In east-central Louisiana, it takes a local to know how well-traveled the back roads are as they are developed into wider highways. And the more traffic there is, the more business comes. “Most of the metro markets are mature and have all the big-name competitors,” says Todd St. Romain, CEO of St. Romain Oil Co. “We find better opportunity in small, under-developed rural markets.”

His c-stores offer more than just convenience. “I think in an underdeveloped rural market, you can be the liquor store, the cigarette shop, the McDonald’s, the KFC,” he says. “I can be the mini-grocery and the gas station all at one time. In a smaller, underdeveloped market, we can fill the needs of the consumer and be a multitude of stores in one. Our proprietary food service is probably what really attracts people. We have a strong food service offer.”

Read more: St. Romain Oil Co. LLC

Competition is fierce in the discount retail market,” says 40-year retail veteran Dave Mueller. The senior vice president of sales and marketing for fred’s Super Dollar stores knows that pricing is not the only  important factor to succeed in this sector.

To retain the competitive edge it has gained over its 65-year history, fred’s started a transformation in 2009 to change the way its 700 stores and pharmacies looked, how they were organized and displayed merchandise. The first new concept store opened in October of that year, close to the company’s headquarters in Memphis. The new concept performed well and fred’s has now more than 60 stores open with the new layout.

Read more: Fred's Super Dollar

The health revolution has seen a big push in the last few years. First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign promotes active lifestyles and proper nutrition, and several states have stepped in to make sure vending machines at their schools include a balance of healthy options. The federal government even has taken steps to define what “all-natural” means so food companies can’t mislead consumers with ambiguous packaging. These factors, coupled with media attention on rising obesity levels, have sparked a fire under the healthy eating trend.

Read more: Crunchies Food Co.

If you are looking for ketchup and diapers, do not go into Brennan’s Market. But, if you are looking for the highest-quality, eco-friendly fruit available, or great wine and cheese, then Brennan’s Market is the place in central Wisconsin.

For 70 years, the Brennan family has made it a priority to purchase directly from the products’ sources to ensure the stores’ produce, wine and cheese are of the best quality available. The owners and managers at Brennan’s Market personally visit and assess each farm, orchard, vineyard, microbrewery and cheese factory before purchasing anything. The company buys produce only from farms that engage in sustainable practices, treat their employees ethically and limit their use of pesticides.

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Among the reasons for Staples Canada’s success is its non-hierarchical structure. Steve Matyas, president of Staples Canada, relates that if he arrives at the company’s headquarters in Richmond Hill, Ontario, late in the morning, he parks at the back of the lot and walks, just like every other employee.

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You don’t need a sweet tooth to recognize Duff Goldman. As the owner and proprietor of Charm City Cakes in Baltimore, Goldman and his staff spent 10 seasons as the focus of Food Network’s breakout hit reality show, “Ace of Cakes.” Duff Goldman and Charm City Cakes became famous for their wildly imaginative cake designs. Using methods that often involved blowtorches and power tools, Goldman created cakes in such shapes as Radio City Music Hall for the Rockettes, Hogwarts Castle for the premiere of one of the “Harry Potter” films and even the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA.

Read more: Charm City Cakes

Since it was founded in 2001, Halfbrick Studios has staked out a leadership position in Australia’s game development industry. The company spent many years developing licensed titles for various platforms, including Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS and Sony PSP. More recently, the company has expanded its offerings, growing its portfolio by creating independently released downloadable games.

Read more: Halfbrick Studios

“Everyone sells the same products,” says Bielat, who serves as vice president of grocery merchandising for BJ’s Wholesale Club. “For BJ’s, it’s all about value. So, we continuously collaborate with our vendor partners to adjust sizes and pack configurations when necessary in order to differentiate ourselves from our competitors and preserve the value for our members. In doing so, we keep our members engaged in the categories, and bring in new members, as well.”

Read more: BJ’s Wholesale Club

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