Determining how to stock a convenience store effectively has always been part art and part science. Yet for many convenience store owners and managers, it may require a new approach because of changing consumer behaviors and quickly shifting retail patterns during and after coronavirus lockdowns. Prolonged social distancing, challenged supply chains, emerging trends in supply-and-demand and raising prices add new layers of complexity.
However, if you plan ahead, you’ll be able to make the most of the data you have and identify whether solutions such as business loans, cash flow management and keeping more inventory on hand could help you better serve your customers. Here are some strategies to explore as you develop a convenience store inventory list in the months ahead.
Gather Real-Time Data
For many convenience store owners, figuring out how to stock your convenience store begins with looking at historical data. Yet research from Nielsen has shown that consumer behaviors are changing quickly in response to the pandemic — and those changes can affect stores in multiple ways.
Consumers may be making shifts regarding where they shop, what they buy and how often they make purchases, so historical data may no longer be the best source of reliable information for developing a convenience store stock list. Instead, observing consumer behavior in real time and analyzing daily sales figures can help you better understand what people are buying, who is shopping at your store and how you can better meet their needs.
Plan Your Inventory Strategy
As consumers wrestle with the challenges of finding store shelves bare or key items hard to track down, many are inclined to stock up and make larger purchases. However, for a convenience store owner who historically puts all their available merchandise on the shelves, this can create frustration when certain items are out of stock for a long time.
One strategy to consider when it comes to how to stock a convenience store in today’s climate is determining what items you have on the shelves versus what you keep in the stockroom. By staggering the variety of items you put on your shelves, you can keep key items in stock longer and avoid bare store shelves. And when it comes to working with other convenience store owners, making all inventory available when it comes in can help you build trusted relationships with buyers.
Evaluate Your Pricing Structure
Since obtaining inventory may be more expensive now than it was just a few months ago, it’s important to take pricing into consideration as you build your convenience store inventory list. Increased prices from suppliers can cut into your profits, so if cash flow and increased inventory prices are making it harder for you to stock your convenience store, now may be the time to evaluate whether raising prices would give you more flexibility with keeping essential products on hand. If regional outbreaks or other issues strain supply chains in the months ahead, having inventory on hand can be an important competitive advantage.
Take a Long-Range View
As you develop your convenience store stock list, it may be helpful to plan several months out. With prices rising and certain items hard to come by, placing inventory orders now can help ensure you’ll have key items on hand during peak demand. Think about related factors such as storage space, convenience store display ideas and the equipment you might need to display a larger inventory. Now is also a smart time to take a closer look at your finances and determine if resources such as a small business loan for inventory or line of credit would support your long-term business plan and inventory management strategy.
Adapting to changing consumer behaviors has made it more important than ever that owners understand how to stock a convenience store. If you observe changing behavioral patterns, take a long-range view of your inventory planning and work now to put the resources in place so you’ll be able to access the inventory you need, you’ll be ready to meet consumer needs and prepared for any future surge.