Three Ways Truckstop Operators Are Using Partnerships to Grow Business

More and more retailers are joining together to form creative partnerships, which allows them to reach customers in new ways and spur sales. When brands join forces, it can help them create a better in-store customer experience and make a more memorable impression on customers.

More and more retailers are joining together to form creative partnerships, which allows them to reach customers in new ways and spur sales. When brands join forces, it can help them create a better in-store customer experience and make a more memorable impression on customers.

Examples of this major retail trend are popping up everywhere from big box stores to high-end retailers. Many major brands, including J.C. Penney, Macy’s and Best Buy, host branded pop-up stores in their locations. Both Nordstrom and West Elm offer opportunities for local, small retailers to create pop-up shops in store, offering everything from custom sugar cookies to small gift collections.

Target teamed up with British heritage brand Hunter to bring exclusive versions of their well-known rain boots and protective outerwear to Target’s customers. The latest partnership is one of 175 the retailer has done.

In the grocery segment, Schnucks supermarket opened an in-store shop showcasing artisanal cured meats by local specialty meat producer Volpi Foods. Some partnerships seem quite unique. The grocery retailer Aldi has partnered with Kohl’s, placing its upscale yet low-priced food in 10 Kohl’s department stores.

Increasing foot traffic and offering customers unique, in-demand products is always a priority for truckstop and travel plaza operators, and several NATSO members are taking an innovative, creative approach to grow their businesses by partnering with others. Here are three ways operators are finding power in numbers.

1 Bringing in the Locals:

At Deluxe Truck Stop in St. Joseph, Missouri, positioning a food truck in the parking lot just one day a week has increased inside sales. The food truck features homemade, fresh BBQ and the owner of the truck arrives at the location at 6:00 a.m. The food truck opens at 10:00 and stays open until he runs out of food. “He does 20 slabs of ribs every week and sells them in half slabs. Two weeks ago, he was sold out by 11:00. Sometimes there will be 25 people in line,” said Nick Wollenman, assistant general manager at the location. Wollenman shared the idea with operators during the Great Ideas! Session at NATSO Connect earlier this year.

The food truck moves locations throughout the week, and has a strong, local following. It has also drawn in customers from the industrial area located near the travel center. Wollenman said those customers are coming inside. “You get a foot-traffic customer or passenger vehicle you would have never captured before. I see people coming in and out,” he said.

Even better, many of those customers return, and not just for the barbeque. “I see them come back, and they’ll come in and maybe grab a sandwich,” Wollenman said.

2 Gaining Brand Recognition:

Pilot Flying J has created a store-within-a-store concept with Bass Pro Shops at two of its locations, providing Pilot’s guests with a selection of best-selling Bass Pro Shops merchandise and its Red Head brand of products. Currently the shops are in its locations in Lebanon, Tennessee, and Jamestown, New Mexico, and four additional locations are scheduled to open this year.

Stephanie Myers, a spokeswoman for Pilot Flying J, said the collaboration marked the first of its kind for both companies. “The partnership allows Pilot Flying J to continue exploring innovative ways to surprise and delight our guests for a better experience at our stores, while enabling Bass Pro Shops to reach new and existing customers during their travels,” she said.

So far, Pilot’s customers have been excited to see the company partner with a national retailer like Bass Pro Shops to bring the one-of-a-kind shopping experience and best-in-class products to select locations. “Pilot Flying J and Bass Pro Shops are

confident this partnership will continue to resonate with customers and provide further opportunity to expand this concept into additional stores and reach more guests throughout the country,” Myers said.

3 Focusing on Mutual Success:

Paul Bhardwaj, CEO and founder of Golden Oil, which operates four truckstops and is in the process of building its fifth, has had success partnering with stylists to operate salons. Bhardwaj said the key to success is keeping rent reasonable and investing in the equipment the stylist needs to perform well. “When you partner, you want the partner to be successful,” Bhardwaj said. “When I walk into the building as a customer, I don’t know the difference between what the truckstop is operating and what the stylist is operating.”

When getting started in a partnership, Bhardwaj focuses on finding the right person. “If I get bad service in the salon, I think the whole operation is bad,” he said, adding that he will help the right person get started, if needed. “If we are partnering with someone and he or she comes in and says, ‘I don’t have money to buy chairs or dryers,’ we do help them.”

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