Do you remember the 1994 movie “Maverick”? Specifically, there’s a scene in which gambler Maverick(Mel Gibson) pushes all his chips into the pot on a final hand. It probably feels something like that when you look to open your first convenience store. You have worked your entire life to get to this point. Your life experience and your life savings all go into the pot. Do you have the right hand to win in the high-stakes game of c-stores?
At Paragon, we have the honor of working with some of the biggest retailers in the business, as well as many first-time store owners. Those first-timers are often reluctant to ask questions in fear of looking as if they have no business in the world of c-stores. But once they get over their fears, the questions and challenges I hear from the one-store owners, whether they are leasing an existing store or building their first site, are fascinating.
I would put most first-timers into two categories. In the first category, they pick their favorite c-store and want to duplicate everything they see, usually without a good understanding of why that store did what it did. Imitation may be the best form of flattery, but it is not necessarily a good way to build a business.
The second category is filled with people who love to question everything and wanted to be better than their competitors. Technology, food services, distribution, design, operations and customer service all are questioned, with the objective of being better.
I was fortunate to meet many of these entrepreneurs at the recent NACS Show in Las Vegas. They were attending seminars and walking the show with a hunger for information. Information is power when it comes to any business venture. These are the future superstars of the industry.
When you are new to an industry and building your first store, the last thing you want is to blend in with other stores in your market. You will be lumped in with all of them, for the good or the bad. So how do you stand out from the crowd?
In Seth Godin’s book “Purple Cow,” Godin describes how the purple cow stands out to be being different, by being memorable, by being memorable, by being a purple cow. If a customer has a memorable experience, don’t you want them to associate that experience with your store and your brand?
On the other hand, if a customer has a bad experience at someone else’s store, you want that associated with that other store and its brand only.
The best advice I can give on how to develop your first store is to be different: Be You. Your personality should be reflected in your store brand as well as its operations. Your greatest strength is your ability to be different, to be better. Your second greatest strength is your ability to turn on a dime.
The first step is to understand the unique properties of your location, as well as your team’s unique capabilities. When you combine those two variables, a unique solution should develop. As a retail designer, nothing gets us more excited than to create a new and different retail experience. Sure, there