You Have Questions. We Have Answers.

One of NATSO’s primary roles is to deliver solutions to members’ challenges. Each day members tap into the expertise of NATSO’s staff for answers to some of their most pressing questions. Stop Watch compiled some recent member inquiries and sat down with Darren Schulte, NATSO’s vice president of membership, for detailed answers.


One of NATSO’s primary roles is to deliver solutions to members’ challenges. Each day members tap into the expertise of NATSO’s staff for answers to some of their most pressing questions. Stop Watch compiled some recent member inquiries and sat down with Darren Schulte, NATSO’s vice president of membership, for detailed answers.

Question: How often should I be turning merchandise?
Schulte: Stores that are managing their retail inventory successfully will have better turns and average sales per square foot than those that are not. Much like sales per square foot, it is difficult to identify what that goal should be when it applies to turns of retail merchandise. 

There is no good average because the locations in our industry have turns that are very inconsistent.

It is my belief, regardless of the average, that the goal should be 5.5 turns when all retail categories are combined. I believe 5.5 would be considered the best in class for our industry. Again, this would be for all categories available in our industry. Electronics, gifts and apparel will be much lower while cold vault, confections and beer will be much higher.

Keep in mind that strategy makes a difference in your turns just like it does with sales per square foot. If you are going to be the provider of electronics in the industry, your turns, GMROII and gross margin may be lower, but your annual sales, your sales per square foot, and your gross margin dollar production per sale will be higher. It does not mean it is right or wrong, it is just different.

Question: I wish my managers and/or employees brought me more ideas about how to serve the professional driver. How can I encourage and collect this information?

Schulte: There are several ways to engage employees. You can hold regular store meetings. Also, consider developing an idea board that allows staff to share ideas, and pick one or two good ideas every month to try. Reward staff with a free tank of fuel or a larger award if the idea sticks. You should also be sure to effectively service your employees so they can effectively service your customers. By doing so, you will increase their satisfaction and feedback.

Question: Am I the only one still doing payroll weekly? I’m considering changing to bi-weekly to save admin time and processing costs, but I wonder if that would be unheard of in this industry.

Schulte: Traditionally, salaried employees have been paid biweekly and staff who are hourly are paid weekly. However, I see more companies moving to biweekly for staff as well. You are not the last to move to every two weeks. However, if you make the change, keep an eye on your shrink. Theft loss often goes up after the first month or so as folks are struggling managing their cash. If your management is weekly as well, pay particular attention to them. 

Question: What is a typical average for sales per square foot?
Schulte: Typical is a challenge because each operator has different merchandise goals. Specifically, if a location is focusing on confections and another is focusing on electronics, you very well likely will have different sales per square foot with turns and gross margin dollar production being different as well. How locations focus on their gross margin return on inventory investment—GMROII—often impacts sales per square foot. A best practice goal would be to shoot for something above $500 per square foot a year.

Question: What do you do when a truck is left parked in your lot and what tools you can use to track down the owner?

Schulte: As a policy, your emergency preparedness plan or your security plan should include a section that highlights what you should do when you locate vacated trucks in your lot. There are several simple actions that you can take. First, take down all the information

you can that is on the truck, including color, make, trailer brand, license plate number, etc. This would be above and beyond the information such as company name, unit number, etc. Observe and identify anything that seems out of order, such as a foul smell, flat tires, broken glass, etc. Attempt to locate the company by means provided on the truck via telephone and/or the internet. If contacting the company fails, contact a towing service and/or the local authorities if something does not seem right. You should never attempt to enter the truck and or the trailer no matter what the circumstances are. Always refer to your organizations’ rules and regulations before doing anything 

Question: What is the recommended distance to advertise our travel center to truckers on billboards as they drive along the highway? For example, what is the optimum distance a truck driver would want to see where the next truckstop would be to refresh and refuel? Is it 50 miles, 100 miles, etc.?

Schulte: When I was growing up in the industry, one company said it was 40 miles out while another said to first begin advertising on billboards about the features and benefits of your operation 300 miles out. So, I am not sure if there is a right answer other than your billboards should be consistent. They should highlight messages that match your marketing campaign/ focus, and if you are going to place something on them other than your logo or information about clean restrooms, make sure it is something that drives customers into your operation. Identify words and pictures that create desire, needs or wants. Consider using words that tap into trends such as healthy foods, quick-service dining options or an awesome food experience.

Photo Credit: Jowdy Photography/NATSO



This article originally ran in Stop Watch magazineStop Watch provides in-depth content to assist NATSO members in improving their travel plaza business operations.

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