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4 Tips for Convenience Store Owners

Do you want to open a convenience store, add a location or just want to make more money from your existing location? Here are 4 tips on the “C-Store” business that can get you started.

Be sure to contact your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for low-cost training and free professional business advice.

Tip 1 – Stock Up on Convenience Store Knowledge

Did you know that rising credit card fees are a real concern for convenience store owners? Or that C Stores are becoming more like restaurants?

Successful C Store owners keep up with the latest industry trends. Convenience Store selling fresh fruitLoad up on your convenience store know-how with our Convenience Store Business Overview and Trends section. Spotting industry trends can help you make better decisions with vendors, suppliers and your local banker.

Tip 2 – Respect the Convenience Store Gender Gap

Did you know that a few small changes in product selection and merchandising could help you make a lot more money? A recent study found that most C Stores focus on men shoppers but that industry experts think women are a big market opportunity. Woman shopper at convenience storeYou can see some of the different reasons men and women shop at C Stores in our summary of the 2012 Realities of the Aisle Convenience Store Study by the National Association of Convenience Stores. Men are more frequent shoppers at C Stores. But it might surprise you to learn the different things that interest men vs. women — in items like prepared/fast food, lottery tickets, beer, sports drinks, ice cream and more.

Tip 3 – Profile Your C-Store’s Many Markets

C-store owners often serve many local markets from the same store. One store might have customers that walk in, some that drive a short distance and maybe daily commuters cruising down the interstate or riding a nearby bus or train. Each of these C Store target markets can have different incomes, family styles, and product preferences. We found an article that describes the 4 Types of Convenience Store Customers, which can help improve your C Store merchandising efforts.

Small Business GIS Map Showing Competitor Locations

Sample SBDCNet Competitor Map - Click to Enlarge

To find the best locations, the big retail firms use sophisticated customer demographic reports and map studies (they’re called Geographic Information Systems – “GIS”). These GIS reports tell the story of a local market. They are great tools for helping pick the best store location. GIS reports give you loads of data — population, income, employment, buying patterns for all types of consumers — and then map it onto your target market. These GIS systems are usually too expensive for a small business owner to buy. But there’s a way to get this information for free if you’re a small business owner — keep reading…

Tip 4 – Map Your C-Store Competition

Do you know where your competitors’ stores are? If your store pulls customers from a big market area, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your competition. This is a big challenge for Single store convenience store owners because they don’t have the corporate resources of the 100 largest convenience store chains. Fortunately, a SBDC Business Advisor can provide competitor lists and other research services.

So Here’s the Good NewsThe Small Business Development Center (“SBDC”) near you can order you as many FREE customer demographics reports as you need. All you have to do is contact your local SBDC and schedule an appointment with an SBDC Business Advisor — remember, your SBDC Business Advisor is paid by SBA and your local college or university, so the time they spend with you is free to you!

Good luck! And be sure to contact your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for low-cost training and free professional business advice.

photos by: coolmikeol & Polycart
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