How Can Independent C-Stores Grow Their Business With Local Store Marketing? - Convenience Store Decisions

Maximizing local opportunities and customer loyalty can help independent retailers expand sales.

The fight for share-of-customer by convenience stores to effectively capture sales has never been fiercer. C-store operators that sit back and wait for their business to improve will have a very long road to recovery, if ever. Aggressive retailers that go after sales by working the critical three-mile business radius surrounding their retail store will not only survive in the short term but will prosper.

Local Store Marketing (LSM) should be a critical, constant component for driving retail sales. In many cases, it forms the building blocks for your customer "point-of-differentiation" and many LSM tactics can be executed by your existing staff for very little money. This makes it an important tool, especially for small and independent convenience store chains.

Retailers should look at the following ideas to prop up their sales:

Improve Visibility: Has your store become part of the landscape? Have you become retail wallpaper? Create excitement outside of your four walls to draw attention to your retail store. A-frame boards at the street; cold-air balloons on your roof; mascots waving in crowds; search lights; etc. all create and increase visibility.

Nudge Your Customers: For those retailers that have customers' lists — reach out to your customers by emailing, calling or engaging them on social media platforms — inviting them back to your store. All it takes is a friendly reminder to keep your retail store top-of-mind.

Create Customer Loyalty: Introduce a customer loyalty card or app and provide incentives for your core customers to visit your stores more frequently. Use these same loyalty incentives to turn casual customers into core customers.

Start Product Sampling: Want to entice trial of your core products? Deliver product samples to surrounding businesses in the three-mile radius around your store. Be sure to hand out flyers with your product samples, and then watch the sales roll in.

Create New Customers: Establish new relationships in your three-mile radius with local businesses by offering gift packages of your proprietary products; contact local hotels and businesses to promote your products to hotel guests and business people; and set up meetings with the local chamber and surrounding schools or churches to hype your retail store as a great venue for their next event.

Launch Special Recognition Days: Everyone wants to be recognized, so create an event at your store that recognizes and appreciates certain groups of customers such as specific businesses; age groups (i.e. kid's day); or student specials.

These are just a few proven LSM tactics a retail store can begin to implement immediately for little or no cost. The decision is yours: you can either choose the passive route — letting your success or failure be predicated on customers opting for your store —OR you can aggressively maximize the sales opportunities within your three-mile business area.

Check out the video below for more tips on LSM:

John Matthews, president & CEO of Gray Cat Enterprises, is responsible for the management of all consulting activities for the firm, which include retail consulting for multiunit operations; interim executive management; and project management. Prior to founding his own company in 2004, Matthews held senior management positions as president of Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches and as VP of marketing, merchandising, facilities, corporate communications, and real estate at Clark Retail Enterprises, Inc. Additionally, Matthews worked for nine years in marketing management as the national marketing director of the Little Caesars Pizza Corp.

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