Chips and salsa is the way to go during the Super Bowl - stock up now to shore up inventory.
Chips and salsa is the way to go during the Super Bowl – stock up now to shore up inventory.

The NFL’s premier finale to the 2016 regular season will be hosted in Houston, Texas, Feb. 5, which means C-stores have less than a week to squeeze every amount of possible sales growth out of snack-seeking customers. But preparing for the inevitable onslaught of shoppers that typically occurs each year in the lead-up to the Super Bowl is another matter altogether – some C-stores are optimized to reap huge financial rewards, while others may already be behind their initial sales projections.

We’ve outlined a few key agenda items that C-store owners and managers should keep in mind to ensure they’re properly capitalizing on this annual sports (and food retail) tradition.

Inventory, inventory, inventory
The National Association of Convenience Stores showcased the latest data from the annual Super Bowl Spending Survey, which found consumers are expected to spend $14.1 billion on various food and apparel in preparation for the big game in 2017. That’s an average of $75 per viewer, and Americans will collectively eat enough wings to circle the Earth three times over.

So what does this mean for your C-store?

Well, for one, proper inventory will be a deciding factor in whether sales take off or your store is prematurely left with bare shelves.

Stocking up on food, beverages, sports-related memorabilia and other merchandise prior to the Super Bowl puts C-stores in a good position to adequately satisfy consumer demand. Items not stocked at one C-store will inevitably be purchased elsewhere, equaling opportunity lost for respective business owners.

While it’s still possible to buy last-minute items from vendors and dealers in order to shore up dwindling supplies, an ideal scenario would entail planning out buying channels and deliveries far in advance – that’s really the only way to protect against both under- and overstock.

In line with having the right items at the right time, it will be paramount that C-stores also provide digital options that allow for additional consumers to find deals, use coupons and checkout seamlessly. Less wait times = happier customers = more money.

Bundling merchandise could be a game-changer
High-volume seasons are also a great time to strategize optimal bundling and packaging strategies. Bundling allows C-stores to combine highly profitable items with less-sought after merchandise into one sale. For instance, that off-color beanie that couldn’t fly off the shelf if it had wings could be paired with a football pennant repping the logo of one of the two Super Bowl teams – customers may not want the beanie, but they can only purchase the pennant by buying both.

C-stores can subtly upcharge for such bundling, which brings in more revenue but also removes poor-performing merchandise from shelves, making way for more profitable items.

Bundling doesn’t have to be just the marrying of high- and low-selling items, however. C-stores can also combine products of different sale categories (cheese dip and beer, for example) or two highly sought after options (chips and salsa). The key is charging enough to warrant selling as a pair rather than individually.

Customers likely want to make the easier purchase and quickly be in and out of stores prior to game day. This is a great opportunity to upsell customers without them putting too much thought into additional expenses or items they may not even know they wanted or needed.

Don’t forget the favorites
At the end of the day, there is such a thing as being too creative or too strategic. In this regard, it’s time to get back to the basics, aka the true foundation for which customers are coming through the doors.

For the Super Bowl, the best-performing sales are ones that are commonly known by everyone: chips, pretzels, beer, dips, salsas, cheese, candy and even firewood for those wanting to enjoy the game by a cozy fire, Convenience Store Decisions reported. Is your C-store stocking up on these hot-button items?

Other key merchandise to have on hand are sodas, guacamole, hummus and sports apparel, according to Food Dive.

Customers likely have their purchasing goals in mind before they enter stores, so placing the items they want closer to the front can be a subtle way of maximizing sales potential. Additionally, advertising for these very items should be prioritized as well, both in-store and out front.

Banners, graphics, outdoor signage and even receipts and shelf labels should all point customers to the food and beverage they seek – the smoother the customer buying journey, they quicker C-stores can turn each shopper into a revenue source.

With Feb. 5 fast approaching, it may be too late for C-store owners to get out ahead of their competition, but it’s never too late to streamline sales opportunities and promote merchandise deals that customers want.