I’m writing this as I drive north on I-90 from Chicago to Wisconsin. As I look out the window, I see Speedways turn into 7-Elevens and then into Kwik Trip stores. The landscape changes too. The prairie turns to rolling hills that eventually rise out of the earth into the bluffs of the Mississippi that I once called home. As I sit and watch the side of the road change in the 250 miles or so, I’m struck by the very literal—geographic, demographic and fiscal—differences in our marketplace.
But you have more in common with other retailers than you think.
Sure, our industry has a history of being a complex regional patchwork. What works in La Crosse, Wis., is often very different from what works in Chicago, Jersey City or Dallas. One retailer’s home-run product is another’s backroom burden.
In our first annual Retailer Forecast Survey, we set out to identify those regional differences in product assortment and category-management technique. To be sure, you differ on certain things, such as store size and product mix. But there are also certain cohesive trends that bind the industry together. No surprise here: Retailers across all regions expect big things out of foodservice. But for as much as we all preach the regional dynamics of this business, your product strategies and category expectations are often quite similar.
This is your survey. It’s your story told through the eyes of 178 category decision-makers—indies and chain operators, category managers and owners. You told us what you thought were your biggest growth categories, and which ones you thought might shrink. You told us about what keeps you up at night, and the most earthshattering product trends to hit your shelves this year.
Read on to explore the differences across the c-store landscape, but also the commonalities that are the heartbeat of the industry.