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October 2021 Digest

This Week in C-Store News

A report from Convenience Store News highlights one of the more difficult challenges in the industry today: “The ability to recruit and retain good employees.” This has always been an issue for the industry, but especially in recent years, as average employee turnover has increased from 136% in 2019 to 151% in 2021 (Convenience Store News Industry Report, 2021).

Senior Editor for C-Store News Angela Hanson reports, “The recent labor crunch began before spring 2020, but the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the problem, leading to what some experts today have called the hardest labor market in 60 years.”

At a recent Top Women in Convenience roundtable, human resource experts discussed how to overcome this hurdle. Stephanie Nycum Doliveira of Sheetz Inc. spoke about investing in company culture and employees. At Sheetz, this investment took the form of raising wages, and helping to foster employee connections.

Doliveira says, “We viewed doubling down on both as a way we are able to attract and retain talent in this highly competitive time.”

Doliveira goes on to advise fellow c-store operators to cultivate mentor relationships:

“Holding onto great employees is a critical component of success. When we invest in relationships, people feel seen, heard, invested in. Today’s individual contributors are tomorrow’s managers and leaders.”

A recent article from the National Association of Convenience Stores covers three areas that c-store owners will want to be aware of in order to stay ahead of the changing market. These areas are “last-mile delivery, age verification, and the future of energy.”

Jared Scheeler, CEO of The Hub Convenience Stores, has this to say about delivery:

“With so many orders online, I want people to say, ‘I ordered from The Hub.’ But today they are saying, ‘I ordered from DoorDash,’ and we need to change that.”

Regarding age verification, the panellists discussed the possibility of a nationwide age-verification system, such as TruAge™.

This area seems especially significant given the FDA’s recent authorization of vapor tobacco products for the U.S. Market. C-Store News reports, “RJR Vapor Co.’s Vuse become the first electronic nicotine delivery system to get the greenlight under the premarket application pathway.”

However, this authorization is still somewhat provisional. Director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products Mitch Zeller cautions, “We must remain vigilant with this authorization and we will monitor the marketing of the products, including whether the company fails to comply with any regulatory requirements or if credible evidence emerges of significant use by individuals who did not previously use a tobacco product, including youth. We will take action as appropriate, including withdrawing the authorization.”

While Zeller does not say as much, it does appear that some of this responsibility will fall on retailers who, ultimately, must enforce age restrictions.

Finally, on the subject of energy, the panellists pointed to the opportunities presented by electric vehicles. Kevin Smartt, CEO of Texas Born, suggests that c-stores should be thinking about the future now, before someone else takes control of the market. He says, “We want to sell our customers what they want to buy. Now is the time to be fighting for a level playing field because we don’t want to be doing it five years from now.”

For more information, NACS’ podcast, Convenience Matters, touched on preparing for EVs last week.

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