Gehrts Reinvents Tobacco at Kum & Go

Years of experience on the manufacturer side has provided Jodi Gehrts a unique perspective on tobacco retail.

By Erin Rigik Del Conte, Senior Editor

This April marks Jodi Gehrts 24th year in the tobacco industry, first on the tobacco manufacturing side, followed by nearly 10 years overseeing the tobacco category for Kum & Go.

For her expertise on both sides of the aisle, Convenience Store Decisions is recognizing Gehrts this year as a category management leader.

As the category manager for cigarettes and tobacco for Kum & Go, Gehrts is responsible for sales, margin, promotions, demand-generation and distribution of all things tobacco—cigarettes, smokeless, cigars and e-cigarettes. She also negotiates and implements contracts from tobacco manufacturers and works with manufacturers on strategies that support and enhance Kum & Go’s plans for growth, while meeting the demands of tobacco consumers.

One of the first projects she spearheaded when she started at Kum & Go was to increase space for the other tobacco products (OTP) category.

“With my experience from the manufacturer side and calling upon all the different trade channels for cigarettes/tobacco, I was very aware of the growth that was transpiring in the OTP category. We began expanding sets from just two-feet of combined smokeless and cigars to a combined linear space of four to six feet where space allowed,” Gehrts said. “From that early expansion, Kum & Go was able to increase product distribution/selection, sales, and most importantly, meet and exceed the growing demands of the adult tobacco consumer.”

EARLY YEARS
A year after her graduation from Iowa State University, Gehrts began working as a territory manager in Overland Park, Kan., for Brown & Williamson Tobacco (B&W).

“A family friend owned a chain of grocery stores and had suggested I apply to a few of the cigarette manufacturers. I knew very little about cigarettes or the tobacco industry. I applied to B&W and was told I was chosen for the interview because I was from Iowa and people from Iowa were known for having a great work ethic and integrity,” she said.

After several interviews she was offered the position and began her “unexpected” career in the tobacco industry at age 23.

Within a few years she was promoted to an account manager position in Seattle, where her responsibilities included calling on designated chains and wholesalers in Washington. The years that followed included several “promotions, mergers and moves around the country.” With the completion of the B&W and R.J. Reynolds merger in 2004, she took the position of senior division manager in Omaha, Neb., for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco.

“At that time, I worked with a team of 19 amazing people. My team was responsible for sales, distribution and volume for three-fourths of Nebraska and three-fourths of Kansas.”

Gehrts left RJR in 2007 and began working as a division manager for a company in the Omaha, Neb. area when Kum & Go approached her to change paths.

“I really did not have any thoughts or intentions of working on the retail side, but after meeting several remarkable people at Kum & Go regarding the position of category manager for cigarettes/OTP, I knew this would be a great opportunity in which my experience would bode well for Kum & Go, the industry and me personally,” Gehrts said.

ATTRACTING CUSTOMERS
Gehrts’ favorite aspect of her role at Kum & Go is the people she works with on a daily basis. “I have the opportunity to work with so many great people, both internal and external. We truly have an amazing category management team with people from different backgrounds and experiences, yet who all operate with the same goal in mind—creating a great experience for our customers.”

One challenge facing convenience store category management today, she noted, is keeping abreast of trends, bringing in new products consumers may not know they want until they see it, and staying fresh and innovative in the eye of consumers.

In addition to researching new products and reviewing data, Gehrts credits ‘foot research’ for idea generation. “This means I look for ideas everywhere—not just competitive convenience stores, but all trade channels and all types of stores—online and brick and mortar. We need to be aware and creative in ways to attract and keep new customers while staying relevant to our current consumers.”

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The post Gehrts Reinvents Tobacco at Kum & Go appeared first on Convenience Store Decisions.

Gehrts Reinvents Tobacco at Kum & Go

Years of experience on the manufacturer side has provided Jodi Gehrts a unique perspective on tobacco retail.

By Erin Rigik Del Conte, Senior Editor

This April marks Jodi Gehrts 24th year in the tobacco industry, first on the tobacco manufacturing side, followed by nearly 10 years overseeing the tobacco category for Kum & Go.

For her expertise on both sides of the aisle, Convenience Store Decisions is recognizing Gehrts this year as a category management leader.

As the category manager for cigarettes and tobacco for Kum & Go, Gehrts is responsible for sales, margin, promotions, demand-generation and distribution of all things tobacco—cigarettes, smokeless, cigars and e-cigarettes. She also negotiates and implements contracts from tobacco manufacturers and works with manufacturers on strategies that support and enhance Kum & Go’s plans for growth, while meeting the demands of tobacco consumers.

One of the first projects she spearheaded when she started at Kum & Go was to increase space for the other tobacco products (OTP) category.

“With my experience from the manufacturer side and calling upon all the different trade channels for cigarettes/tobacco, I was very aware of the growth that was transpiring in the OTP category. We began expanding sets from just two-feet of combined smokeless and cigars to a combined linear space of four to six feet where space allowed,” Gehrts said. “From that early expansion, Kum & Go was able to increase product distribution/selection, sales, and most importantly, meet and exceed the growing demands of the adult tobacco consumer.”

EARLY YEARS
A year after her graduation from Iowa State University, Gehrts began working as a territory manager in Overland Park, Kan., for Brown & Williamson Tobacco (B&W).

“A family friend owned a chain of grocery stores and had suggested I apply to a few of the cigarette manufacturers. I knew very little about cigarettes or the tobacco industry. I applied to B&W and was told I was chosen for the interview because I was from Iowa and people from Iowa were known for having a great work ethic and integrity,” she said.

After several interviews she was offered the position and began her “unexpected” career in the tobacco industry at age 23.

Within a few years she was promoted to an account manager position in Seattle, where her responsibilities included calling on designated chains and wholesalers in Washington. The years that followed included several “promotions, mergers and moves around the country.” With the completion of the B&W and R.J. Reynolds merger in 2004, she took the position of senior division manager in Omaha, Neb., for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco.

“At that time, I worked with a team of 19 amazing people. My team was responsible for sales, distribution and volume for three-fourths of Nebraska and three-fourths of Kansas.”

Gehrts left RJR in 2007 and began working as a division manager for a company in the Omaha, Neb. area when Kum & Go approached her to change paths.

“I really did not have any thoughts or intentions of working on the retail side, but after meeting several remarkable people at Kum & Go regarding the position of category manager for cigarettes/OTP, I knew this would be a great opportunity in which my experience would bode well for Kum & Go, the industry and me personally,” Gehrts said.

ATTRACTING CUSTOMERS
Gehrts’ favorite aspect of her role at Kum & Go is the people she works with on a daily basis. “I have the opportunity to work with so many great people, both internal and external. We truly have an amazing category management team with people from different backgrounds and experiences, yet who all operate with the same goal in mind—creating a great experience for our customers.”

One challenge facing convenience store category management today, she noted, is keeping abreast of trends, bringing in new products consumers may not know they want until they see it, and staying fresh and innovative in the eye of consumers.

In addition to researching new products and reviewing data, Gehrts credits ‘foot research’ for idea generation. “This means I look for ideas everywhere—not just competitive convenience stores, but all trade channels and all types of stores—online and brick and mortar. We need to be aware and creative in ways to attract and keep new customers while staying relevant to our current consumers.”

Share

The post Gehrts Reinvents Tobacco at Kum & Go appeared first on Convenience Store Decisions.

Mach 1: Breaking Barriers

This convenience chain is making cool things cooler and old things newer—all the while expanding its presence in the communities it serves.

By David Bennett, Senior Editor

Like many convenience retailers that pour over the details until they have a sure course of action, Mach 1 Stores contemplates its future steps carefully.

The result has been a progressive c-store operation with enviable locations and a growing reputation for stellar offerings and satisfied customers.

Part of Teutopolis, Ill.-based Meyer Oil Co., Mach 1 operates 17 locations throughout central and southern Illinois and Indiana. The retail business began in 1989.

Meyer Oil is a branded supplier for Marathon and ConocoPhillips.

The company prefers to make life comfortable for patrons, to include providing cavernous retail space that allows patrons to buy a six-pack of beer, a hot pizza or time at the gaming booth.

Mach 1’s flagship location in Harrisburg, Ill., was designed by Paragon Solutions. At more than 8,000 square feet, the retail space is adorned with lively graphics, easy to distinguish service areas, large bathrooms and an expansive forecourt.
Alan Meyer, chief operations officer of the second-generation, family-owned business, said the convenience chain is slated to grow even larger with two new locations, which are in the planning phase.

“Yes, we are starting construction on a site in Benton, Ill. and will soon begin the design of what will be the company’s 19th store in Clinton, Ill.” Meyer said. “We plan to be operating 20 stores by the end of 2018.”

BETTERING BEVERAGES
In the last few years, the company strategized that dispensed beverages—a high margin and profit earner—should be a more predominant focal point.

The Mach 1 Café features Ronnoco Handcrafted Coffee, provided by the St. Louis-based coffee roasting and distribution company.

The c-store also offers an array of cappuccinos. There are flavors such as French vanilla, pumpkin spice, gooey butter cake, caramel macchiato, chocolate fudge brownie, chocolate caramel pecan and white chocolate caramel.

Not only has Mach 1 keyed in on coffee, the c-store has developed the Mach 1 Chill Zone, which has an array of drink selections including freshly-brewed tea with flavors such as peach mango, raspberry and berry green.

Patrons can also choose from f’real milkshakes, Caribbean Crème smoothies, Flavor Burst frozen carbonated beverages and frozen sodas.

Meyer explained that establishing Mach 1 as a beverage destination was reasonable, but required a company commitment to ensure its success.

“First, the fountain and coffee demographic is one of the most loyal and finicky groups to capture. These people have high expectations with their purchases and once you’ve overcome that they will travel a long way to give you their business,” Meyer said. “Second, this space is one of the most visible aspects to a convenience store that we can differentiate from our competition. When people walk into a store they are directed to the equipment inside so the biggest and best versions of this will help you stand out. It is difficult to show someone that your company is better because you have the best gondola shelves or cooler doors.”

Fresh doughnuts, deli-style sandwiches and a popular roller grill program bolster the bevy of beverage offerings.

Mach 1 also offers Champ’s Chicken products and Hunt Brothers Pizza. Patrons can avail the Mach 1 Rewards loyalty program, where members receive two points per gallon at the pump and one point for every dollar spent inside the store. Customers can use points to purchase fuel or in-store items.

In addition, Mach 1 has a company app in which customers can track their loyalty points and promotions.

OPERATIONALLY SPEAKING
Through trial and error, Mach 1 has implemented effective upgrades and initiatives that helped streamline the retail business as a whole. The improvements have been varied, but effective:

• The company purchased headsets for all the employees. “This has resulted in customers receiving immediate service at the drive-through while at the same time allowing us to maximize the productivity of our employees,” said Meyer. “As our employees are addressing issues on the sales floor or on the lot they can be notified at a moment’s notice that they need to return to the checkout areas to assist customers waiting in line.”
• Company executives hired a third-party partner to visit all store locations regularly and report back on the quality of appearance and timeliness of service.
• The retailer uses a program that allows it to internally track a store’s appearance and identify any operational issues. “Site managers as well as operational management utilize this software program daily to make improvements as needed,” Meyer said.
• Mach 1 changed its point-of-sale system to NCR and a service called Pulse.

“Pulse gives us the ability to remotely monitor issues with the dispensers, receipt printers and car washes. With this technology, we have increased our efficiency in response to these issues.”

• The c-store is using analytics more to maximize productivity in addition to bolstering worker incentives. “We raised our wages and began offering sign-on bonuses to increase the quality of our staff. To offset this cost, we are tracking customers per payroll hour and adjusting hours where needed.”

In addition, Mach 1 is relying more on technology to boost internal operations.

“There are so many tools available today to track performance indicators such as productivity, sales performance, market share, etc. Of these areas, our priority has been to increase sales. Mach 1 achieved annual same-store sales increases of 9% in gallons and 7% on convenience items in 2016,” Meyer said. “The source of this success was being able to analyze areas we need to price competitively as well as areas we need to focus our marketing on.”

With each success, the company has grown even more aware of its customer needs and works hard to see how they can best be implemented.

Everything first starts with an idea and then, some discussion.

“I think family businesses allow the opportunity to have more open conversations,” Meyer said. “There are times when our passion spills over in the office and these conversations can get heated, but I think that it is how it should be. My entire life has been built around this company and I will do anything to make sure it succeeds and I know the other family members would do the same.”

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The post Mach 1: Breaking Barriers appeared first on Convenience Store Decisions.

Mach 1: Breaking Barriers

This convenience chain is making cool things cooler and old things newer—all the while expanding its presence in the communities it serves.

By David Bennett, Senior Editor

Like many convenience retailers that pour over the details until they have a sure course of action, Mach 1 Stores contemplates its future steps carefully.

The result has been a progressive c-store operation with enviable locations and a growing reputation for stellar offerings and satisfied customers.

Part of Teutopolis, Ill.-based Meyer Oil Co., Mach 1 operates 17 locations throughout central and southern Illinois and Indiana. The retail business began in 1989.

Meyer Oil is a branded supplier for Marathon and ConocoPhillips.

The company prefers to make life comfortable for patrons, to include providing cavernous retail space that allows patrons to buy a six-pack of beer, a hot pizza or time at the gaming booth.

Mach 1’s flagship location in Harrisburg, Ill., was designed by Paragon Solutions. At more than 8,000 square feet, the retail space is adorned with lively graphics, easy to distinguish service areas, large bathrooms and an expansive forecourt.
Alan Meyer, chief operations officer of the second-generation, family-owned business, said the convenience chain is slated to grow even larger with two new locations, which are in the planning phase.

“Yes, we are starting construction on a site in Benton, Ill. and will soon begin the design of what will be the company’s 19th store in Clinton, Ill.” Meyer said. “We plan to be operating 20 stores by the end of 2018.”

BETTERING BEVERAGES
In the last few years, the company strategized that dispensed beverages—a high margin and profit earner—should be a more predominant focal point.

The Mach 1 Café features Ronnoco Handcrafted Coffee, provided by the St. Louis-based coffee roasting and distribution company.

The c-store also offers an array of cappuccinos. There are flavors such as French vanilla, pumpkin spice, gooey butter cake, caramel macchiato, chocolate fudge brownie, chocolate caramel pecan and white chocolate caramel.

Not only has Mach 1 keyed in on coffee, the c-store has developed the Mach 1 Chill Zone, which has an array of drink selections including freshly-brewed tea with flavors such as peach mango, raspberry and berry green.

Patrons can also choose from f’real milkshakes, Caribbean Crème smoothies, Flavor Burst frozen carbonated beverages and frozen sodas.

Meyer explained that establishing Mach 1 as a beverage destination was reasonable, but required a company commitment to ensure its success.

“First, the fountain and coffee demographic is one of the most loyal and finicky groups to capture. These people have high expectations with their purchases and once you’ve overcome that they will travel a long way to give you their business,” Meyer said. “Second, this space is one of the most visible aspects to a convenience store that we can differentiate from our competition. When people walk into a store they are directed to the equipment inside so the biggest and best versions of this will help you stand out. It is difficult to show someone that your company is better because you have the best gondola shelves or cooler doors.”

Fresh doughnuts, deli-style sandwiches and a popular roller grill program bolster the bevy of beverage offerings.

Mach 1 also offers Champ’s Chicken products and Hunt Brothers Pizza. Patrons can avail the Mach 1 Rewards loyalty program, where members receive two points per gallon at the pump and one point for every dollar spent inside the store. Customers can use points to purchase fuel or in-store items.

In addition, Mach 1 has a company app in which customers can track their loyalty points and promotions.

OPERATIONALLY SPEAKING
Through trial and error, Mach 1 has implemented effective upgrades and initiatives that helped streamline the retail business as a whole. The improvements have been varied, but effective:

• The company purchased headsets for all the employees. “This has resulted in customers receiving immediate service at the drive-through while at the same time allowing us to maximize the productivity of our employees,” said Meyer. “As our employees are addressing issues on the sales floor or on the lot they can be notified at a moment’s notice that they need to return to the checkout areas to assist customers waiting in line.”
• Company executives hired a third-party partner to visit all store locations regularly and report back on the quality of appearance and timeliness of service.
• The retailer uses a program that allows it to internally track a store’s appearance and identify any operational issues. “Site managers as well as operational management utilize this software program daily to make improvements as needed,” Meyer said.
• Mach 1 changed its point-of-sale system to NCR and a service called Pulse.

“Pulse gives us the ability to remotely monitor issues with the dispensers, receipt printers and car washes. With this technology, we have increased our efficiency in response to these issues.”

• The c-store is using analytics more to maximize productivity in addition to bolstering worker incentives. “We raised our wages and began offering sign-on bonuses to increase the quality of our staff. To offset this cost, we are tracking customers per payroll hour and adjusting hours where needed.”

In addition, Mach 1 is relying more on technology to boost internal operations.

“There are so many tools available today to track performance indicators such as productivity, sales performance, market share, etc. Of these areas, our priority has been to increase sales. Mach 1 achieved annual same-store sales increases of 9% in gallons and 7% on convenience items in 2016,” Meyer said. “The source of this success was being able to analyze areas we need to price competitively as well as areas we need to focus our marketing on.”

With each success, the company has grown even more aware of its customer needs and works hard to see how they can best be implemented.

Everything first starts with an idea and then, some discussion.

“I think family businesses allow the opportunity to have more open conversations,” Meyer said. “There are times when our passion spills over in the office and these conversations can get heated, but I think that it is how it should be. My entire life has been built around this company and I will do anything to make sure it succeeds and I know the other family members would do the same.”

Share

The post Mach 1: Breaking Barriers appeared first on Convenience Store Decisions.

Wendy’s Introducing Ordering Kiosks

Kiosks expected to cut down on labor costs, appeal to younger customers.

Fast-food behemoth Wendy’s has announced plans to introduce self-ordering kiosks in one out of every six—or about 1,000—of its franchise locations nationwide by the end of 2017, with a typical location receiving three kiosks, according to a report by the Detroit Free Press.

Those three kiosks per store are expected to cost about $15,000 and bring a return on investment in less than two years due to decreased labor and an expected increase in sales.

The kiosks are expected to appeal to a younger demographic as well as reduce long lines during peak hours and provide data on customers.

 

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The post Wendy’s Introducing Ordering Kiosks appeared first on Convenience Store Decisions.

Wendy’s Introducing Ordering Kiosks

Kiosks expected to cut down on labor costs, appeal to younger customers.

Fast-food behemoth Wendy’s has announced plans to introduce self-ordering kiosks in one out of every six—or about 1,000—of its franchise locations nationwide by the end of 2017, with a typical location receiving three kiosks, according to a report by the Detroit Free Press.

Those three kiosks per store are expected to cost about $15,000 and bring a return on investment in less than two years due to decreased labor and an expected increase in sales.

The kiosks are expected to appeal to a younger demographic as well as reduce long lines during peak hours and provide data on customers.

 

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