IGT’s Steven Desautels is known affectionately in the U.S. lottery industry as “Nickels,” his nickname when he worked at Murphy USA. As the chain store’s lottery-category manager, he earned the moniker based on the representative commission paid for a $1 lottery bet. Last summer, Desautels made the leap from Murphy USA to join IGT as Director, Retail Sales & Marketing Execution, bringing his 35 years of direct retail experience to assist lotteries in working effectively with retailers.
On the Job Training
He began climbing the retail ladder at Publix Supermarkets as a part-time stocker, working his way up through the chain’s management system. “One of the most important principles I learned was ‘attention to detail.’ It still guides me in everything I do,” said Desautels.
He joined Mobil Oil, now ExxonMobil, in 1987 to manage one of its new-to-industry gas/convenience store locations.
“They said they were searching for someone who had an ‘eye for detail’—see the connection—to ensure their flagship store always looked top-notch,” he explained. “This is also coincidentally where I received my firsthand exposure to accounting and to selling lottery tickets. The most valuable lesson I learned there was to always look for ways to improve upon your current product offering, to stay ahead of your competitors.”
In 2005, he was recruited to Murphy USA—the fastest growing gasoline chain in the nation. It runs small 168-208 square-foot kiosks. The chain had 750 kiosks when he joined the team, and by the time he left in 2017 it had nearly doubled to almost 1,500 locations operating in 23 states, the majority in Walmart parking lots. Desautels said 90% of the products are sold on the outside of the store, with only two items sold behind the window: lottery tickets and tobacco-related products.
At Murphy USA, he managed a variety of categories, including what he dubs his personal favorite, “lottery/gaming.” He also gained critical insight on what drives consumer behavior around impulse purchases: “The one thing I can tell you is there is nothing tougher than trying to sell lottery tickets to consumers who can’t physically see them.”
He used all his experience to help improve the overall lottery-buying experience at Murphy USA. “With the help of my lottery partners and several display manufacturers, we worked together to develop custom merchandisers for all Murphy USA’s kiosks and walk-in locations,” he said.
But Desautels did more than just adopt merchandisers. His initiatives included monthly planograms, sales planners, and jackpot-communication initiatives.
He pumped up lottery sales in several states by launching Play-at-the-Pump and by conducting several gas-discount promotions for customers who purchased lottery tickets. He also mobilized Murphy USA with a digital marketing program that included a mobile app and social media.
Finally, he launched the Annual Lottery “Best Practices” meeting, an event that gave lottery representatives the rare opportunity to speak with every manager and District Manager in the company—inviting representatives from some jurisdictions where Murphy USA didn’t even have stores.
Between 2012 and 2014, lottery was the chain’s second-highest selling product category, representing 10.4% of total Murphy USA sales. By February 2015, lottery was also its third-most-profitable product category, with a margin of 6%. “It’s amazing how when you pay attention to detail and find ways to improve the offering, customers reward you with sales,” he emphasized.
Changing Career Paths
Desautels was drawn to the role on IGT’s Retail Sales & Execution Team because he wanted to expand his substantial knowledge of what drives consumers to buy a lottery ticket. He will focus on enhancements to identify growth opportunities, manage sales execution, improve visibility and broaden access to any type of retail location.
To that end, he is working with lotteries to implement chain-specific growth plans and take advantage of cross-jurisdictional opportunities. His goal is to align the latter with traditional grocery and c-store product management, easing retailers’ operations and path to success.
The individuals on IGT’s team have unique skill sets, allowing IGT to develop 11 specialized Retail Sales & Execution services that are customized to each lottery’s needs. Available as standalone solutions that easily integrate with third-party systems, the services are designed to drive growth in three focus areas: Sales Tools and Training to help boost the performance of lottery sales organizations; Business Development services to expand consumer lottery touchpoints; and Retail Sales Optimization to enhance product placement and trade marketing.
“Our corporate team aligns with the local IGT team to best understand the retailer and consumer environment,” explained Desautels. “We are also putting together programs that allow lotteries to leverage the work that our team conducts on a national and global level to influence major initiatives.”
He hinted at a new IGT project that will help lottery and retailers save time and money, adding, “I am confident these improvements will make lottery products more attractive to all types of retailers, even those we haven’t been able to offer our products to in the past.”