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3 Tips For Convenience Store Success From The Co-Founder of OUNCE WATER

When we think about “success” in the food and beverage space, we often think of establishing a national presence on the same shelves as industry leaders and our biggest competitors. While getting product on these shelves is a major accomplishment on the road to a brand’s success, it’s possible many companies (including yours!) are overlooking the power of retailers they may never have considered: convenience stores.


Why You Should Care About Convenience Stores

If you consider the amount of foot traffic c-stores get, and the general motives of c-store shoppers (get in, grab a snack or drink, and get out!), it makes perfect sense that scoring placement in these retail locations can be a game changer.

“There are over 154,000 c-stores in the U.S., and every day they see approximately 1100 customers,” said Christina Korkowski, co-founder and COO at OUNCE WATER. “So, just thinking about those numbers and the potential volume that you could be moving for your product is tremendous, especially if you are a newer brand.”

With so much foot traffic every day, it is no wonder OUNCE WATER saw the road to their success in the Big Apple as going through the c-store network. Getting in multiple c-stores in a specific territory drives brand recognition and loyalty, and as your brand gains traction, the demand for it in other retailers will soon follow.



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OUNCE WATER’s Three Keys to C-store Success

As a bottled water company, OUNCE WATER was practically built to sell to the thousands of on-the-go shoppers that stop into a convenience store every day. But with so many bottled beverages competing for a relatively small sliver of prime shelf position in those small stores, how did OUNCE manage to stay above water?

Their secret was not only getting into c-stores, but acknowledging them as critical accounts once they had OUNCE on the shelves. Below, we will break down the three determining factors to getting and keeping shelf space in the convenience store market.


1. Capture Shoppers’ Attention Quickly

When you stop at a gas station to grab a drink, how much time do you spend inside? Probably no more than five minutes.

C-stores usually aren’t the place for bulk shopping. It is much more of a grab-and-go atmosphere. This is why the location and presentation of your product in the store are extremely important. Getting your beverage into coolers or “investing in display racks similar to coolers can sometimes double if not triple your sales,” Christina mentioned.

Here are a few ways to lead shoppers straight to your product:

  • Get your beverage product into coolers, as most shoppers prefer an ice cold drink over one at room temperature
  • Create display racks that draw shoppers' attention and engage them with your brand
  • Learn to negotiate with retailers to give you better shelf space
  • Ask retailers to shelve your product in the same section as your competitors

It all comes down to location, location, location. Cutting a deal with store managers to give you prime product real estate isn't always the easiest, but it can be one of the fastest ways to get infront of shoppers and increase your sales.



2. Find Passionate Team Members And Partners

Another element of OUNCE WATER’s success is their passion. You love your product, you believe in your product, and you want those you work with to feel the same. For example, Christina says “I feel like working with the same like minded people is extremely helpful. Business can sometimes be stressful, so you'd rather have fun doing it with the people that you work with.”

Still, the passion shouldn’t be limited to the members of your team. Drumming up excitement and enthusiasm for your product with c-store owners or managers is equally important.

Give these tactics a try when engaging with c-stores:

  • Educate c-store staff on your product and explain why its niche and profitable
  • Back up your claims with numbers and data
  • Offer managers and employees free samples or swag
  • Keep in contact with store managers and address any pain points with your product quickly
  • Encourage your team to constantly engage with retailers to develop strong retailer relationships

At the end of the day, if you can establish strong bonds between c-stores and your brand, managers and owners will be more invested in your brand both financially and emotionally. This creates what we can think of as a feedback loop – the more c-stores that feel passionate about selling your brand, the better your numbers will look when you begin pitching to new retailers!



3. Price Reasonably And Competitively

Finally, pricing. Christina says that for OUNCE WATER, pricing was of the utmost importance. And this doesn’t mean pricing for profit, but rather pricing for competition. She told us that “you have to make sure that your pricing is aligned with that of your competitors.”

OUNCE knew that their product was one-of-a-kind when it went to market. However, being “special” isn’t going to make much of difference to a thirsty customer, and truth be told, your unique beverage brand is never going to be unique enough to make a shopper pay $3.99 when they could pay $1.29 for something similar.

Instead of pricing at a premium, try this:

  • Offer promotions like "two for $4" instead of pricing things at $1.99 each
  • Learn from the successes and failures of your direct competitors
  • Explore different pricing strategies and see which ones are most practical for your product
  • Focus on strategies that sell more and sell faster, not sell at a higher price

Understand that you only have a few seconds to catch the shopper's eye, and their eyes are often directed at price. While small differences in pricing may not be perceived, a notably higher price won't help you increase revenue in the long run. 


All in all, OUNCE WATER is a great example of how brands can use c-stores to skyrocket their sales and grow their brand. Still, c-store success isn’t a given. It takes attention to detail and hard work. In parting, we will leave you with a final tip from Christina: “It's going to be a roller coaster of a ride, but work with your retailers, be a sponge, learn all that information, and take the risks and see where it takes you.”


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Melissa Sonntag

Melissa is a recent graduate of Northeastern University and a content marketing specialist at Repsly, Inc. She is committed to applying her skills in order to bring value to Repsly readers and customers. Outside of work, Melissa enjoys practicing yoga, making music, and anything dog-related.

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