Most C-store owners predicted increased sales in 2017. How have you fared so far?
Most C-store owners predicted increased sales in 2017. How have you fared so far?

With Q1 of 2017 wrapping up, now is an ideal time to take a look at your C-store progress and what you can do to be successful the rest of the year. In fact, according to a survey conducted by CSNews, 88.6 percent of C-store owners anticipated increasing sales this year. Has that proven true for you so far? And how can you keep up the trend? Here’s a look at the factors that impact profitability:

Stock and sales
The source also noted that 74.6 percent of C-store owners cited fuel prices among items that affect business profitability. Fortunately, the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 2017 Annual Energy Outlook report predicted that we’ll see lower costs and greater availability, meaning better profits for C-stores.

On top of all-important fuel, in-store purchases make up a large portion of businesses’ profits. Among popular goods are tobacco and alcohol, two regulated products whose associated laws could impact sales. For instance, cities that restrict alcohol sales to certain times of day might see fewer beverage sales overall. Similar situations surrounding tobacco might suppress or invite profits. Staying up to date on laws – both prospective and in place – in your area can help you make more savvy business decisions regarding tobacco and alcohol.

As for stock in general, most survey respondents (63.6 percent) said they’d keep inventory the same. However, 27.3 percent planned to increase it in 2017. Having the room and the means to add more stock allows you to explore industry trends or sell more popular items.

Industry trends
Closely tied to in-store sales are industry trends. Products that see a boom in interest are likely to affect your sales. The CSNews report showed that C-store owners are seeing healthy eating on the rise in their establishments. Such trends will affect what you keep in your store and how well those items perform.

Even technology trends impact profitability. Does your business have up-to-date software, accurate analytics and popular consumer-facing interfaces like apps for loyalty programs? All of these things are increasingly in demand and can help you manage operations and establish a stronger customer base.

Labor costs are somewhat of a question for Q1 and going into Q2. President Obama’s changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act are still stalled in court. These updates would raise the threshold for exempt status, which allows employees to work more than 40 hours a week without overtime pay. Currently, workers who make $23,600 a year or more don’t get overtime, but the update would raise that to $47,476. This would likely impact your employees, especially if your staff is small. However, the changes have been stuck in court since November 2016, and we’ve had few updates since. Follow news surrounding FLSA, and plan ahead in case the changes go through – you want to be prepared for overtime pay and how it’ll affect your overhead.

In addition to lingering FLSA questions, some states are wrestling with increased minimum wages. The National Conference of State Legislators noted that 19 states increased minimum wages with the new year. Account for such increases, both this year and in the future, as you plan your business’s budget.

Between the items you stock, trends in the industry and updated labor laws, you have to content with a variety of factors when estimating your C-store’s profitability. Despite the complexities of running a business, owners are optimistic.