On a recent road trip from California to Montana, I discovered one thing: as different as our states are, we as an American people are united not only by the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness but the very real desire for road snacks.
Like the good Vendor’s Daughter that I am, for years I have surveyed competitors’ vending machines in airports, bowling alleys, hospitals, etc. across the country. And now that J&J operates a growing number of micro markets, I continually find myself searching every convenience store/gas station that I go to, looking to see how my prices, product selection and store layout compare to theirs (the big shots).
That being said, if you are currently operating a micro market here are my suggestions based on observation from c-stores/gas stations:
- Group Like Items Together – On our journey I searched for the four new flavors of Lays at every gas station we went to. It was easy to determine quickly whether or not they had what I wanted because it’s not hard to find a chip aisle in a convenience store. I might have had to pass candy but I didn’t have to sort through candy to get to chips.
- Group Beverages by Type NOT BOTTLER – This is no longer vending. A Pepsi cooler should not have just Pepsi products in it and a Coca Cola cooler should not have just Coca Cola products in it. When you merchandise your coolers put Coca Cola next to Pepsi, Sprite next to 7up, all your waters together, energy drinks in one row, etc. Stop organizing by bottler and start organizing by type, bottlers don’t care because it actually increases sales.
- Advertise – Posters, cooler clings, floor stickers, they are all your friends and come FREE from distributors. Utilize these free gifts (warning: keep in mind that your space is limited, and too much of these good things will make your market look cluttered)
- Stay Current – Like I said I was looking for the four NEW flavors of Lays. I knew they would have them even though it’s a limited promotion because that’s what convenience stores do. Keep excitement around your market by bringing in new products and by working with distributors to monopolize seasonal promotions. It’s a little extra work but can result in a lot more profit.
Finally, keep your demographics in mind. When I got back from Montana I met up with a group of friends and we all sampled the 4 flavors of Lays that I eventually did find:
- Wasabi & Ginger
- Mac & Cheese with Bacon
- Mango Salsa
In bold you can find our varied responses:
- Cappuccino – yum, tastes like a churro/eh, this should be a cookie not a chip
- Wasabi & Ginger - I love the spice/ that’s too hot, I could never eat more than a few
- Mac & Cheese with Bacon – the cheddar flavor is awesome/with this chip I could eat just one
- Mango Salsa – so refreshing/I think I just ate a candle
My point in sharing this is that people’s tastes differ as widely as our states. You can’t please EVERYONE but you can please the majority. Know your markets, don’t treat them the same. Some may want healthier product, some may be more inclined towards spicier flavor profiles, stock based on demand not a generic one type fits all menu.
Jennifer Skidmore is a Sales Manager and 3rd generation vendor at J&J Vending Inc., a family owned and operated vending and office coffee service in the SF Bay Area. In addition to her work at J&J she also serves as a board member on CAVC and is an active participant in NAMA’s ELN (Emerging Leader’s Network). More Vendor’s Daughter blogs can be found here http://vendorsdaughter.wordpress.com. For more information visit www.jandjvendinginc.com.