Expand The Assortment—Do We Really Need It?


We’ve been hearing for at least a year about SEI’s new Expand The Assortment program (ETA). Many of us assumed it was going to entail adding a few SKUs to each section in our stores, but as it continues to roll out, we see that there’s much more to ETA than we initially realized.

As the program was being rolled out, we heard the pros and cons regarding the installation and impact on sales from our own franchisees and suppliers. Although roll out is now almost complete throughout all of our stores, ETA at my store is still pending, so I’ve had time to check around and ask a lot of questions about it. In that time I’ve heard some really good things about it and I’ve seen some great pictures of stores where ETA been implemented. SEI has said that some stores in Texas and California have seen an increase in sales by $280 per store day.

I also decided to visit a couple of non-convenience stores to see how they were expanding their assortments, since the growing trend—as per SEI—is that customers want one stop shopping to meet all of their needs. So I went into a hardware store and the first thing I noticed as I entered was a 12-foot section designated to candy. This is in a high theft area, where no backpacks are allowed. I also found a three-foot section designated to health and beauty aids. At the other non-convenience store location I visited, an automotive store, what they had to offer at the front wasn’t totally different: they had a complete section of candy and stationery. This made me realize that we’re all doing the same thing—expanding the assortment and becoming one-stop destinations.

Like it or not we need to stay ahead of the competition, which appears to be growing every year, including traditionally non-food stores. This is real. We’ve heard about it, but now we need to realize that this is real. As such, we need to make sure that we are visiting our competition more frequently. SEI has told us many times that they want us to look for regional items that best meet the needs of our guests, and ETA provides the best opportunity for us to do so.

Given the state of the economy and sales, we are all fighting for the same thing—more customers and increasing our bottom lines. What we need to do now is use ETA to find those regional customer-favorite products we can bring into our stores in addition to the store recommended items. This way we can increase our store traffic and raise awareness among our guests that we can compete with the non-convenience stores that have now become our rivals.

The weather has affected a majority of our stores with decreased sales, from the West coast to the East coast. It’s been a tough winter, but the warmer weather is coming and guest counts and sales will increase if we can put our effort into focusing on our stores and expanding the assortment we currently have.