not all snuff. The emphasis on ready-to-eat foods at convenience stores is a growing trend, and many stores are stepping up their ready-to-eat food offerings to make up for declining cigarette sales. I'd like to open up the discussion to find out what other ways the convenience industry has not only survived, but excelled in today's market. Post your thoughts and partake in today's AB Poll below. Happy selling everyone!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Food Service Announcement

Exciting developments being made by Allen Brothers Wholesale in their food service department. Food Service is exploding in the world of convenience store retail, and Allen Brothers has been and will remain to be in front of this wave. In the April sales flyer, you will notice a specialized "Food For All" section with specials relating solely to food service items. To find the best sale prices on your everyday convenience store needs, visit the Allen Brothers Hot Buys page at

Allen Brothers March Hot Buys
A Snapshot of the Savings

All the talks going on in the offices at Allen Brothers about food service got me thinking about the ruler of the roller grill, the hot dog. Is it just me, or do grilled hot dogs taste way better than those dogs that are boiled? You may be wondering why, right? Well, as we get closer and closer to the Spring, the one device you'll begin seeing more and more is the hot dog roller grill. Arguably one of the greatest convenience store contraptions ever developed, the roller grill brought convenience store owners into the world of food service with a bang. I don't care who you are, there's no question that a roller grill hot dog tastes better than a boiled one.

This is my tip for the Spring to any store owner in the Mid-Atlantic region: Grab yourself a roller grill if you don't already have one. Baseball season is right around the corner, and nothing compliments a day at the ballpark like a dog in the bun. They can be a fantastic source of earnings for convenience store owners and help get your reputation as a food service retailer in your geographic footprint. Don't let the opportunity slip by, send Allen Brothers an email at to find out how we can get you hooked up with hot dogs.

TRIVIA OF THE WEEK: How many bites does it take the typical eater to consume a roller grill hot dog?
~ I'll give you a list of the 3 options, but no cheating!!

A.) 4.7
B.) 6.1
C.) 7.2

Post your answers below, and don't forget to subscribe to our blog on the right side toolbar. Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter for breaking news in convenience distribution.