The Parable Of The Magical C-Store Product

Once upon a time, there was a convenience store owner.

And everyday, the owner looked to save pennies on his purchases. He tried to save pennies on the coffee he bought. He was always fearful of the customer who took a couple of creamers with him. So the owner tried to save even more on his coffee by not brewing as often.

The owner tried to save pennies from his distributors, beating his rep up on every purchase. Sometimes the owner even left his store to go to Sam’s Club to save pennies on items like coffee and candy.

And even though foodservice was the future of c-store profits, the owner never considered it because it would require investment, and since he was busy saving pennies, he never risked in that area.

He wanted to save pennies instead of creating new customers and sales.

Then one day, a Sheetz convenience store opened across the street.

And the owner lost sales and customers. Gas customers. Coffee customers. Candy customers. And since the owner had no food program, there was no reason to visit his store for the convenience of food.

And since the owner never marketed his store because he had never created any marketplace differentiation–he had no reason to–and sales and profits took a nosedive.

The owner decided to go to the NACS convention in Las Vegas that year. He heard that if you walk the show and attend the educational sessions, you would learn that there were “Magical Products,” new products you could put in your store, sell without effort, and reap the high profits of these Magical Products.

The owner arrived in Las Vegas, and walked the show, in search of the Magical Product.

One morning, he attended an educational session called “How To Make Your Store Unique, Different & Profitable. And How To Market It.”

The owner was intrigued.

But the presenter did not offer magic…or magical products. No, he offered that the store owners ask themselves questions like:

Why did you really get into this business?

What are your personal passions about your business?

Why are you and your store unique?

Why is your store a destination like no other?

What is one thing you can offer to customers that no one else can?

If you went out of business tomorrow, would the world miss you? Would they notice? Would there be a hole in the market? Why? Or why not?

The store owner felt himself getting angry. And so were the owners in the audience. They shouted:

“Our cokes and smokes sales are dying! We demand answers! What should we do?”

“Our gas margins are down! What can we do?”

“We heard there were magical products here, and you are telling us to differentiate ourselves and our stores! We want our convention money back!”

But the presenter persisted…

“The secret is in how you see your stores. You want to save pennies and believe you can “save” your way to success and profits. It’s impossible.

“Instead, ask yourself: “How can I create NEW VALUE for my customers around my gasoline program in the forecourt?

“How can I create NEW VALUE for customers at the Backcourt? In the four linear feet in front of the registers?

“How can I create NEW VALUE for customers with my coffee and fountain areas?

“How can I create NEW VALUE for customers in foodservice, at the cooler doors? Lottery? Check cashing? In the restrooms?

“How can I create NEW VALUE for customers in center store? The way my store is designed?

“The reason you are under siege from competitors is BECAUSE YOU LET THEM TAKE CUSTOMERS AWAY FROM YOU. You thought saving pennies would save the day. It won’t, and never will.”

The mob was silent.

They realized—begrudgingly–he was right. There was no mythical or magical product to save the day. There was no rescue coming.

The secret was there was no secret.

It was all hard work.

When the convenience store owner got back home, he pulled out a piece of paper, took a deep breath as he looked across the street at his competitor, and wrote at the top of the page:

“10 Things I Can Do Now To Create More Value For My Customers.”

#1. _________

The End.

Tim Lazor, President.