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Truckstop of the Future

Posted in: Truckstop Business

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If I have read it once, I have read it five times this week, the demise of the brick and mortar store is upon us and in roughly five years stores will become “inventory less distribution centers where people have fun.” At these stores of the future, customers will simply arrive at the store, check things out and then order what they want and in many cases the product will arrive even before they get home.

It sounds like a Star Trek episode on crack with Scotty beaming up your products to your home, right?

Regardless if you believe this timetable or not, there is an important lesson to learn. The old saying in retail is — you adapt or you die ­— and big and small retailers are talking and acting on this statement daily.

Picture this, competition rolls into town and your sales decline 25% to 40%. You do the McCauley Caulkin and grab/slap your cheeks. Oh MY! The red flag goes up and all aspects of the operation suddenly become important to be reviewed. How is my service, what about my messaging, what additional services do I need, etc.?

For our industry, especially with so many of our independent locations dying in the not too distant future, the lesson to be learned is adapt now. Why are you waiting?

I am pleased to say there are NATSO members out there who are proactively innovating. They know competition is coming to town, and it is not Santa Claus baring gifts, and they are taking action now prior to the competition’s doors opening. 

At the locations of recent Profitable Retail Program visits, Loco Travel StopRoady’s Lucky Deuces Casino LLCLaPlace Travel Center, LLC and Muralt's Travel Plaza, I witnessed strong leadership challenging the status quos of their operation. These innovators are improving customer service by hiring strong retail and serviced minded operators. They are challenging their message, product mix and offerings and they getting to really know their customers. 

So, what are you doing? Are you preparing your coffin or are you preparing for the next chapter in your operation’s life cycle? Nordstrom just announced that they are eliminating cash registers. Hmmm, did we not speak about retailers moving this direction soon? Those of us attending NATSO’s International Study Tour will get to witness digital kiosks in the London Subway that allows commuters to order products/food that arrives before they get home. Maybe it is not a Star trek episode on crack after all. 

Photo Credit: Ira Wexler/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.