Vendors: How to Make the Right Choice for Your C-Store
By Wolfgang Manz, President/CEO, PWM Electronic Price Signs
Convenience stores in Texas are regulated by over 25 state and federal agencies. These regulations ensure the business operates at a high standard and protects consumers from bad actors.
Due to the complexities and often immediate needs involved in owning, operating, and maintaining a convenience store, the vendors you select can have a major impact on the profitability of a business. So, what should convenience stores consider when it comes to selecting not just a vendor, but a business partner? While there is no one size fits all formula, here are a few key factors to look for the next time you go out to bid for your next project:
Trust & Friendship
Ask yourself this — is the business you’re working with one that you trust with access to your company's financial documents? If the answer is “no,” think twice. A large majority of convenience stores in the U.S. are open 24-hours. Staying open around the clock means you are going to spend a lot of time and money with vendors across a wide range of services, often in stressful environments. Finding a company you like being around is not only important, but extremely vital to your business's well-being. A vendor should be a team player and be by your side during difficult situations. Select a company your colleagues and competitors have experience working with. Reaching out to a competing convenience store to exchange experiences is often a great way to gain insight into effective ways others operate their business. If all else fails, consider doing a trial run with a vendor you have no experience with, it can often be a great way to develop a lasting relationship.
Beyond the Money
The Notorious B.I.G. once said “the mo’ money you have, the mo’ problems.” But was he right? Just like in marriage, money can create major problems in a business partnership. From the get-go, agree on how you will use the financial resources allocated to a project and how the installation and service will impact your bottom line. Any time money is involved, treat it as though you are getting 'married' to that vendor. Find out if potential vendors are risk-tolerant, call references, and try as best you can to see if they are financially able to embark on the endeavor. As with a spouse, it's important to discuss finances up front to avoid awkward conversations and surprises later. Convenience stores sell thousands of products, and according to the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), serve nearly half of the U.S. population every day. Make sure the vendor you select knows the 24/7 nature of the c-store industry and can stick to the plan in terms of money and time needed to get the job done.
Looking beyond dollars and cents, it’s never good business practice to partner with someone just because they’re the cheapest. Quality should always be priority #1. Convenience store customers are becoming much savvier and are expecting better experiences when filling up their vehicles. It's better to hire the best you can afford to avoid potentially losing future business due to shoddy work or missed deadlines. Businesses need to decide on a formula to determine the value of working with reliable and reputable vendors, versus spending the least amount of money to generate the most profit. Why is all of this so important? A great convenience store, whether you are a single store operator or a large national chain, can be severely damaged by a bad business partnership. Running a business is an emotional journey, and the more you can look beyond the money, the better positioned you are to succeed.
Choosing the right vendor for your business should involve trust, loyalty, and someone with an entrepreneurial spirit whose network has extensive connections. Why does creativity count? Because creativity can help solve complex problems, something convenience stores face daily. From aging fuel storage tanks to broken signage, a creative vendor will enhance your company’s growth and help you achieve the dreams that you have for your customers and business. Can your vendor create new things and bring your convenience store to the top of its game? This is perhaps the most essential question to ask yourself when looking at the unique offering your store brings to the customers you serve. In order to overcome all the in-store and forecourt obstacles in a more meaningful way, you need someone on your side who has unmatched skills and abilities to come up with fresh ideas for the betterment of the company.
Delivering on a Promise
Creating a strong network is key for convenience stores. PWM has spent the past 40 years perfecting its network of manufacturing, sales, and service professionals to deliver top tier solutions. Specifically, PWM has spent decades enlisting a service network that is second to none. Not every convenience store is the same, and we leverage an incredible amount of industry knowledge to deliver price signs that operate, rain or shine, to deliver on our promise of giving our customers the best service and product while providing 24-hour support, 7 days a week.
During our own vendor selection process, we consciously set emotions aside and make sure our company's values and mission align with each vendor that we select. We do this to bring state-of-the-art price signs to the convenience store industry — the only industry we serve! As the saying goes, the customer is always right, we take that meaning to heart and put our money where our mouth is. Negotiating lower rates for our products is just as important as selecting the vendor who can deliver on value, creativity, and trust — in that spirit, we look for and do business not just as a vendor, but as a true business partner. Give us a call!