retail news in context, analysis with attitude


by Michael Sansolo

As any long-time readers of MNB know, we cite movies frequently for business lessons and possibly no movie as often as Jaws and the memorable line, “We’re going to need a bigger boat.”

Let's be clear. Standing on the deck of a small boat in the middle of the ocean with a shark swimming laps is not the time to make that statement. It should happen back on shore, but as Jaws shows us, arrogance and denial go before a shark attack.

Businesses should heed that lesson more than ever because the speed in which the sharks swim up on us these days is faster than ever and they have really, really big teeth. That’s a reason why I was so impressed with some of the discussions held last week at the annual convention of the National Association of Convenience Stores.

As I wrote here last week, one of the most interesting speeches at the meeting came from an ex-European c-store executive who urged the crowd to start planning for a future when traditional fuel diminishes. In other words, plan for the shark attack now before the ocean is filled with them.

It was hardly the only such discussion at the event. For example, in another session, Shane Flynn, the managing director of food services and facilities for Aramark in Ireland, detailed how his company is employing food truck to help c-store clients build a brand image for food and tie-in to events. In other words, they take the store and the brand to shoppers rather than wait for shoppers to come to them.

As Flynn explained, the outreach helps build an entirely new image for traditional c-stores and, in turn, builds new sales, profits and shopper loyalty.

NACS president Hank Armour built on that theme with his annual Ideas 2 Go presentation showing creative marketing approaches from around the globe. Among the approaches Armour showed were retailers moving into healthier food offerings, environmentally friendly marketing, linking to e-commerce, food trucks and store sizes getting either larger or much, much smaller. (Armour highlighted a successful 400-square-foot store in New York City, where real estate prices make this type of solution important.)

Years ago it would have been hard to imagine convenience stores being spotlighted for brand image with specific food items, but that is becoming increasingly common.

Likewise there was clearly more emphasis on bringing the convenience store to shoppers in food trucks or in some of the creative formats Kevin Coupe highlighted in a presentation to last year’s NACS convention. As we’ve seen, it’s now possible to bring food (fresh and shelf-stable), fuel and even tires to shoppers instead of having them come to you.

As Charles Darwin might have told us had he cared to study retail, it’s not the biggest or strongest store that thrives and survives. It’s the one most able to adapt to the times.

And that in turn may keep us from needing a bigger boat at all.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.

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