Want better execution? Learn from Convenience stores

Just a few weeks ago I was at my favorite beach resort in Thailand for a well-earned break. On my first afternoon I realized I’d left my travel adapter at home so I headed out to find a replacement. Anyone visiting Thailand will know that convenience stores are now a feature of almost every street in every built up area of the country. My beach resort was no exception, with two 7-Elevens and two Family Marts within close walking distance of my hotel. So when my first stop (7-Eleven) yielded no luck, I continued down the road the Family Mart. Having no joy in the second store I thought I’d try my luck in the third and sure enough, they had what I was looking for, albeit in a part of the store I hadn’t searched in before.

Having visited three similar stores in quick succession, I’d noticed that the layout of each category on sale was almost identical. So, I wondered, if I can find what I wanted in the third store, would it be in the same place in all the others. And sure enough it was, but what struck me was that the merchandising in each store within each category was identical. In each of the stores I visited, all owned by different franchisees, the 7-Eleven and Family Mart had been able to secure completely identical execution.

In our work with manufacturers we know that this level of consistency is hard to duplicate, so it strikes me that manufacturers could learn from what C-stores.

Here are three C-store principles that could be applied by manufacturers (and some large format retailers too!) if they want to improve execution:

Keep things simple – C-stores maintain a minimum range of products – this is not to say a limited range, but they simply seek to define the minimum range to meet the requirements of shoppers in the particular community they serve. Likewise C-stores keep point of sales materials and promotions to a bare minimum in order to ensure their impact.

Be specific – C-stores provide specific and clear instructions for their franchisees that leave nothing to chance. They specify exactly how and where products should be arranged on shelf. More importantly they provide store-specific instructions which define the shelf layout that fits the amount of space the store actually has and reflects the way it is configured. This makes it easy for operators to execute merchandising instructions.

Present in pictures – great C-store manuals are not text driven, they provide pictures of how the shelf should look, including where point of sale should be. This includes graphics which show how promotions should be executed and where they should be sited in store.

These principles sound pretty easy to duplicate and yet very few manufacturers produce in-store standards or guidelines that provide this level of clarity and accessibility for their sales teams. This is a mistake as it leads to missed opportunities to drive purchase behavior.

At engage we believe that nothing should be left to chance, standards should exist for each category in each retail channel and these should be adapted for different sizes of stores in each channel. These standards should be developed with a clear understanding of what is needed in-store to change shopper behavior and drive sales results.

So if you are seeking to improve in-store execution, seek to lean from those who do it well, your role model could well be your local convenience store.


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