How can you make the most of the shorter days that winter brings? We spoke to a retailer that knows a thing or two about the changing seasons.
Cooma is the largest town in the alpine region of southern NSW. In addition to being a great tourist destination in itself, the town is also known as the gateway to the Snowy Mountains, with popular snowfields a convenient 70-95 minutes-drive away.
Kelly Lester owns and operates Region Service Station under the Shell banner. She says most would assume that the site is only busy in winter at the time of the ski season (which runs from the June long weekend until October long weekend). But the popularity of outdoor activities in the area keeps her busy year-round.
“My site is centrally located between the beautiful NSW far south coast and the Snowy Mountains,” she told Convenience World.
“Mountain biking, cycling, hiking, camping, water sports and fishing bring tourists by the droves in the ‘off season’ – being summer – as well as to observe the magnificence of the vast scenery and natural wonders to the region. New attractions are being explored all the time with 2021 seeing the trial of ballooning and battery powered foil board tours.”
And, with the Snowy 2.0 construction, things are booming in the community. But it’s in the winter months that the area “becomes a wonderland that comes alive”.
With no road bypass to the Snowy Mountains, Cooma provides various accommodation options and has all major petrol station suppliers operating in the town. Ms Lester’s site attracts regular local customers and new and returning visitors to the area. She says there’s a distinct difference between their needs.
“Tourists have lots of questions about road conditions, weather and snow reports, whether we carry Alpine diesel, rules on carrying chains, or directions,” she said. “Tourists also like to reload on supplies, confectionery, chips and drinks.
In contrast, locals/regular customers are topping up their vehicles with fuel, buying a drink or ice cream, and having their regular chit chat catch up with staff.
“Some regulars just drop in to buy the paper,” she said.
Products that perform well at Region Service Station during the winter months include alpine diesel/winter mix (diesel freezes at 0°C), ice scrapers, de-icer products, beanies, glasses, and hand and toe warmers. Ms Lester supports these within the store through good location and staff knowledge of the product.
Ms Lester’s advice to retailers looking to lift winter sales is to focus on the three S’s: stock, site and staff.
“Make sure you have your stock and site prepared,” she said. “Staff must have their game face on – winter tourists hit hard and fast, whether on their way to the snow or on their return journey home. Be ready!”
Read more about preparing your store for the winter months in the May-June issue of Convenience World magazine.