PROPOSED SNAP RULE COULD MAKE C-STORES INELIGIBLE

March 10, 2016

NACS reaches out to Capitol Hill to protest changes around definition of staple foods.

March 10, 2016

​ALEXANDRIA, Va. – This week NACS told policymakers about industry concerns with a proposed rule published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that includes problematic new eligibility standards for retailers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“The proposed [SNAP] rule would make tens of thousands of small businesses ineligible to participate in the Program. Small businesses will be harmed and SNAP beneficiaries, who rely on these small stores in both urban and rural environments, will lose options they need to feed their families,” wrote NACS in a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies, and the chairman and ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee.

As previously reported by NACS, on February 17, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food & Nutrition Service (FNS) published a proposed rule altering eligibility requirements for retailers participating in SNAP. While the proposal codifies the 2014 Farm Bill provisions, which NACS supported, it also makes other changes to retailer eligibility requirements that Congress never intended to address in the 2014 Farm Bill. The proposal would impede neighborhood retailers’ ability to participate in the program, which in turn would hinder food accessibility for SNAP recipients that use their benefits at these small format retail locations.

“It appears that FNS is trying to push small retailers out of the SNAP program altogether, for no sound public policy reason,” NACS wrote to Congress, adding that Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Undersecretary Kevin Concannon recently testified before the House Appropriations Committee that there are more small stores participating in SNAP “than we really need.”

The USDA’s SNAP proposal codifies the 2014 Farm Bill “depth of stock” provisions, which require retailers to stock 7 varieties of products in each of the four “staple food” categories. Problematically, the proposal also includes several changes that were neither required nor envisioned by the 2014 Farm Bill.

The proposal redefines the term “staple foods” and limits the items that may count as staple foods for depth of stock determinations. Under the proposal, multiple ingredient items (e.g. soups or frozen dinners) would not count towards depth of stock requirements. The proposal also expands the definition of “accessory foods” to include foods consumed between meals, like snacks (e.g. hummus and pretzel packs).

Because accessory and multiple ingredient foods may not be counted as staple foods for depth of stock determinations—the proposal essentially narrows the universe of acceptable foods that a retailer can stock to participate in SNAP, ultimately raising the stocking numbers beyond the numbers established by Congress.

Next week in Washington during the NACS Government Relations Conference, industry stakeholders will be communicating to members of Congress and their staffs that convenience stores play a fundamental role in SNAP, particularly for low-income Americans who live in rural or urban environments. By making it increasingly difficult for small format retailers to participate in SNAP, the proposal would essentially punish SNAP beneficiaries by requiring them to travel outside of their local neighborhoods where larger format retailers may not exist.

A memorandum analyzing the proposal is available online exclusively for NACS members.

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Ever Heard of Advocacy Cards?

February 26, 2016

You haven’t, because they don’t yet exist. Read on to find out if the concept is something you should consider for your operation.

Advocacy cards. They don’t have quite the same ring as loyalty cards do, but maybe get used to the idea?

While advocacy cards are not a living, breathing thing, advocating for customers is fast becoming the new way retailers should approach customer relationship-building beyond simple loyalty efforts.

While a loyalty card program rewards consumers for quantity of goods and services bought, advocacy cards could go a step further to inform the qualitative aspect of the retailer-customer bond— rewarding shoppers who buy healthy foods, for example, with points, gift cards or other incentives.

Sounds like a daunting task for a retailer, but it’s one that all retail channels should think about.

Retailer advocacy for customers was discussed during the webinar “Top Food Trends for 2016.” Sponsored by The Food Institute and BMO Harris, the session was comoderated by Phil Lempert, known as the “SupermarketGuru,” and The Food Institute CEO Brian Todd.

In addition to citing consumers’ thirst for additional product information along with coming to grips that the “retail world is in flux,” Lempert said advocacy might be the new loyalty. In that spirit, “focus beyond relationships and think beyond loyalty to advocacy,” he said.

Your consumers are already vigilant when it comes to the food selection process—like vetting a political candidate. They abide by concepts of “free from” and “less is more,” the latter meaning products with five or fewer ingredients and no artificial ingredients. Foods labeled with health attributes saw sales increase 13%, said Lempert, citing the National Grocers Association-SupermarketGuru 2015 survey.

The broad picture: A new way of eating will be defined by new proteins, algae, insects, vegetable, yeast, cricket flour and nut powders. Rewarding your customers for participating in the trend could incentivize those higher-margin items, and earn you goodwill and higher sales in the process.

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Consumers Tell All

February 25, 2016

Guess what customers are saying about your stores? Some of the answers surprised even us

By Abbey Lewis, Editor in Chief, Convenience Store Products , Feb. 2, 2016

consumer-opinions.png

Illustration by Jean Jullien

From behind the two-way mirror, we exchanged glances—we were perplexed, surprised, amazed. A colleague and I sat with our notebooks in the dark, prepared to hear a lot of things we already knew: Customers like variety, fresh food, clean bathrooms, etc. But when our two focus groups arrived at Product Evaluations Inc.’s offices in Oak Brook, Ill., we heard a lot of things we weren’t expecting. Did you know they don’t consider convenience stores and gas stations to be the same thing?

Product Evaluations, a foodservice market research company, usually focuses only on food. Its expertise is on your roller grill or coffee bar. But for us the company bent the rules, focusing the line of questioning on the forecourt, backcourt and new products—and, of course, foodservice.

When we began developing the questions, we realized this could be a unique opportunity to truly discern between millennial customers and all the others. So we broke them into two groups. The first group was made up mostly of Gen X shoppers, with some baby boomers. The second group was composed entirely of millennial customers.

It’s worth mentioning all panel participants are from the Chicago area, which is flush with 7-Eleven, Speedway, BP, Thorntons and independent locations. None of our participants had even heard of Wawa, much less Rutter’s, Kwik Trip or Stripes. (Maybe next year we’ll conduct a panel from Florida and see what they think …)

Read on to see the differences and surprising similarities among respondents—as well as actionable tips based on their feedback. And keep an eye out at CStoreProductsOnline.com to read some of the outtakes.

> Consumer Loyalty Programs <

MILLENNIAL

Q: What makes you loyal to a particular convenience store?

Liz (Household income <$25,000): I look for a rewards program. I have one that’s an app on your phone and you can get free coffees and different free things. … I know if I get something, I’m going to get something free next time. It’s easier on my wallet. 7-Eleven had free coffee for the entire week recently, so I was there a lot. I went out of my way to get to that.


Q: Who has used rewards cards? Does it make you more loyal to those brands?

Mary ($75,000-$99,999): Yeah, at Speedway if you say you don’t have [your card], half the time they’ll just scan a new one for you. They pass them out like candy.

Tom ($100,000 or more): Yeah, they have bonus points that you buy like, say you buy a Red Bull, you get a hundred more extra points or something like that [at Speedway].

David ($100,000 or more): You buy three pieces of pizza instead of two, you get a bunch of extra points …

Convenience Store Products: So do they “get you” on that?

David: Oh yeah, I’m a sucker for that.


Big Idea

Liz: When I go to get scratch-o­ffs, I always go to the CITGO in Glenwood, Ill., because they have all the machines right next to each other. They also have an area where you can sit down and scratch them o­ff. It’s much better than other places.

 

Altria Scan Data

GENERAL POPULATION

Q: What are you purchasing when you go to the convenience store?

Lorraine ($25,000-$39,000): When I go to a c-store … I might get some feminine products. I don’t want to necessarily go through the hassle of going to Wal-Mart, standing in line, going to search for it. The convenience store has got your drinks over here, you got your other stuff over here, you go, “OK, let me just grab it real quick and go.” The big stores, you have to deal with people, the crowd, and you got to really search. You ain’t got time for that.

Catherine ($100,000 or more): I usually just go there for drinks, like AriZona tea, or just a bag of chips and then go.

David ($100,000 or more): Beer, lottery tickets, scratch-offs—that’s probably it for that.


Do This!

Mobile payment, souped-up loyalty programs, at-pump ordering, connected cooking equipment and more can greatly affect your foodservice program. According to an NCR study from earlier this year, 67% of restaurant owners and managers said that technology has a direct effect on increased revenue, and 35% are more dependent on tech tools than they were a year ago. Just remember to do your due diligence. Don’t invest in something your customers won’t use.

New-Product Strategy <

GENERAL POPULATION

Q: How often do you go into the convenience store vs. just staying out at the pumps for gas?

Liz (Household income <$25,000): Most of the time I go inside.

Peter ($25,000-$39,000): I always go inside. When I’m not getting gas at Costco because it’s cheaper, whenever I stop at one of those stations, I always go inside. If I stop at one of those stations to get gas, it’s because I’m almost empty.

Jane ($40,000-$74,999): If I’m at the pump, and it’s at a convenience store, I always go in. Not that I need to go in. I don’t know why. I want to look at something. And I don’t pay at the pump.

Anne ($40,000-$74,999): Even with your credit card. Just go in. You just got to go in.


Convenience Store Products: You say you don’t ever pay at the pump?

Peter: I don’t because of security reasons. … I’ve heard so many things. I always go inside and pay, even if I want to swipe my card—I just don’t swipe it at the pump.

35%

The amount of gas customers who also go inside the store —2015 NACS Consumer Fuels Survey

 

Q: What piques your interest when you walk in a store? What will catch your eye?

Peter: Sometimes a display. What’s in front of your face—sometimes it’s a new product.

Anne: You know when you were a kid in a candy store, you see something at that display and you think, “Let’s go check that out.”

Peter: New Gatorade just came out. New flavors. Oh, that looks good. I’ll just take it.


MILLENNIAL

Q: What makes convenience stores unique from other kinds of stores?

Catherine ($100,000 or more): No lines.

David ($100,000 or more): In and out—it’s quick.

Lorraine ($25,000-$39,000): Everything is conveniently placed, so it’s not a whole search through a maze. Most of the aisles are open, so that when you’re walking through diagonally, you can see most of the things as you’re going. The setup is more open than a regular store.

Tom ($100,000 or more): Everything is accessible—easy to find.

“I’ll be out at lunch, and I don’t want to be at work, so I’ll find the gas station, go in there, look around, take my time, find something to snack on, then go back to work.” —Liz (<$25,000)

Do This!

New products matter! Work on developing your new-product strategy, but first strengthen Your core offer. Implement the proper analytics to measure your core products before investing in too many new-product tests. Of course, consistency could be the key—your customers are coming to you to find new products and will go to the same area or merchandiser to find them each time. Develop a plan and stick to it.

Store Atmosphere <

MILLENNIAL

Q: How do you choose one store over the other?

Amanda (Household income $40,000-$74,999): I judge it on the size of the gas station. If I’m driving around or on a road trip, I’m going to hit the gas station that’s the biggest if I’m looking for snacks. I’m not going to go into, like, a little square shop …

Convenience Store Products: Why wouldn’t you go into the little place?

Amanda: Because then I feel like there’s less selection. If I’m going there specifically for food or whatever, I’m going to look for the biggest one. Even for a bathroom, I look for the biggest one because it means it won’t be outside.


Q: What do you buy at convenience stores?

Jenna: I remember when those Cheetos things came out, with all like the weird balls and everything, and I was like, oh my God, that’s going to be amazing. I was looking for them and I figured the gas stations would have it, so that’s when I was just knocking down the door. I finally found them.

57%

The amount of convenience stores (127,588 total) that sell motor fuels —NACSonline.com

 

GENERAL POPULATION

Q: What does the size of the store mean to you?

Peter ($25,000-$39,000): The small ones—it’s too cramped in there. There’s too many people in there. And it’s not just the inside, but the outside also. When you’re pulling up to this huge place, where there’s 10, 12 pumps and a big parking lot … with good lights.

Jane ($40,000-$74,999): Yes, you want the good lighting. It would be a safety issue.

Jack ($100,000 or more): A cramped place doesn’t feel as safe.

Jane: I will bypass those [small stores]. I’ll go to a bigger one. I would definitely go there before I’d go to a smaller one—it’s just safer.


Big Idea

Patty ($40,000-$74,999): What they need is oatmeal. Everyone else has oatmeal. I want oatmeal. It would be perfect for a convenience store—defi­nitely.


Do This!

Surprisingly, both demographics differentiated between “gas stations” and “convenience stores.” To explain, Liz said, “I feel like the size is what distinguishes it. If it’s a really small building, then we feel like it’s just a gas station, nothing special. If it’s a bigger-size building and there’s more square footage, then it’s more of a convenience store.” Installing brighter lights and decluttering could go a long way toward attracting that new customer, boomers and millennials alike.

Foodservice  <

GENERAL POPULATION

Q: What’s your favorite food to buy at convenience stores?

Lorraine (Household income $25,000-$39,000): Pizza. You’re not expecting to get a supreme pizza—like, it’s going to be your most basic pepperoni, sausage or cheese.

David ($100,000 or more): I’m one of the least pickiest eaters out there, so it’s like I’ll get a Speedy Dog, and just load it up with all the ingredients, and I’ll go to town and I will love it. I’ll get their pizza and I’ll love it. That’s just me.

3 in 4

The number of shoppers who say it’s important to feel good about the foods and beverages they consume —Technomic’s Consumer Trend Report

 

Q: Which foods belong in convenience stores, and which do not?

Convenience Store Products: OK, so you’ve indicated that these items don’t ­fit at all: deli salads; chicken, either fried, roasted or grilled; soup, chili, dispensed ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Jenna (<$25,000): Where are you cooking the chicken?

Convenience Store Products: What about ice cream, soup or chili?

Amanda ($40,000-$74,999): I haven’t seen those.

David: Yeah, me neither.

Catherine ($100,000 or more): I think it’d be hard to keep the frozen-yogurt machine clean, but I’d totally get it.


MILLENNIAL

Q: How have your perceptions of convenience-store food changed?

David: Before, I always just assumed that it wasn’t good, that it wouldn’t taste good—I don’t know. … Once it became convenient to where I was working, and it was easy, convenient to get food there, I tried it. I said, “What the heck? Let’s do it.” And it tastes good. Let’s do it again.

Amanda ($40,000-$74,999): I feel exactly the same. I always thought it was just disgusting, and people might sneeze on it or something, but then it’s like, my guy would have me go pick up a pizza or something. Okay. And then I’m like, “Oh, it’s not that bad.” Then I ended up getting a few things for myself after that.

Tom ($100,000 or more): I felt like coffee was really bad at convenience stores, but I actually found out that at 7-Eleven, their coffee is much better than I thought.

“A large Slurpee from 7-Eleven—at 2 a.m., every time I was studying … we’d all go. It was awesome. And they go great with those little taquito things.” —Jenna

InsightRS Scan Data

Do This!

These customers have changed their view of the food in your stores. Believe it or not, as much as perception of c-store fare has improved, there are still opportunities to be had. And freshness is the key. According to Technomic, 76% of consumers say positive terms such as “natural flavors” are perceived as resulting in enhanced flavors. And shoppers are demanding more transparency in their food. Non-GMO-fed, verified fresh eggs, chicken, pork and even sausages from brands such as Fork in the Road will be worth watching. Try it. They might like it!

http://www.cstoreproductsonline.com/foodservice/opinion-consumer-perspective

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Convenience Stores Offer More Convenience

February 23, 2016

Convenience Stores Sell Time

Convenience stores offer speed of service to time-starved consumers who want to get in and out of the store quickly. These shoppers recognize this channel of trade for its convenient locations, extended hours of operation, one-stop shopping, grab-and-go foodservice, variety of merchandise and fast transactions.

The average convenience store is 2,744 square feet. New stores are bigger, with 3,590 square feet, with about 2,582 square feet of sales area and about 1,008 square feet of non-sales area — a nod to retailers recognizing the importance of creating destinations within the store that require additional space — whether coffee islands, foodservice areas with seating or financial services kiosks. Convenience stores also have expanded their offerings over the last few years, with stores become part supermarket, restaurant, gas station and even a bank or drugstore. (NACS State of the Industry data)

The convenience store industry is America’s primary source for fuel. Overall, 83.5% of convenience stores (127,588 total) sell motor fuels, a .7% increase (960 stores) over 2013. The growth of convenience stores selling motor fuels is nearly double the overall growth in the industry, as fuels retailers added convenience operations and convenience retailers added fueling operations.

Convenience stores have an unmatched speed of transaction: The average time it takes a customer to walk in, purchase an item and depart is between 3 to 4 minutes. Here’s the breakdown: 35 seconds to walk from the car to the store, 71 seconds to select item(s), 42 seconds to wait in line to pay, 21 seconds to pay and 44 seconds to leave store. (NACS Speed Metrics Research, 2002)

The convenience store industry is a destination for food and refreshments. With falling revenues from fuels and tobacco products, foodservice sales are increasingly becoming convenience stores’ most profitable category. In fact, convenience store foodservice is roughly a $41 billion industry contributing 19.4% to in-store sales in 2014 (NACS State of the Industry Report of 2014 Data).

Convenience stores are everywhere. There are 152,794 convenience stores in the United States — one per every 2,095 people. Other competing channels have far fewer stores, such as supermarkets (41,529 stores), drugstores (41,799 stores), and dollar stores (26,572). (Source: Nielsen, as of December 31, 2014)

Consumers are embracing convenience stores like never before. An average store selling fuel has around 1,100 customers per day, or more than 400,000 per year. Cumulatively, the U.S. convenience store industry alone serves nearly 160 million customers per day, and 58 billion customers every year.

Self-serve at the pump is a part of most convenience stores’ fueling operations. The first self-serve gas station was opened by Hoosier Petroleum Co. in 1930, but was closed by the fire marshal as being a fire hazard. Frank Ulrich reintroduced the idea in 1947 at the corner of Jilson and Atlantic in Los Angeles. Modern self-service began in 1964 with the introduction of remote fueling; an attendant was no longer required to reset the pumps after each transaction. Today it is now available in 48 states. (New Jersey and Oregon still require full-service operations; New Jersey’s law was enacted in 1949; Oregon’s in 1951.)​

http://www.nacsonline.com/Research/FactSheets/scopeofindustry/pages/convenience.aspx

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Benefits of EDI from InsightRS

January 14, 2016

EDI continues to prove its major business value by lowering costs, improving speed, accuracy and business efficiency. The greatest EDI benefits often come at the strategic business level.

According to a recent research study from Forrester, EDI continues to prove its worth as an electronic message data format. This research states that “the annual volume of global EDI transactions exceeds 20 billion per year and is still growing.”1 For buyers that handle numerous transactions, using EDI can result in millions of dollars of annual savings due to early payment discounts. From a financial perspective alone, there are impressive benefits from implementing EDI. Exchanging documents electronically improves transaction speed and visibility while decreasing the amount of money you spend on manual processes. But cost savings is far from the only benefit of using EDI.

 

But let’s start with cost savings anyway:

  • Expenses associated with paper, printing, reproduction, storage, filing, postage and document retrieval are all reduced or eliminated when you switch to EDI transactions, lowering your transaction costs by at least 35%
  • A major electronics manufacturer calculates the cost of processing an order manually at $38 compared to just $1.35 for an order processed using EDI
  • Errors due to illegible faxes, lost orders or incorrectly taken phone orders are eliminated, saving your staff valuable time from handling data disputes

The major benefits of EDI are often stated as speed and accuracy:

  • EDI can speed up your business cycles by 61%. Exchange transactions in minutes instead of the days or weeks of wait time from the postal service
  • Improves data quality, delivering at least a 30—40% reduction in transactions with errors—eliminating errors from illegible handwriting, lost faxes/mail and keying and re-keying errors
  • Using EDI can reduce the order-to-cash cycle time by more than 20%, improving business partner transactions and relationships

However, the increase in business efficiency is also a major factor:

  • Automating paper-based tasks allows your staff to concentrate on higher-value tasks and provides them with the tools to be more productive
  • Quick processing of accurate business documents leads to less re-working of orders, fewer stock outs and fewer cancelled orders
  • Automating the exchange of data between applications across a supply chain can ensure that business-critical data is sent on time and can be tracked in real time. Sellers benefit from improved cash flow and reduced order-to-cash cycles
  • Shortening the order processing and delivery times means that organizations can reduce their inventory levels

In many cases, the greatest EDI benefits come at the strategic business level:

  • Enables real-time visibility into transaction status. This in turn enables faster decision-making and improved responsiveness to changing customer and market demands, and allows businesses to adopt a demand-driven business model rather than a supply-driven one
  • Shortens the lead times for product enhancements and new product delivery
  • Streamlines your ability to enter new territories and markets. EDI provides a common business language that facilitates business partner onboarding anywhere in the world
  • Promotes corporate social responsibility and sustainability by replacing paper-based processes with electronic alternatives. This will both save you money and reduce your CO2 emissions

edi2

Source credit: http://www.edibasics.com/benefits-of-edi/

 


What is EDI (Electronic Data Interchange)?

January 14, 2016

What is EDI? Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is the computer-to-computer exchange of business documents in a standard electronic format between business partners.

By moving from a paper-based exchange of business document to one that is electronic, businesses enjoy major benefits such as reduced cost, increased processing speed, reduced errors and improved relationships with business partners. Learn more about the benefits of EDI here. »

Each term in the definition is significant:

  • Computer-to-computer– EDI replaces postal mail, fax and email. While email is also an electronic approach, the documents exchanged via email must still be handled by people rather than computers. Having people involved slows down the processing of the documents and also introduces errors. Instead, EDI documents can flow straight through to the appropriate application on the receiver’s computer (e.g., the Order Management System) and processing can begin immediately. A typical manual process looks like this, with lots of paper and people involvement:
    Manual EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) Document Exchange
    The EDI process looks like this — no paper, no people involved:
    EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) Document Exchange
  • Business documents – These are any of the documents that are typically exchanged between businesses. The most common documents exchanged via EDI are purchase orders, invoices and advance ship notices. But there are many, many others such as bill of lading, customs documents, inventory documents, shipping status documents and payment documents.
  • Standard format– Because EDI documents must be processed by computers rather than humans, a standard format must be used so that the computer will be able to read and understand the documents. A standard format describes what each piece of information is and in what format (e.g., integer, decimal, mmddyy). Without a standard format, each company would send documents using its company-specific format and, much as an English-speaking person probably doesn’t understand Japanese, the receiver’s computer system doesn’t understand the company-specific format of the sender’s format.
    • There are several EDI standards in use today, including ANSI, EDIFACT, TRADACOMS and ebXML. And, for each standard there are many different versions, e.g., ANSI 5010 or EDIFACT version D12, Release A. When two businesses decide to exchange EDI documents, they must agree on the specific EDI standard and version.
    • Businesses typically use an EDI translator – either as in-house software or via an EDI service provider – to translate the EDI format so the data can be used by their internal applications and thus enable straight through processing of documents.
  • Business partners – The exchange of EDI documents is typically between two different companies, referred to as business partners or trading partners. For example, Company A may buy goods from Company B. Company A sends orders to Company B. Company A and Company B are business partners.

Source credit:

What is EDI (Electronic Data Interchange)?

 


InsightRS Releases Fuel Manager

May 21, 2015

Call today for more information!

backoffice FuelManger Pg 1

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