From Troubles to Triumph
“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; 'tis dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.”
— Thomas Paine
If the last three years have taught us anything, it’s that life — and business — are never without challenges. But as political activist, philosopher and writer Thomas Paine once said: “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
The convenience store industry is facing its fair share of challenges these days.
According to the findings of the 2023 Convenience Store News Forecast Study, topping the list is the ongoing labor problem, which is multifaceted and encompasses difficulty in finding workers with the necessary skillset; increased costs to attract high-quality candidates; high turnover; increased resources needed to constantly train new employees; poor customer service; inferior site quality; and low team morale.
Inflation and national economic issues are a close second. Rising prices are eating away at profits and driving consumers to change their purchasing behavior. Even though inflation has fallen — year-over-year inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index fell to 7.1 percent in November after peaking at 9.1 percent in June — National Retail Federation Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said, “It remains in the pipeline and is not going away.”
Supply chain issues also continue to plague convenience store operators and affect their sales and profitability. Not only do constant out-of-stocks require time and resources to find substitutions, but they also reflect poorly on the retailer and can prompt customers to shop elsewhere.
2023 is likely to see the continuation of these challenges, and possibly a few new ones crop up.
And though a good number of industry professionals are confident that c-store offerings are inelastic, and that the channel will continue to grow even in a tough economic climate, there are some action steps that can be taken to emerge from the current conflict in glorious triumph:
- C-store industry players need to build contingency plans to ensure that new growth ventures (e.g., foodservice expansion, convenience-focused technologies, etc.) are not hindered by the labor and supply shortages.
- Entering the digital space is a way for c-store industry players to compete directly with e-commerce competitors, but there needs to be a seamless user experience to match the offerings of e-commerce leaders. Don’t short-change your investment.
- Most importantly, develop a business strategy that is flexible and adaptable, so you are able to overcome unexpected obstacles in a rapidly changing business environment.
I hope all our readers have a happy, healthy and prosperous 2023.