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Speedee Mart Takes Unique Approach to Vapor

LAS VEGAS  Even for some convenience store retailers on the forefront of vapor products, inventory overload is reportedly weighing them down, with many finding themselves stuck with “the latest” vapor items from several months to a year ago that just didn’t sell.

Is it possible for a c-store to stay current, yet unencumbered, in the constantly evolving vapor category? Ray Johnson, operations manager for Las Vegas-based chain Speedee Mart, believes it is. In fact, he has found a “common sense” way to bypass inventory liability.

“I try new things, but I keep that inventory fairly low, and when it doesn’t sell, whoever the new vapor guy is that wants to come in, he has to pick up the old guy’s inventory. He writes me a credit and that credit goes off my initial delivery — that is the cost of getting an e-cig/vapor rack on my counter,” Johnson explained.

In the innovative vapor arena where new suppliers are constantly trying to get some shelf space, inventory liability is “easy to fix,” he continued. “You just make it the next new supplier’s ticket inside your stores.” Because if the overloaded inventory didn’t sell, chances are that company is either long gone or not in a position to take anything back.

Understanding that the typical course of action c-stores take regarding old or discontinued product is to mark it down, Johnson further rationalizes his strategy to new suppliers by explaining that if they don’t credit him for the old inventory, he’s going to mark it down to half price.

“I ask them to consider which they would rather have: our stores putting half our effort into selling the obsolete product and half our time selling their product, or 100 percent of our effort into selling their product?” This reasoning usually seals the deal.

Another requirement for new vapor suppliers that want space in the 20-store Speedee Mart chain is they must supply all employees — currently numbering around 100 — with a sample product so they can intelligently educate and answer customer questions about it.

In fact, Speedee Mart encourages employees to enjoy the vapor items while working, but they can’t puff on them while at the cash register/POS terminal.

“That’s just my rule of customer courtesy,” Johnson said.

Regarding fellow c-store operators who are waiting out the vapor game, afraid of inventory liability and hoping to see which items will end up having legs before committing, Johnson strongly advises that “you can’t sit on the sidelines and wait in this category.”

“Vape shops are everywhere and they will take your cigarette customer away if you aren’t involved in the category,” the Speedee Mart executive cautioned.

For more on Speedee Mart’s vapor strategy, look in the special Guide to E-Cigarettes & Vapor within the December issue of Convenience Store News.

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