How Convenience Stores Can Stock To Customer Demand 05/04/2017 Tips & Advice With supermarket chains such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s revealing that they now have more convenience stores than supermarkets, independent convenience stores are feeling the pressure in the high-street more than ever. To keep your business competitive and avoid losing out to the larger chains, shop owners need to ensure shelves are always fully stocked with a varied range of products. Here are a few tips to make sure your customers can always find what they need: Study customer behaviour Shop owners need to make sure they are providing for the needs of their customers. The best way to find out what your customers want is to simply ask them. This could include approaching browsing customers to ask them what they’re looking for, or by checking if they found everything they needed as they’re paying at the till. This personal touch is something that larger chains are not be able to offer, therefore allowing independent convenience stores to differentiate their own customer service. For instance, if you have identified a brand of product that one of your customers wants and start to stock it for them you can bet that they will appreciate it and continue to shop with you. Obviously, it's important to follow through on requests when possible as this will make customers feel valued and shows that their feedback has been taken seriously. As well as gathering feedback, being a trained observer of consumer habits will go a long way. For example, if a large proportion of customers seem to be dropping in at lunchtime or on their way home from work then there could be a demand for stocking ready meals or food-to-go. Reacting to simple demands like these could make all the difference. Manage your stock One of the biggest challenges that convenience stores face is getting their core range right for their consumerbase. Carrying out range reviews on a rolling basis or once a month means that shop owners can quickly identify what’s selling and what’s not. Most shop owners will do this manually by making an inventory, or taking a stock check which includes the product location and value. This could also mean keeping a stock book with stock cards to keep track of what’s selling Some might also choose to automate their stock records with technology such as RFID (radio-frequency identification). This system links barcodes to each type of item, and using hand-held readers can track products as they move through the purchase cycle. Another more efficient method is using EPOS (electronic point of sale) systems to access real-time data and monitor current stock levels and top selling products. The system can also be setup to alert shop owners when stock is running low, automate purchase orders and keep a record of a customer’s purchase history. With all this information at their fingertips, it’s much easier to get full visibility, delist items that aren’t selling and add new product lines. Prepare for seasonal occasions Every year, convenience stores will need to prepare for fluctuating demands due to seasonal custom. With public holidays, the summer season and the festive period, shop owners should look to previous data to see what has sold well in the past. Again, using EPOS systems can give an accurate picture of which products were historically popular at the same time of year and how quickly they sold, allowing convenience stores to efficiently plan deliveries and avoid overstocking. It can be tricky competing with the increasing number of smaller stores opened by the big supermarket chains, but with longer opening hours, community values, personality and a deeper understanding of their customers, the traditional high-street convenience store is still in a strong position to give shoppers what they want.