Create Holiday Fun Throughout the Year to Boost Sales at Your Truckstop

Editor's note: Darren Schulte, NATSO vice president of membership, frequently visits NATSO members to review their locations and offers impactful merchandising and operations improvements. Contact Schulte at dschulte@natso.com or (915) 526-5820 to learn more about the costs and details of this service.

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I am a fan of holiday and seasonal programs. I’d like to challenge all NATSO members to create memorable seasonal and holiday programs for the entire year. Holiday and seasonal shopping continues to be big retail success, and it is not just Christmas and winter that are successful. Whether it is tax-free days, singles day, Easter, summer drive, etc., many are becoming really, really big retail days.

Did anyone have a Valentines Program for this year? Where you aware that Americans where expected to spend $19.6 Billion on Valentine’s Day? That is an average of $143.56 per customer according to the National Retail Federation. Did we think that Truck Drivers and Gasoline Customers do not celebrate Valentine’s Day? Or maybe it is because we did not need that additional $143.56 per customer?

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If we’re serious with ourselves, fuel for many of us is becoming less and less effective as a means to drive customers into our stores and even less effective in moving customers from our parking lots into our stores. There are many reasons for this, such as less miles driven by individual trucks, continued miles-per-gallon improvements, hub-and-spoke models, Pony Express models, etc., but it is happening.

We need to maximize each visit all of our customers make with us. It is key to understand that what a potential customer experiences while in your location makes the difference. A robust holiday and seasonal program needs to be part of your overall plan to create and improve customer experience, thus increasing the share-of-wallet obtained during customers’ stops.

Plus, if we believe our core customer is the truck driver, then we should understand that we are the place professional drivers shop not only for the essentials they need on the road, but also the gifts they want to give once they get home.

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Think of all of the holidays we can capitalize on during the year. There are 10 commonly celebrated holidays—Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Father’s Day, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and New Years. There’s also Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day that also present opportunities. Do you have a program for Valentine’s Day, Easter or Mother’s Day? And remember, a program is more than a chocolate heart or a Reese’s Egg.

Alex Jensen, vice president for BP’s retail arm in Europe, was quoted as saying today half of the company’s united kingdom customers stop by for food not fuel.

We are already seeing that shift here in the U.S.

During my site visits, operators and I discuss their conversion rates. I frequently see that most of our gasoline customers are fueling but not shopping. The majority of these locations have conversion rates between 20% and 11%. Much lower than they thought. There is often a mistaken belief that a very large percentage of every fueling customer, including over-the-road drivers, purchases something when in the store. I have found, as my numbers indicate, that this is not even close to the case. At NATSO Connect (February 10-13, 2018) Coca Cola released a study of travel centers that showed only 33% of gasoline customers they surveyed/studied came inside and purchased something other than fuel. 

These poor conversion rates also feed over to the diesel side of our business. One of my recent visits revealed that over a two-day period, only 30 percent of the OTR drivers I observed who fueled at this company’s site purchased something other than fuel. This particular location services approximately 300 OTR drivers a day. This says something about the sales opportunity that exists with this type of volume. What if this organization improved the conversion rate to just 50 percent of the OTR drivers not purchasing something other than fuel? What a sales increase! We as an industry can take advantage of that, and we need to be thinking much more about what we sell in our stores to drive conversion rates.

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/// Did you know most weeks can find Darren Schulte, NATSO's Vice President of Memebrship, visiting a NATSO member truckstop location, spending three to four days, using his merchandising and operations expertise to help them grow their business? Learn about NATSO’s Profitable Retail Review program here.

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 Photos Credit: NATSO/Darren Schulte



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