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Make the Concept of Electronic Shelf Tags Work for You at Your Truckstop

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Marketing & Retail

Editor's note: Darren Schulte, NATSO vice president of membership, frequently visits NATSO members to review their locations and offers impactful merchandising and operations improvements. Contact Schulte at or (915) 526-5820 to learn more about the costs and details of this service.


Use of electronic shelf tags is on the rise. During a NATSO Study Tour in Europe, we saw electronic shelf tags in action. They have become much, much more common in Europe and are headed this way. Electronic shelf tags have several benefits, and the main idea is that you can change the pricing multiple times each day in a matter of seconds.

But, not everyone has the staff or resources to manage an electronic shelf tag program, so the question is how to make something like this work without making a significant investment. 

The solution? Use the idea of electronic shelf tags to start your thought process. You already know when you’re busy. Your register and your point-of-sale system tells you that.   

Look at your busiest times of the day, then consider what, if anything, you should be promoting during those hours. If you’re running a hot dog promotion, you may not want to do that when you are the busiest. If you do, you may be giving away profit dollars for no reason. Do you know why customers are coming to your location to purchase these hotdogs? Is it the taste, the condiments that you are offering, the great service, the speed of service, the price? Often it is not what we assume. 

Instead, promote hot dogs when you’re the least busy. Give customers a reason to buy one or a reason to come in. I’ve seen this same concept applied at Wendy’s with half-priced kids’ meals from 3:00 to 5:00 and at Sonic with its happy hour from 2:00 to 4:00 that features half-priced drinks.

Similarly, do you really need to promote additives in the winter when people need them? And should you promote coffee during the cold season or fountain drinks during the summer? Are there more revenue and profit friendly ways to accomplish the same goal, which is to drive traffic into your location to purchase more?

Maybe you should run the above types of promotions. I’m not saying there won’t be times when it makes sense to promote something that is already in demand, but I do believe you need understand why you’re making that decision. Doing promotions willy-nilly doesn’t get you anywhere except generating in most cases less profit dollars.

Make sure you have a plan behind your promotions. Maybe I am going to sell my fountain sodas during a certain time for the lowest price on the street, but I’m going to do that because I want to reinforce my value proposition. Now that is a plan. 

And you may want to dig deeper into electronic shelf tags. You may find that you can generate a return on your investment. The electronic label market is expected to be worth $1.4 billion by 2023, up from $392.2 million in 2017, so it is definitely a trend worth watching.

/// Did you know most weeks can find Darren Schulte, NATSO's Vice President of Memebrship, visiting a NATSO member truckstop location, spending three to four days, using his merchandising and operations expertise to help them grow their business? Learn about NATSO’s Profitable Retail Review program here.


 Photos Credit: NATSO 

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About the Author

Darren Schulte

Darren Schulte

Darren Schulte serves as Vice President of Membership at NATSO. In this role, he directs recruitment, retention and customer service for truckstop and travel plaza members. He is also responsible for developing NATSO products and programs, particularly those relating to education, research and training for truckstop and travel plaza operators.

Schulte also leads NATSO's Profitable Retail Review program. A Profitable Retail Review is a custom assessment of your truckstop, including recommendations for every aspect of your facility, from actionable ideas to improve revenue to tactical ways to improve your net operating costs. Learn about NATSO's Profitable Retail Review program here.

Schulte joined NATSO with nearly three decades of experience in truckstop and travel plaza operations and merchandising. Schulte has worked for: 

  • Love's Travel Stops and Country Stores,
  • HESS Corporation, 
  • Petro Stopping Centers, and
  • TSC Global/Barjan LLC.