Redefining “Essential” for Convenience Stores

Management, Operations

Convenience stores are built on the concept of, not surprisingly, convenience. In the midst of this current health crisis, however, what people used to view as convenient is now essential. With customers on edge and other local businesses temporarily closed or completely overwhelmed, the convenience store’s role in the community is changing. A customer who may have casually stopped by your store for milk before because it was convenient may now frantically visit your store for milk because it’s critical.

What it Means to Be an “Essential Business”

With about 80 percent of fuel sales historically taking place at convenience stores, the idea of being “essential” shouldn’t feel new to convenience store managers and operators. But as the pandemic traps many people at home and demand for fuel declines, convenience stores are proving that their offerings beyond the pump are essential, too. Being an essential business is about a lot more than keeping the “open” sign on. Convenience store operators have an increased responsibility to their communities during this time. Keeping your employees and customers safe while providing products and services people need is of course the most important. Conveniences stores can also provide support and aid beyond their store. With so many people suffering and struggling, now is the time to make your store essential not just to paying customers, but to your greater community as well.

Appreciation for Essential Employees

Being an essential business also means you’re leading a team of essential employees. Now more than ever, your team is your greatest asset. Just like any asset, your employees must be well taken care of, especially when they’re asked to perform under difficult circumstances. Show them you appreciate them, give customers opportunities to show their appreciation, and remind employees of the important role they’re playing in your community right now. Set them up to succeed by continuing your convenience store training program and giving them opportunities to learn new skills.

Post-Pandemic Opportunities for Convenience Stores

No one can predict exactly when this crisis will end or what life will look like on the other side. Instead of a sudden return to normal, it’s more likely that normal will re-define itself many times before people begin to feel settled again. For convenience stores, this will likely be a time of continued evolution. From being the place for “gas, smokes, and cokes” years ago to now being an essential service to a community in crisis, adaptation is the cornerstone of the convenience store industry’s ongoing success.

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