Four Things Travel Store Managers Want

Truckstop operators know drivers are going to stop for food and fuel, but additional sales within the location's travel store can help boost profits while meeting drivers' other needs.


Truckstop operators know drivers are going to stop for food and fuel, but additional sales within the location's travel store can help boost profits while meeting drivers' other needs. Highway Business Matters talked with location managers to learn about their best selling items and drivers' top requests to help industry suppliers better understand their customers and, more importantly their customers' customers. Managers said they are looking for four things:

1. Variety
The success of the travel store at Wings of America in Avoca, Iowa recently led manager Steve Olson to make more room for expanded offerings. "We took out the arcade and spread the games around the driver area and the food court so we could add more clothing and increase our novelty and gift section," he said. "We carry everything from key chains to porcelain dolls and ceramic statues."

Cyndee Biggers, operations manager for Bowlin Travel Centers, in Albuquerque, N.M. capitalizes on her regional offerings to boost sales. Handmade Native American jewelry and southwest chili items do well. Other top sellers include South Dakota Black Hills Gold and fireworks.

Olson said driver compliance items such as logbooks are always popular, and they offer a wide selection. Five-Hour Energy drinks and bottled water also continue to do well at Wings of America.

2. Compelling Presentation
The right display can go a long way to boosting sales and managers are open to suggestions from their suppliers. Olson said the best addition to the travel store has been a hands-on display for in-cab GPS offerings.

GPS may be hot among professional drivers, but many travelers still seek out traditional maps. Biggers said, "It is surprising that we would sell maps even anymore with GPS, but that is what our travelers are asking for." The right display of paper maps can help draw in buyers.

To promote the top-selling items, Olson works with his supplier to create a flier every two months that he places in the restaurant and the drivers' lounge.

3. Solutions
Truckstop managers said meeting their customers' needs is paramount and they try to respond to driver requests. Because of customer feedback, Olson is looking to add TRANSFLO Express from Pegasus TransTech, technology that allows drivers to scan their bills of lading to submit them faster. "That is probably the top driver request we get," he said.

Bowlin Travel Centers frequently has drivers requesting particular brands they don't carry. "We just have to cut it off at a certain point and say, 'If you want to smoke, here are your choices,'" Biggers said. To help keep drivers happy, staff will recommend a cigarette that is similar to the one the customer wants. Industry suppliers can help educate staff by letting a location's employees know which products are comparable.

4. New Ideas
Bill Decker, manager of Davis Travel Center in Stony Creek, Va., said, "We are always on the lookout for bigger and better merchandise for our travel store." He added that industry suppliers can help him keep up with the hottest trends by passing along information on top sellers at other locations.

{HBM} Highway Business Matters is a brief semi-monthly newsletter created exclusively for companies that provide products or services to the truckstop and travel plaza industry. Highway Business Matters will keep you informed on trends, tactics, and tips to help you connect to the $65 billion truckstop and travel plaza industry. 

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