Are Independents Better or Worse Off Today?

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Are Independents Better or Worse Off Today?

By Terry McKenna, Convenience Store Coaches - 04/22/2015

A lot has happened over the past 10 years since Convenience Store News for the Single Store Operator published its first edition. The velocity of change within the convenience industry has been striking. We live in a faster-moving, more uncertain world and as a result, success has never been more fleeting.

Since the future is unlikely to mirror the past, you would be wise to continually ask yourself these three questions: What has changed? Why? What am I going to do about it?

Let’s take a look at some of the bigger changes to happen within the industry. Some of these qualify as game-changers:

  • Foodservice
  • Loyalty programs
  • Bigger stores
  • Regional chains getting bigger and stronger
  • The exit and store selloff by many major oil companies
  • Mergers, acquisitions and master limited partnerships (MLPs)
  • The increase in the single-store operator (63 percent of the total c-store population)
  • The increase of New Americans operating stores

You can look at all of these changes through one of two lenses: threats or opportunities.

It’s impossible to see silver linings if your mindset is stuck in a negative mode. When change occurs and on the surface it doesn’t look like a good thing to you, ask yourself this question before you react to it: Does this change present an opportunity for me?

What we think of as an advantage and as a disadvantage is not always correct. The most important decisions are about adjusting to change.

This presents a perplexing paradox: how to stay focused on today’s business while building tomorrow’s. In a world of accelerating change, relevance can never be taken for granted. You’re either moving forward or backward, but you’re never standing still. Companies that don’t change and reinvent themselves will be left behind, or worse, disappear.

You have to change before it becomes obvious. Take change by the hand before it takes you by the throat!

Change Your Mindset

Developing a change strategy is more about attitude and mindset than tactics. Once you have your head in the right place, moving forward is easier.

Here are a few things to consider in helping you get your head in the change game:

1. Anticipate change.
2. Develop a capacity for continuous renewal.
3. Speed: Companies need to be quicker and more agile.
4. Adaptability: If you’re slow and inflexible, you won’t be able to seize opportunity.
5. Once you decide to change, you have to see it through.
6. A few behaviors can drive big change.

Change Your Tactics

With the right attitude and mindset toward change, you’re now ready to think tactically. Let’s look at a few tactics that can help you get out in front of the change curve:

  • Get close to your customers. Stay connected to identify changes in preferences, expectations and demographic shifts.
  • Create a sense of urgency among your employees. Employees need to pick up their game and provide customers with a reason to return. Customers have more choices than ever before. Not just more c-store choices (152,794), but add dollar stores (26,572), drugstores (41,799), along with supermarkets and supercenters (41,529) into the mix. That’s a lot of choices! Why should I come to your store? How are you different? Your employees can be the difference maker. People remember how they’re treated a lot longer that the products they purchase from you, 
  • Raise your expectations. Expect more from your employees, store managers and yourself.

What matters is what you’re going to do next. What are you going to do today to be better prepared for tomorrow; the next 10 years?

The future is something you create, not something that happens to you.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner.