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The Shrinking Cold Vault

Waters, teas, juices, energy drinks and isotonics are the fastest growing product categories in the cold vault. Just pick up any c-store industry magazine and you will see another article making that very point.

Remember when Red Bull was the only energy drink, Gatorade the only isotonic and water was water. Those days are long gone! The fact is that all of these categories are growing not only in sales, but in the number of stock keeping units as well. And to top it all off your customers want the latest flavors...its like re-living wine coolers all over again. Albeit this does seem to be a bit more consistent.

Bottom line we all wish we had a bigger cold vault. There is no doubt that these products are selling and selling well, but so are the other core products in the vault. Customers still want their favorite carbonated soft drinks ice cold. So how do you decide what to carry and what not to carry?

To a great degree your "assortment strategy" depends on how your customers use and view your store. Do you have a lot of walk in business or do you sell a lot of take home packages? Or both? Regardless there are several assortment strategies available to you. You need to decide on which one best fits your clientele and your current customer's expectations.

On a broader perspective do you want to be "competitive" with the stores around you? How about "differentiated"? Always a good option. However, if you are really limited in what you can do because of space you may have to go with "velocity" and just turn the top selling products quickly and limit selection. Because at the end of the day you need to satisfy as many customer’s as possible and still make money. Ideally, more money!

Although there is a lot to be said for being "competitive" it is usually a "me too" strategy and b2b Solutions has a hard time recommending it here. This is an exciting area of the store and it warrants special consideration.

Selection is the way to go. These categories can be used to differentiate your c-store. Especially, if you are already doing a good food / foodservice beverage business.

It may be time to take the 12-pack and 2-liter take home soft drink packages out of the vault (if you haven’t already) and use that space to bring in the hottest new flavors and products! Another option is working with the soft drink companies to re-allocate existing carbonated vault space, where you may be overstocked and increase your product representation in these fast moving categories. In closing, it's more work managing more products, but in this case the payback will be well worth the effort.

One final consideration, you have to decide what is more important — the upfront and/or rebate money that the vendors paid you or having the right assortment of products in the right quantities to meet your customers’ needs. Hopefully your vendors will work with you all you to do both.

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