Sean Momin, vice president of operations for Port Auto Truck Stop, has extensive experience in the truckstop and travel plaza industry, but he said bringing in a fresh set of eyes through NATSO’s Travel Center Profit Toolbox program helped him see the business differently. As a result, he has made small, meaningful changes that have boosted sales and profits.
Darren Schulte, NATSO’s vice president of membership, visited the location and provided his insights and retail tips that have come from decades of industry experience as well as hundreds of site visits. “As retailers, we are there every day and we work hard, but over time we get blinders,” Momin said. “Having someone with Darren’s experience helps you see your business differently.”
Remove Duplicate Inventory
One thing Schulte pointed out was that Momin was carrying duplicate inventory, which was taking up valuable shelf space. “We didn’t realize we had two areas carrying the exact same product because there were two vendors setting it up,” Momin said. “We have notebooks in one area and then again two rows over. That is money that shouldn’t be sitting on the shelf.”
Momin said that after Schulte’s visit, he realized he had a four-foot section of windshield wipers, which was more than he needed. “We’re in Houston. Across the street is an auto parts store. People aren’t coming here to buy wipers,” Momin said. “They’re going to get what they need because it is an emergency item.”
Freeing up that space has enabled Port Auto to add new products, including novelty items, toys and stuffed animals, which Momin said sell at a higher price point.
Eliminate Trade Downs
Texas allows the sale of single beers instead of six packs, and Port Auto had 24-ounce as well as 16-ounce beers in its tubs positioned within the store. “Darren asked me why the customer would buy a 24 ounce when they could buy 16. He suggested we get rid of the 16-ounce in the tubs and keep them, as a minimum, as six-packs and sell the 24-ounce beer as the single,” Momin said, adding that he followed Schulte's advice even though he didn’t think it would make a difference. “Our sales went up, our profit margin went up. We haven’t heard any single customer complaint on that.”
Momin said one day, a customer approached the counter with a single 16-ounce from the cooler, explaining that there wasn’t one in the tub. The cashier told him that now Port Auto was only selling 16-ounces in six-packs, but he could get a single 24 ounce. “He said, ‘That’s okay, I’ll get a six pack,’” Momin said.
Momin said that retailers are often afraid that customers will overreact to change and go somewhere else, but he has seen that the same customers are coming in and now they’re spending a little bit more. “Within four days of making the change, I texted Darren and said, ‘You were right. I was wrong,’” he said.
During his visit, Schulte suggested Port Auto add a general manager to handle the day-to-day operations so Momin could focus on the overall operation. “That has also helped me out tremendously. It has freed me up on the vision,” Momin said.
Momin said having the general manager has given him the time to look for ways to increase efficiency. He recently connected with a company that expedites the onboarding process. The company makes sure all new hire forms are complete and correct before the new hire can begin work. “Before we’d bring employees in and they’d get started. We’d start training them, and then they’d be missing something. It may be information they didn’t have or they don’t have their certification like their food handlers permit,” Momin said.
The new system also links directly to Momin’s payroll system. “Before they would give me the info on a paper and I would type it in,” he said.
Momin said he plans to continue implementing Schulte’s advice as the company works through an upcoming remodel. The loca- tion has intentionally left some of its new-found space open and plans to dedicate it to grab-and-go food service. “We can have a better offering in grab and go, and those are higher margin items,” he said.
Port Auto also plans to add an apparel section targeted at intermodal workers at the nearby port. “We need to have a better selection of safety vests, gloves and hats,” he said.
Momin said the review was well worth his time and the financial investment. “The review paid for itself multiple times over in the first two weeks,” he said.
// Travel Center Profit Toolbox. Momin hired Schulte to deliver a Travel Center Profit Toolbox. A Travel Center Profit Toolbox is a custom assessment of your truckstop that includes recommendations for every aspect of your facility, from actionable ideas to improve revenue to tactical ways to improve your net operating costs. Don Quinn, NATSO Services’ vice president, or Schulte spend either one or two days at your location reviewing every aspect of your truckstop business from store layouts and product placement to ideas for growing your sales. After the review is complete, you receive a personalized, highly-detailed report of next steps. Contact Quinn at (703) 739-8572 or email@example.com to get information.
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