Sell ​​your story | Convenience store news

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“Only a dollar!”

It was the sales pitch of the young man who worked in the hot, dusty market of the Cambodian countryside. Holding the trinkets on offer, he’s been impersonating my shadow for two or three minutes since he profiled me as a tourist and a new target for a sale.

If you have ever been to one of these markets, you know that when you enter the square, you are immediately surrounded by children who want to sell you things. It’s almost like wading through chest-deep squirming mud, keeping your arms above the level of the crowd’s heads as you try to make your way to a distant oasis of calm. Tiny hands hold everything from pencils to woodcarvings, and the cries of “Monsieur, Monsieur” are a veritable cacophony. Most of the time, I smile and keep going, hoping to pass them.

As a tourist, I wasn’t looking to buy anything real. I didn’t need any household items, live animals or fresh produce since I would be leaving town the next day. I was looking for a type of souvenir that I could bring back to remind me of my visit a tangible memory, if you will.

“The best quality and handmade. Just a dollar! became his mantra as we walked, him walking beside me as his head swiveled, keeping an eye out for the police. When I stopped to inspect the items, I saw that they were hand carved soapstone elephant figures that fit in the palm of my hand. Each elephant had its own identity and personality; a reflection of the time it took to make it and the craftsman.

Feeling relatively assured that the items hadn’t been mass-produced in China, I took the bait. “OK, tell me about these items. Where are they from?” The young man said his name was Samang and that he and his family lived in a village about eight kilometers from the city. According to Samang, he was a descendant of a long line stonemasons who created the temples and carved stone ornaments in the area.The figurines he sold were made from local stones and were hand cut and carved by members of his family from the rubble left behind when the commercial quarries finished their work with trucks and bulldozers.

Samang said he had a family of two brothers and four sisters and was the No. 5 in the line. His job was to bring the sculptures that the family and their friends made to the market each day. The proceeds from her sales were used to buy food for the family and to pay school fees for her siblings.

He then stopped his narrative, looked at me from his 4ft height, and held out his hands with the herd of pachyderms delicately balanced between his outstretched thumbs.

Over the years I have collected elephant figurines on my travels. Miniatures stand guard on my library shelf and every time I look at one or pick one up, it viscerally reminds me of where and when it was acquired.

Now, I’m fully aware that Samang was probably an excellent salesman, and the veracity of his story may be a little tenuous. However, I like to believe in the goodness of human nature and decided to take his story as true. I ended up buying a delicious green elephant with an intricate carving of a carpet on its back and the slight eyelash shadows. I also bought three more to bring back as souvenirs to friends. To this day, this elephant sits on my bookshelf guarding the stacks of papers and books on my desk.

Young Samang didn’t sell me an elephant figurine. He sold me a story.

There are dozens of other vendors selling soapstone carvings in the market that I could have purchased. However, Samang gave me the context and understanding of what he was doing and why he was doing it. Instead of just buying a souvenir from a store, I could now believe that I was supporting a family of ancient artisans who are still plying their trade despite the encroachment of modern technology. This is what made me buy from Samang and not from anyone else.

The same principle applies to any type of retail business. The customer wants to know the story behind the store, so to speak. What is it about this retail transaction that sets it apart from any other store on the street or in town?

As brick-and-mortar retail faces increasing challenges from online platforms and delivery services, we need a way to bring customers to our stores rather than having them go to someone else. . Most of us sell pretty much the same things: soft drinks, coffee, candies, crisps, cigarettes, etc. What can you do to distinguish yourself? How do you create your story?

I recommend carrying products from local producers and artisans, or specializing in a selection of products that are culturally or ethnically significant to your community and customers. Get serious about it dedicate at least 30% of your storage space to these types of items. Most importantly, you and your staff need to know the details of the products: where they come from, who made them, and what they are used for. There should be a wide selection of products to show the customer that you are committed.

It is essential that you promote the products and let people know that you have them in stock. In addition to promotional signage, consider tastings, supplier demonstrations or “meet the producer” days where you have a pop-up store set up in your home by the local producer.

Your story becomes one of helping local people succeed, or recognizing and supporting local cultural or ethnic communities.

A few examples I’ve seen recently:

  • On weekends, a convenience store serves Indian dishes made from family recipes while a sitar player performs, and their selection of craft beers is featured;
  • The owner of a store near a dog park offers a wide range of pet supplies and distributes free dog treats to his canine customers; and
  • A retailer promotes the fact that he is the third generation of his family to run the store and offers promotions based on family members and events. (“You have to try Uncle Dave’s cheeseburger.”)

If sourcing new products isn’t a viable strategy, then embrace the local community deeply. Support local organizations such as youth sports teams, a school, food bank, community center or any other entity that has a direct impact on the people who live around your store and shop there.

Host events that help your neighbors, like fundraising car washes or local farmers’ market days. If you host an event on your site, you will attract not only the friends and family of attendees, but also people who support their causes or products. Many of these people might be new to your store and when they see you in the future, they will associate you with the support of their friends and family, giving you an edge.

Take for example Bloom Healthy, a pop-up grocery store concept developed by Marion Henson in New York. Marion’s mission is to make organic fruits and vegetables accessible to everyone, whether they can afford it or not. Her program allows customers to “pay it forward” and purchase products on behalf of neighbors who are going through difficult times. Helping people help others eat healthy is a great story.

Whatever you do, be consistent and sincere. The story you tell should be your own and be obvious when someone looks around you. Of course, you also need to be a good retailer and provide products that have value for your customer. You can tell the best story in the world, but if the retail experience is bad, your customers won’t care about your story.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience store news.

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