Don’t be just another convenience store
I work at a convenience store. That fact has yet to fully sink in, but despite my lowly standing as a Sunshine Mart employee, I realize things could be much worse. I could be working as a tiny bug within a major corporation like 7 Eleven, a Conoco or Shamrock. But I’m not! I am one of a few workers in the entire world who is working at a small, local location of convenience, trying to turn it into something special.
Each employee brings a little something different. The Bull Sarge has sparkling, green eyes and the barely suppressed rage of a trapped Marine. Thin Strip Bacon is a lanky hippie who likes to collect rocks and gems. Miss Boss handles everything with ease and command. Icecream Witch is quiet, kind, and helpful. Elder Elf is a reliable, welcoming stand strong. They all bring something to the place, but there’s a lot more to be done to spruce and uplift the business into the echelons of local legend. And that is what I’ll ponder in this post. Here are 8 things that can be done to turn a typical convenience store into a reliable source of local knowledge, networking, trade, and festive-ness.
1. Maps. We are located at a confusing crossroads of multiple major highways and streets. People can easily become discombobulated so we often get people dropping in to figure out what the hell happened and how on earth to get to where they’re trying to get. Big-picture, detail-aware employees are a great benefit to a store with this kind of common inquiry. Putting a giant map of Silver City up on the wall will make direction-giving more efficient and effective. People will remember that we have a giant map and they can point their friends to Sunshine Mart when they become lost on the way to their house.
2. Bus schedule. Being conscious of the needs of your customers is a considerate and sympathetic gesture. If a bus passes by your store, know its habits for the sake of the interlopers stopping in for a SoBe or a can of snuff for the road.
3. Postcards. This may be pretentious, but what better way to officially establish your unique qualities than to make glossies for nostalgic skiiers headed into the mountains for a special day of skiing to send to their families back home.
4. Fliers. These can advertise what you sell as well as discounts. Maybe this’ll get rid of those 11-count cartons of eggs!
5. Competitions. What stirs camaraderie more than good ol’ competition? Chile cook-offs and the like can bring in loads of interest from people eager to show off their skills! And the prize can be selling the best batch for a week at the store. That will bring in friends of the chili-maker and good friendships within the community.
6. Make it a place you can stay awhile! Too many places these days are strictly in and out ones or too expensive to comfortably nap in. If you’re selling 50c hard-boiled eggs and have window-side tables and outdoor ski lift benches to sit on, you have something others just don’t have.
7. Sell a special holiday drink. I can’t stomach Starbucks’s pumpkin lattes. I think they smell like foul ham. I understand (just barely) that many people like them, but my guess is that one could do much better. So why not? Special, unexpected brews are a great way to pull people in. Make a spicy hot chocolate or a hot cider made with locally mulled spices. Anything to show up the crap that people get (too easily) into the habit of drinking should help out business.
8. Don’t look like just another convenience store worker. People aren’t expecting you to skip to cigarette shelves like an impish, blissed out pixie, but if you were to show a little more enthusiasm for your occupation, it might wake the customer up to the fact that they’re not just in another convenience store. They might do a double take or rub their eyes a bit and start smelling the spiced chocolate you have brewing in the cauldron near you, noticing the clean crossword-littered tables next to the window to enjoy it at. They might notice how bright-eyed and sexy you’re looking today, too. :D
So, if you begin to be open to new ideas, the possibilities really start to pop out at you, eager to be realized.