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convenience store

How to Run a Convenience Store

Learn the ins and outs of running a profitable convenience store.

A convenience store can best be described as a one-stop shop, an all-in-one, or a grab and go. All of these monikers highlight its main attribute — convenience.

Encompassing a little bit of everything, the convenience store is a hybrid business. It might include a grocery store, gas station, liquor store, tobacco store, postal service, fast food restaurant, and more.

The convenience store industry in the U.S. made up to $601 billion in 2017. So how can you tap into this lucrative opportunity? The key is knowing how to deliver convenience. 

What customers really want

The main objective of a convenience store is to give customers what they truly want most — more of their time. By offering multiple services and products under the same roof, convenience stores do just that. In our fast-paced society, consumers are willing to pay big bucks for a few extra minutes.

As convenience is the name of the game, location is crucial. One major advantage corner stores enjoy is the opportunity for sustained success in many places, serving multiple types of customers.

The suburban parent, the blue-collar and white-collar worker, and the Millennial can each find value in shopping at a convenience store—the demand for quick and easy shopping is universal.

That being said, you need to recognize that location will influence your success. It’s important to be visible and accessible. You’ll want to make an informed decision about your location in terms of the number of passers-by you’ll attract.  

Be an expert in what you are selling

If you’re an “all-in-one” provider, it’s important to understand that you are faced with a high volume of both direct and indirect competitors. Other corner stores are your direct competitors and specialized stores, such as grocery stores, liquor stores, and others, are your indirect competitors.

Remember that they’re all fighting for that same slice of pie. Make sure that you can deliver a streamlined experience and superior customer service, whether it be in gas service and prices or your selection of ready-made foods.

This ties deeply into the importance of capital investment. You need to have the appropriate funds to start and support all initiatives for the services and products you intend to offer. At the end of the day, it’s better to not offer a service at all than to offer a service and execute it poorly.

You’ve got to walk before you can run

If you’re getting into the convenience store business, do not make the mistake of spreading yourself too thin. Trying to be everything to everyone is impossible. Know your limits, test the waters and, if anything, build up your store and your offerings a little at a time.

Once you establish who your primary customers will be, you will know what products and services you should be offering. The suburban family and the urban businessman may have different ideas of what convenience means to them and you’ll have to select your offerings accordingly. 

Work with your suppliers

Your suppliers are your bread and butter. You are dependent not only their products, but also on their support. Piggyback off their efforts and marketing assets because, in reality, your success is their success.

Ask for in-store material, possible promotions or any public relations initiatives you can support. A customer associating you with a brand they already know and trust builds up your own credibility. This will also improve your relationship with the supplier, making your relationship smooth and profitable.

Use the consumer buying process to your advantage

A convenience store is designed to offer customers the freedom to venture through the buying decision process quickly and in one place. This is a huge advantage for business owners. A customer will be able to search for information, evaluate alternatives, make a decision, and actually purchase all within the average three to four minutes they are in your store.

You may even be able to spark the first step in the process: problem recognition. Forty-five percent of customers who go buy fuel end up buying a beverage, and thirty-six percent go in the store to buy food. Capitalize on these last-minute purchases by offering a variety of “convenient” items within an arm’s reach.

Keep-up with trends

The nature of being a corner store owner is catering to your customers' needs and wants. Not only do you have to offer them the intangible benefits of time and simplicity, but tangible benefits as well.

Be aware of changes in their lifestyles and new trends they are following. For example, Americans are more health conscious than ever. Work this into your business by introducing wholesome brands or offering pre-made healthy food options instead of just hot dogs and frozen burritos, for example.

If you’re interested in owning one of the many convenience stores for sale in the U.S, you’ll have to tap into several different industries simultaneously. Giving customers the gift of time opens the gates to a very profitable business venture.

By considering the tips outlined in this article and diligently researching any stores available for sale, you can be on your way to a successful future as a convenience store owner.

Alternatively, you can browse through the hundreds of other sectors that have great businesses for sale so you can find the one that is right for you.

Bruce Hakutizwi

About the author

USA and International Manager for, a global online marketplace for buying and selling small medium size businesses. The website has over 60,000 business listings and attracts over 1.5 million buyers to the site every month.


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