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Small Format. Big Challenges.

The time you spend waiting next in line at the petrol pump is no longer governed by how long it takes for the person infront to fill up, or to pay at the till. Today, they are just as likely to stop and top-up in the ever-expanding aisles that lie waiting for them in-store. A ‘meal for tonight’, a basketful of basics – milk, cheese, washing powder – even (or so it feels) a full weekly shop. Forecourt retailing has evolved. The offer in-store has grown exponentially bigger as almost every petrol station on Britain’s major A roads and B roads has morphed into a fully fledged convenience store – many operating under the banner of multiple grocery retailers or leading symbol groups. From Marks and Spencer to The Co-operative. Spar to Costcutter.

It’s an extension of what is happening on our high streets. The convenience sector continues to see growth – primarily within grocery, although retailers in other sectors are also experimenting with smaller format concepts. In April, IKEA – famous for finding ways to pack a lot into a little – revealed plans to open its first city-centre store, as the furniture giant steps up its pilot of small-format sites across the UK.

Going forward, retailer accounts of every size will be equally important to brand marketers. And forecourt retailing is no exception. The result is that a growing number of leading brands are starting to embrace these smaller retailer accounts as real growth opportunities where they can bring a lot of expertise to an emerging channel that is ripe for in-store investment.

Focusing on all things ‘small’ appears to be the next big thing.

This is also true when it comes to landing brand activations in-store.

Managing brand activations in large format stores is one thing. But when it comes to achieving compliance within smaller forecourt c-store environments, it’s the little things that can really add up and, ultimately, make the difference between success and failure.

The big challenges

Clearly, implementing in-store campaigns successful within forecourt retail uses many of the same methods and best practices as those in big brand stores. But the convenience channel, in all its forms, does present some unique, and potentially big, challenges. The most obvious of these is the fact that many symbol group retailers are franchise owned. Failure to engage store manages in the campaign ahead of, and throughout the duration of the rollout, can often result in a brand activation that may look promising on paper but actually fails to deliver. In so doing it is almost guaranteed to disappoint shoppers and, more importantly, those within brand teams who have a keen interest in return on investment.

The small matter of compliance
In truth, it is anything but. Compliance is a major factor in turning sales potential into reality and maximising return on investment. With a few clear guidelines, more considered planning, greater stakeholder engagement and a bit of imagination, you can do great things for your retail performance.

The importance of conducting store audits prior to launching a campaign in-store cannot be emphasised enough, but especially when it is to be installed into small store formats, such as independent retailers and forecourt retailers. The results of audit activity can prove eye opening – with brands and even retailers often having little knowledge of the variation that exists across store estate: a factor that will, ultimately, impact on a campaign’s ability to be fit-for-purpose.

For example, an audit conducted by CJ Retail Solutions on behalf of a leading forecourt retailer highlighted a total of 16 different variations of a ‘standardised’ piece of permanent display – many more than had first been anticipated.

The small nuances in store format can result in one overarching in-store campaign but with a number of subtle variations. In such instances, effective project management is key. Why? Because, regardless of this, manufacturing has to remain aligned with what is often a complex pre-planned itinerary of store visits.

There is also the small matter of legislative compliance. There are strict work clearance procedures in order for installers to be allowed to work on retail forecourts. These have to be completed at every site. For example, all installers have to be SPA accredited. Overlook these small details and it can prove costly, to more than just the bottom line.

Seven small details you can’t afford to ignore:

  1. Get to know the retailer’s stores better than they do. This will ensure displays are correctly sized, fit for purpose and, ultimately, improve compliance – particularly if retailers have a mixed portfolio of store size, location and age.

  2. Engage all stakeholders in the project plan – internal teams, suppliers, retailers and their store teams

  3. Bring an installation specialist on board to support the design phase – they can be instrumental in drawing up design and manufacturing specifications to ensure the best possible opportunity for ‘right first time’ installation result

  4. Let those responsible for installing the campaign check design specifications before manufacture. Time spent here will save costly errors when it’s too late

  5. Use Inventory Management systems to give full visibility of all POS deliveries and full analysis of stock held in distribution centres

  6. Ensure all installers on-site have necessary accreditations required to legally work within the forecourt environment

  7. Monitor follow up on compliance issues during and after installation with real-time reporting to provide visibility of the big picture, and the small granular detail

And remember, whether your compliance is 90% or 40%, that there are always small things that can be done better. As the old saying goes: retail is detail.