Cover Story: Swat the Competition

Analyzing the strategies of c-stores' biggest foes

Not too long ago consumers knew what they needed and where to buy it. Convenience stores were for cigarettes, supermarkets for food for dinner; prescriptions were picked up at the drug store. Trips to mass merchandisers were reserved for the big hauls.

Today, retail channels are blending by encroaching on one another’s points of differentiation in an attempt to steal share of consumer spending. Even restaurants are in on the muddling of the marketplace.

Because of this, says Michael Sansolo, a retail specialist and president of Sansolo Solutions in Washington, D.C.,  consumers no longer see the distinction between these stores. “So it’s important [for each channel] to get out there and see what the other channels are doing,” he says.

One major factor affecting change across the channels is the consumer experience, exemplified by supermarkets elevating their foodservice offer, drug chains’ promises to be the consumer’s partner in wellness, and mass merchandisers building convenient, small-format stores tailored to the neighborhood.

“Being complacent is the biggest enemy. You’ve got to be good and be constantly looking to get better,” says Sansolo.

The frenzy to steal share of stomach—away from the home fridge or away from foodservice, depending on your vantage point—is likewise driving innovation across the channels, reflected in grocers’ attention to the store perimeter and dollar stores going after perishable-food sales.

All this begs the questions, c-store reader, what’s your reason for attracting customers, and what’s your differentiator?

Sam Walton said it succinctly: When asked how retailers could compete with his stores, he said it’s easy—just do what he doesn’t.

To help you assess the cross-channel competitive landscape, Convenience Store Products took a look at how competing segments are thriving and struggling, and how c-stores can use such insights to win more market share.

Dollar Stores

Grocery Stores


Drug Stores

Mass Merchandisers