CSP Daily News

Expert Insight: Winning the Cold-Vault Competition

Four steps to drive packaged-beverage sales

SYLMAR, Calif. -- Competition—it’s what drives us, both personally and professionally. Staying ahead of the competition in the convenience-store industry is critical to a company’s success.

In today’s ultra-competitive packaged-beverage category, c-store operators face competition from every direction. Archrivals across the street and new entrants from outside the industry, and even packaged-beverage manufacturers themselves, are competing for a piece of a store’s cold-vault sales.

So how can c-store operators stay ahead of the competition? Take a critical look at the cold vault and make sure you:

  1. Have a modern, eye-pleasing design and layout that competes with other retailer’s offerings.
  2. Have enough room for the ever-broadening variety of beverage types available today.
  3. Have a well-lit selection that will present the merchandise and entice customers to visit the beverage aisle.
  4. Stay open, flexible and have the foresight and fortitude to make a change if one is needed.

Modern Design

In the past, a simple store layout with a basic cooler/freezer section was all you needed to be competitive. Today, mass merchandisers, drug stores and supermarkets all target the grab-and-go shopper, and they are doing it with wonderful store designs and layouts.

C-store owners should consider designing the store with a high-end feel to reflect the high-end products that are becoming more prevalent in the c-store space.

Customers are looking for the same shopping experience in big-box stores, supermarkets, neighborhood markets and, now, convenience stores. Customers are expecting a destination and are willing to pay for the experience.

C-stores should take the same approach with the cold vault: Make sure the cooler/freezer section is designed to complement the store layout and draw customers in. Innovative and modern designs can help influence customer purchasing decisions.

Even small innovations to the cooler doors can make a huge difference. Ask yourself:

  • Does the cooler/freezer door have elegant handles?
  • Does the glass offer a full view of all the products inside?
  • Is it lit well?
  • Are the doors configured for efficiency?

These are all critical things to ask when critiquing the cold vault.

Enough Room

The cold vault must be large enough to accommodate the myriad product SKUs that customers expect from today's c-store. Operators can no longer stock only the standard offerings of carbonated soft drinks and expect to remain competitive. However, additional SKUs limit the amount of the cold vault’s available real estate. Add the recent explosion of the craft-beer market and the real estate inside a traditional cold vault becomes extremely strained.

The solution lies in the installation of more, taller, wider or perhaps, seamless doors that maximize SKU capacity and increase viewable space. These larger doors can add two or three additional shelves of product, which is critical to meeting the varied demands of customers. An added benefit is the perception of exceptional quality, which can increase purchase justification for higher ticket items.

Well-Lit Selection

Packaged-goods companies spend billions of dollars a year on attention-grabbing logos, glowing colors and exciting type styles for one reason: to grow sales. Smart c-store operators can capitalize on package design by upgrading to LED fixtures so these beverages “pop” for customers.

LED lights come in numerous mount-types, have impressive color rendering and provide uniform illumination to decrease hotspots and dead zones. Not only can LED lights increase sales, but they save a considerable amount of energy and can easily be retrofitted in existing cold vaults.

Make a Change

Sometimes it’s difficult to make a change. Obviously, there is cost associated with this, but keep in mind, the convenience shopper is highly coveted by other retail segments that are going to great lengths to steer them into their stores. By implementing the right equipment, c-store owners can create and sustain a significant advantage in the competition for the convenience shopper.

Embrace bigger, brighter, wide-view, designer doors for less cluttered and more varied product displays in order to win the cold-vault competition.

devane paul
Paul Devane