C-Stores – The Top 20 Companies Own 30% of All Stores – How Do They Do It?

Top 20 Chains Own Almost 50,000 C-Stores

According to Convenience Store News the top 20 operators own 30% of all the c-stores in the USA.

Growing same-store sales test even experienced operators. But the numbers reveal just how much more challenging it is to add new stores. In 2017, the total number of C-Stores in the United States increased by only 423. Yet, for some operators new store growth is remarkable. The top twenty companies owned 25% of all stores last year. Now in 2018, they own about 30%. The big companies keep growing. One question asked is how they manage to grow so fast. Many argue that automation and replication is a big part of growth. Being able to manage how existing stores perform is critical to keep them on track to provide time to focus on adding new stores.

C-Store Performance – Beyond Back Office

Over the past several years new software solutions have emerged to help C-store operators optimize store performance. Operators for whom growth is the goal have started adopting these new software solutions. To be clear, store performance software compliments and goes way beyond the traditional back office system.

Download – Optimize C-Store Performance

Success is not easy, but there is a proven way to achieve consistent growth. C-Store growths follows a process. Get a copy of the white paper “Optimize C-Store Performance – The proven way to increase sales, simplify work and make time to grow.” The download is free.

C-Store Performance Assessment

Assess how well your stores are performing. Simply select the business practices that apply to your operation from the lists presented. Submit your choices and you’ll be emailed a written report including suggestions on how to improve store performance. Take 7 minutes and get a customized report. Great for focus group meetings or strategy planing retreats – Get your assessment now.

C-Store Performance- Related blogs and links

You may also like a related blog regarding:

C-Store Performance – The Proven System for Growth

C-Store Customer Survey Software – Product Information.

Learn More

C-Store Maintenance Software Saves Time

C-Store maintenance software saves time spent chasing maintenance assignments. No one wants to nag but the store manager is responsible to keep the store fully functional. If they do not know the status of maintenance work, then they must chase the work or risk having the problem left unfixed. Let’s face it, your store managers just want the pumps pumping and the coolers cooling. They spend their time hiring and training so the customers keep coming back. No one wants to waste time chasing someone to be sure the pump will get fixed.

Facility Maintenance – Key Points

C-Store Managers Want to Know:

  1. if the job is scheduled
  2. if the problem has been fixed

The Maintenance Team Wants to Know:

  1. if the store staff have done all the trouble shooting
  2. if the maintenance team is needed or if a vendor must be called

Your facility management team is happy to help, but too often they waste their time driving to a site only to find a simple reset or existing fix procedure has been skipped. Likewise, the store staff do not want to burden their support team with work that can be done by themselves at the store. Having a system that tracks work and documents the requests helps to both save time chasing work and also helps to identify where misunderstood procedures or troubleshooting can be addressed. Having a document allows senior facility managers to identify areas where training can increase overall productivity of maintenance.

No software can eliminate all the normal errors that people will make, but a simple system can make facility management (store maintenance) a lot easier to track. Having a C-store ticketing management process will identify what is overdue, who needs training and when real problems are being missed.

Ideally, your maintenance management KPIs are included with your operations systems so your operations knows when equipment is getting in the way of c-store results.

Our clients tell us c-store maintenance/facility management have a few key items that make it possible to save time.

C-Store Maintenance Software – The Keys to Success

  1. Logging an issue must be quick
  2. Make the proper assignment
  3. Include pictures
  4. Integrate with your daily operations check list
  5. Have a list and track by due date/assignments
  6. Use mobile notifications
  7. Track changes and communicate completion
  8. Provide analysis information regarding vendor history
  9. Identify overdue work
  10. Pinpoint unreliable equipment

C-Store Operations – Related blogs and links

You may also like a related blog regarding C-Store operational simplicity.
For a business school point of view, you may enjoy Simplicity-Minded Management by Ron Ashkenas in the Harvard Business Review.

Click to learn more about : C-Store maintenance software.

Learn More

Confusing Technology with a System for C-Store Performance

The Hard Part

A tough part about using technology to help people do their job is defining responsibilities. We all know the promise – this technology will fix the problem immediately, there is no install time and your staff does not have to change anything. It seems too good to be true – there must be a catch. Yet, we also know that we have to automate and improve or we fall behind our competition so we must use technology. Often times, technology is a part of a process. Credit card processing saves times, increases conveniences, reduces bad debt and is an essential technology for most C-Stores. Yet, even with such a proven technology, the process of managing the account, the security of the card readers and avoiding the acceptance of fraudulent users is still required to achieve the full value of the technology – the process matters. It is important to make sure those using the technology do their part to ensure the technology is used correctly.

The Catch – Process

It is important to differentiate the technology from the process. If you need a system you typically need both process and technology. Either can help, but together the technology and process make a system. With a system business can measure, maintain, and scale operations. When done correctly, both technology and process can come together to do the magic that you need – save time and get better results. The key is to sequence the work and provide the proper time, training and usage to achieve the long term results.

The Common Mistake

Technologies that have not been used before are often not clearly understood. Work that used to be done differently may not be done at all any more. The work that is replaced is part of the productivity gains. However, there is often new work that while quicker is different than before. Many times, the new work is only related to the new technology so it must be added to the old process. Unless the process includes the new work, then the overall results may not be as good or may even fail. It is not uncommon to have the very same technology that works well in one company not work as well in a different company. The difference can be the technology environment or the process being used.

The Plan

The new system needs to be explained. The steps need to be demonstrated and the staff must be allowed time to learn. Setting up the environment and providing the necessary resources allows the new system to be put into place. Good execution is made easier with a project plan that covers the sequencing of installation, configuration, training and on-going support.

System Improvements Are Not

  • Free of process change
  • Free of learning
  • Free of risks
  • Instantaneous

System Improvements Are

  • Gained from automating manual work
  • Achieved by shifting labor to higher value tasks
  • Long-Lasting by adjusting to new situations

Taking time to understand the scope of work that technology can address is helpful. Proving the change and providing examples and support can ease the transition. Communicating the benefit and providing a timeline for the change will decrease the stress of change and increase acceptance.

Learn More

Why C-Stores Have a Cultural Advantage of Using Business Intelligence Over Other Industries

If you were to pick up any industry trade journal without finding something relative to the importance Business Intelligence, it would be surprising.  It has become quite the buzz word.  There is a sound reason for that.  By monitoring, measuring and communicating performance results any company can manager better. The analysis these tools provide allows managers to  know what problems are to be solved, where they reside in the organization and can track the remedies for improvements more quickly.    This solution marries well to the culture of a C-Store Operation for it has  lot of daily problems to be resolved and things happen fast.  So, fast there is not time to analyze traditional reporting.  Keeping ahead in this industry means tackling problems as they occur and taking measures to prevent them which is the core value of using Business Intelligence.

C-STORES ARE NOT AFRAID TO SHARE INFORMATION
According to many IT executives one of the biggest hurdles in being able to use BI for business improvement is cultural resistance. There is a resistance to communicating revenue information to their teams for fear of pricing and revenue being readily available to competitors when their staff talks with colleagues in other companies. They believe that the more a secret is shared, the more likely it won’t remain a secret.  The good news for C-Store operators is that they have a history of extensive utilization of data. They are one of the few  businesses that have to publish their price. Their competitors can walk in and readily see their inside sales pricing.  As with any retail organization, their sales and transactions are their measurements.

MONITORING STAFF PERFORMANCE IS MORE NECESSARY
The retail industry prefers  to hire people for their stores as part time to save on HR Expense, which means they may not get as many career-minded individuals.  Keying errors, forgetting tasks and even theft can be very common. There is a lot of monitoring and double-checking that has to be done in order to make sure their stores are running efficiently.

THERE IS NO WIGGLE ROOM FOR PURCHASING MISTAKES
C-Store Operators also suffer buying decisions based on a penny of cost that can have a huge impact on their revenue.  Knowing exactly what has sold, where and how many is necessary for these decisions helps them to ensure a much better investment.  Having the information readily available when preparing  for a meeting with their vendor helps them in their negotiations.

IT IS USUALLY LESS COSTLY TO IMPLEMENT BI THAN OTHER TYPES OF COMPANIES
C-Stores also have the advantage over most companies where only one or two systems contain the information that they need.  BI implementation is much easier and often less costly to implement than in other companies who have multiple systems to use in order to run their business.  It may take a day or even days for Back Office systems to post all data so their reporting may or may not be accurate on any given day.  A good BI will work around that issue making sure the data you are looking at is conclusive information.

A C-Store Operation would be hard pressed to find a reason not to use Business Intelligence.  By having pre-programmed and more in-depth analysis available to them they can manage better, invest better and make strategic decisions based on facts, all of which can be done more quickly and probably more accuracy.  This is a culture that is ready to share and use data to make things better.

 

Learn More

Using Business Intelligence to Make Money

We are engulfed in the value of automation and online systems to help make businesses run better, more cheaply and more efficiently.  It is easy to forget that computers, their applications and easy to reach online resources are worth nothing without some sort of human involvement.  They are merely tools built to make humans function better, whatever their role or task may be.

In his book Zero to One, venture capitalist Peter Thiel states that “while computers can find patterns that elude humans, they don’t know how to compare sources or how to interpret complex behaviors. Actionable insights can only come from a human analyst.”

Peter states that companies  found the maximum benefit by having a computer find patterns or highlight items of interest culling through large masses of data, then allow an expert to look at the analytics to pick things to act upon. Rather than having one single solution either all computer based or all human based, team them to bring together the best of both for greater results.

When it comes to Business Intelligence software, the quality of the BI tools is how much analysis is provided to the expert so they can apply their knowledge to make recommendations for actions.  If you doubt this, ask yourself if you have ever  had to call a consultant in to interpret a situation for you using the information that you have.  He may have run the analysis for you but, he only left you with recommendations with which you were to make decisions that would be best for your business.

So by now, you may be saying you agree but asking how this interprets to making money.

Catching Revenue Loss as it Starts
Business Intelligence software in  a C-Store company will look for trends while gathering data over many days, weeks, months, or even  years. This will tell you when downturns should be expected and when things should be on the rise. It also allows you to see when you need to take action to optimize the sales or performance peaks and take action to minimize those dips you face each year.

Helps You Make Better Inventory Purchasing and Placement Decisions
When viewing the data, your managers will find things like the slow moving products that should be eliminated from your purchasing. It will  highlight the hot things where the money you just saved on the slow movers can make you more money. You will be certain that the inventory placed in the proper place in each store.

It Gives You a Better Perspective
It will monitor revenue impacting details like customer counts, cash over/short, voids, and returns, all of which will flag when problems may be starting. Human monitoring may not observe it to be a problem right away if  $50 a week loss was coming in at only $2.50 a shift. If you can find solve revenue burning problems early, you minimalize their impact to your bottom line.

Find the Things You Don’t Have Time to Look For
Because the monitoring process and analysis are automated, more can be considered in your evaluation. Manual analysis takes time and left to rely on paper reports and self analysis, you are forced to limit what you are to monitor so you can do all that you have to do in order to run your business. With the automation for Business Intelligence, you merely have to look at the results.

Here is what is important. It would not be that the software reported a loss of $50 in  a week at a store that solves your problem, but rather the Supervisor knowing it immediately and addressing the issue with the Store Manager  as soon as it is known.  BI software allows you to easily  monitor all aspects of revenue impacting performance that Managers just don’t have the time to do.   It is not that it is pointing out areas of concern, it is that it has the ability to highlight all areas of concern regarding your revenue and affords the manager the time to resolve them all.

 

Learn More

Passport C-Store Clients Have a New Business Intelligence Option

Anyone with Gilbarco’s, Passport® Version 10.N or higher, now has the ability to quickly start using analytic reports to improve store performance and grow their businesses. This is not to say that reading your transaction data as it comes out of the register will tell you exactly what you want to know, for it does require a little analysis and presentation to have it all make sense. This is just one more area where Quik Data, software built just for C-Stores, differentiates itself.

Using the bundled 3rd Party Data Interface that is available with Version 10.N and higher of Passport®, BandyWorks is giving any C-Store Operator the ability to use business intelligence strategies by providing analysis on their transaction or unit level data. With their recent launch of their Quik Data Passport® Processor, clients can successfully participate in the Cigarette Scan Data Rebate programs, deliver daily scorecards showing store performance grades and collect a detailed UPC analysis data mart. BandyWorks expanded Quik Data’s capability where it can now provide analysis in both the Back Office System, and Passport® v10.N and higher Point of Sales systems. For those companies with both back office and Passport ® v10.N or higher systems, it will work with both systems simultaneously to ensure you can capitalize on all of the data you have available.

WHAT QUIK DATA CAN DO WITH YOUR SCAN DATA:
1. Automate Scan Data Report for Cigarette Manufacturers Scan Data Rebates
2. Optimize your store offerings
3. Minimize your inventory expense
4. Identify hot products
5. Identify dead products
6. Track and compare current performance to historical performance
7. Identify and minimize loss
8. Project future sales
9. Set Annual budgets
10. Track all shift duties by Store
11. Roll Individual Store Data Views up to Company Totals

BandyWorks is the leader in Business Intelligence for C-Stores. It is the only commercial business intelligence product built exclusively for C-Stores. Their clients are capitalizing on their data by using it to drive store performance, manage and grow their businesses with more ease. Tom Bandy, CEO of BandyWorks states, “We are very pleased that we have found a way to provide value to companies without back office systems. When it comes to using analytics to drive their business, companies using Passport® v.10.N or higher can now start at similar spots on the playing field as their larger competitors.

Learn More

Is Business Intelligence Too Complicated for Small C-Store Operators?

 

Some argue that you have to have hundreds of stores to afford the staff and expertise needed benefit from business intelligence. Processing, organizing, analyzing and sharing the insights takes time, money and resources that are just too costly for small operators. With all the challenges of running a store the management is just too busy keeping the doors open to divert attention and resources from the main operations.  However, it is a shame to miss the opportunity as C-stores have such a wealth of information every day.  What you will can learn about your business while evaluating your data will often surprise you.  It helps you realize and face your problems head-on for in business, little else can speak the truth better than numbers.

In thinking about the importance of business intelligence, consider the value of accurately knowing the answers to theses fundamental questions about your business (as well as how the answers are trending):
1. Are you getting more customers?
2. How many purchases were made?
3. Which items were sold?
4. Are you selling more or less each time?
5. Is the store losing money to theft?

Most operators are already dealing with parts of business intelligence. Typically, each operator has some simple check list or spreadsheet to make sure the deposits match and inventory is not missing. This simple approach is one that works and provides value every day. If such a simple and high return approach could be applied to all of the detailed data that you have, just imagine the impact you might realize in your overall C-Store performance.

While it may take a few tries to find the value, the very process of studying the data will most likely yield useful results. If you prove that your results are optimal you get the satisfaction of recognizing good work in action. If you find ways to improve you get the benefit of extra profits or more time handed back to you. Learning about your business from the objective view of your performance data will provide insights that will lead to improvements.

Many times we fail to learn and improve with new technology due to fear or inertia. Here are some simple things you can try to start your journey. Rather than debate about the value or the difficulty of using Business Intelligence, we recommend a different question: Why not start today? The worst thing that will happen is that you will waste a little time trying to learn something new about your business. Here are a few ideas that may have value even if you do not start a business intelligence program:

Image encouraging C-Store Operators to get started with Business Intelligence learning

1. Talk to your current vendors on their next visit and see what data is available.  

2. Find an existing report that addresses some area that you think can be improved. 

3. Have lunch with a store manager and ask her what she thinks would help.

4. Search on line for C-Store performance and management ideas

 5. Talk to other owners and operators to see what they do

                                                              6. Sit in a webinar – many provide them for free

The main thing is to get started . Tackle what seems to be an  elephant a little at a time.  Do a little bit and you will find yourself able to measure the results.  You might be amazed at what knowledge you will gain to make your job easier and your P&L Statement better each month.

Learn More

Are You Playing the Telephone Game in Your Reporting?

As a child, you may have played the game called, Telephone.  It is where people sit in a circle and one whispers a statement into the ear of the person sitting next to them.  It continues until everyone has had a turn to heard to relay the statement until it reaches the last person who sits  before the original whisperer.  Then, that last person says the statement.   Almost every time, what they say and what the original person said are never the same.  It can create quite a few giggles at a slumber party, but in business, it is rarely a good thing because,  it is a distortion of reality.  It us fairly safe to say  that if managers are making decisions on what is not real, then it is very easy to make wrong decisions.  When data is trickling upward through layers of people in an organization through hearsay, it is likely that the answers are going to be distorted. If you company is using multiple reports and sources to provide answers to basic questions, then it may be time to revise your reporting strategy.  You may not be getting answers from the data that you think you are.

So how exactly can data get distorted in reporting? After all, it is usually just a matter of numbers and simple math.  There are a few reasons this could happen:

  1. Somewhere along the reporting path there may be a different perception of what the question is or how it should be answered
  2. The question asked of the actual person who answered the question was not answering your question in its entirety
  3. Different and conflicting resources may be needed to provide the answer
  4. There may be a variable in time frame from when the question was asked to when the answer was delivered
  5. People tend to tell superiors what they want to hear and will deliver the news in a manner that hides a problem

So the challenge becomes getting low level performance statistics through multiple layers of management.  The larger the company is, the larger this problem becomes. No one is intentionally lying, but the answers are distorted all the same. The only way to avoid this is to place an automated process behind the questions where you rely on their answers to make decisions and run your business.  This is  the underlying theory of Business Intelligence.  Direct your questions to your data and actual facts and real numbers will answer them.  You know best how the answers can be derived, how you want them delivered to you and when you want them.  Automation allows you to take control of this process.  What may be even more important is make sure everyone in the company can see what those questions and answers are, so everyone may operating from the same page.   It is this understanding of the KPI that creates a culture of success in performance.  It is automation that enables the understanding.  If you are the only one receiving the answers, then it may not be fair to hold people accountable if the answers are repeatedly not the ones you want to see.

If to correlate this to the Telephone game, the value of automating and communicating your reporting is to be certain that the question or statement will be the same regardless of the position of who speaks up in the corporate circle.

Learn More

Six Signs That You Have Confused Your Spreadsheets With a Database

Green industry executives know full well that using the right tool the right job is key to a successful job. It would be pretty hard to cut most yards if you only had a string trimmer.

Every company needs technology to maintain their information and work flow. Most small companies create spreadsheets as a flexible and cost effective tool to track jobs, tasks, lists and things that are important to manage. As companies grow (more crews, more clients, more managers, etc.) the spreadsheets get longer and more complicated. Summaries are needed for some situations and details for others. Spreadsheets are linked to one another and need to have updates for more and more sources.

At some point the spreadsheet no longer functions well and delays decisions or worse incorrect information is used to make decisions. The effect can be devastating. Large organizations use database applications to manage information collection, reporting and work flow needs. These systems are built to accommodate mutilple users and build protections so that data remains accurate when many people use the system at the same time.

Of course, there is a trade-off. Extra functionality means more money for the system to purchase, train and maintain. The skills needed to maintain it are greater than those for spreadsheets. Of course, it can be a big decision. But all of your business is like this. You buy a back hoe when the size of work demands it. Of course, the costs and skills are different than a team with shovels.

So when is it time to start looking at your systems?

  1. When old spreadsheets no longer update all the pages and your staff is copying information to three different sheets.
  2. When you cannot find the current spreadsheets
  3. When you have one person keying information for three or more staff and the staff have to wait days to get the correct information.
  4. When only one person can tell the boss if the information is accurate or not.
  5. When you are waiting on your Information Technology Team to add a column to a sheet for weeks
  6. When you cringe as the reports are being brought to you
Learn More

Marketing

Marketing

Acquire more customers by investing time and energy where it matters. Quik Data puts your data to work to help you measure your results and target your efforts. Marketing executives can use business analytics to make confident well-informed decisions by analyzing:

  • Promotional Effectiveness per Location
  • Sales Trends & Forecasts by Product Line
  • Average Basket Size
  • Floor Plan Sales Comparisons
  • Slow Moving Products
Learn More