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CSNews Exclusive: Danny & Clyde's Fights Down Economy

METAIRIE, La. -- While the U.S. continues to struggle its way out of The Great Recession, some parts of the country face unique circumstances that hinder recovery. One such area is New Orleans, where even five-years after Hurricane Katrina decimated the area and its economy, there is uncertainty of whether or not the region will ever return to its previous levels.

"The hurricane activities affecting this area over the past five years have redefined what is can be considered average or even a normal course of business," said Mike Lorden of Retail Strategy and Development LLC in an exclusive interview with CSNews Online. Lorden, a management and foodservice development consultant working with Metairie, La.-based Danny & Clyde's convenience store chain, noted the area is "positively gaining momentum yearly, but will take many years and still possibly never reach pre-hurricane performance."

In spite of this, the six-unit Danny & Clyde's c-store chain is set on surviving the economic storm, and has developed a two-pronged strategy focused on efficiency and leveraging its successful foodservice offer.

"We are constantly evaluating operational efficiency to ensure no controllable expenses are overlooked," explained Lorden.

Another way Danny & Clyde's is combating the challenges in its region is catering to its customers' desire for value with a simple marketing strategy.

"Every promotion and program is based on forwarding meaningful value to the customer in both product and price," he said. "We promote the most popular items in both merchandise and foodservice categories for up to a full quarter at a time, to allow our consumers to get used to and rely on us for the every day values we promote."

The c-store chain's goals for 2010 are to maximize sales, control expenses and evaluate all expansion opportunities with a real critical eye, he told CSNews Online.

Prior to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Danny & Clyde's developed an external franchise program for its foodservice offering, Danny & Clyde's New Orleans' Po-Boys & More. However, all of such activities were put on hold following the hurricane and all focus was placed on the corporate stores and rebuilding the core business, according to Lorden. Currently, franchising is certainly not ruled out of Danny & Clyde's business equation, but is not a priority focus.

Meanwhile, business has seen an uncharacteristic boost recently, thanks to the National Football League's New Orleans Saints, which won the Super Bowl in February.

"Business is typically slow in January as it was this year," said Lorden. "We did have a welcome boost in sales activities based on the success of the Saints and the excitement that generated, which continues even now. Then of course there is carnival season, which always is a welcome boost in sales."

And while other convenience store retailers are exiting the business, Danny & Clyde's will continue to serve New Orleans area residents.

"The Danny and Clyde's chain has been run by the same two families since its inception in the early 1970's," Lorden said. "Chris [Rittner, president,] has occupied the position … [at] Danny and Clyde's for more than 15 years, and has no plans to sell the company."

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