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W H AT ’ S N E X T I N C O N V E N I E N C E A N D F U E L R E TA I L I N G

Building Safety & Trust in a Time of Crisis The challenges convenience stores face amid COVID-19 are greater than any the industry has faced before, but retailers are working hard to meet them head-on.

MAY 2020 CSNEWS.COM

HOW TO OWN THE FAST & FRESH DINING OCCASION


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Servicing: Servicing: Philip Morris USA Philip USA Tobacco Company U.S. Morris Smokeless U.S. JohnSmokeless Middleton Tobacco Company John Middleton Nu Mark Nu Mark Nat Sherman Nat Sherman

©2020 Altria Group Distribution Company | For Trade Purposes Only ©2020 Altria Group Distribution Company | For Trade Purposes Only

3/6/20 2:43 PM 3/6/20 2:43 PM


VIEWPOINT

How Convenience Retailing Will Change After COVID-19 Post-pandemic business won’t be the same FEW OF US have

ever experienced such a dramatic disruption of our everyday lives and business than that caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. After benefitting from an initial surge of panicbuying, the convenience store industry is now experiencing nearly unprecedented demand destruction as millions of Americans are laid off or furloughed from their jobs.

C-store retailers should be prepared for anything as, even in a best-case scenario, things are not returning to “normal” any time soon. Retailers can expect, though, to see some consumer behaviors that parallel previous recessions, as well as some things that are unique to the current pandemic. Here are a few things they should plan for: • Consumers have already started to exhibit recession behaviors, according to IRI. They are switching to value brands, turning to private label, and focusing on cost vs. convenience. This could affect several c-store categories. • Convenience stores are seeing an increase in shoppers who typically would go to supermarkets for their grocery needs, according to an exclusive study by Convenience Store News’ parent company, EnsembleIQ. When the panic-buying ends, c-stores should embrace these new shoppers by enhancing their offerings of basic essentials such as milk, bread, eggs, and health and beauty items. • Health and wellness products, already on the rise at c-stores — especially CBD products — will become

even more important post-corona, as consumers will have a heightened attention to products that support their overall health and wellness. • Fuel volumes will take a big hit this year. The economic contraction caused by the virus is resulting in decreased demand and increased supply. • Home delivery by convenience store retailers has accelerated during COVID-19, and I believe home delivery will continue to grow in the industry. • Attempts to trace the source of supply chains — such as the blockchain efforts going on in the grocery industry — will become more important to the c-store retailer and supplier. This will enable consumers to see where their food and other products come from, and give retailers greater confidence that they can react faster to issues arising from contamination and similar supply problems. • Expect more consolidation. Let’s face it, some small retailers will not be able to survive this massive economic upheaval. Look for larger, healthier c-store chains to accelerate their acquisition strategies. • Cashierless stores, self-checkout and scan-andgo technology will move out of the experimental stage and become mainstay features of convenience retailing. For more thoughts on life and business after COVID19, see my blog at csnews.com/viewpoint. For comments, please contact Don Longo, Editorial Director, at (201) 855-7606 or dlongo@ensembleiq.com.

EDITORIAL EXCELLENCE AWARDS (2013-2020)

EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Brett Atherton Bolla Management

2018 Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award Finalist, Best Editorial Use of Data, June 2017

2013 Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award Best Single Issue, October 2012

2013 Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award Finalist, Best Profile, August 2012

2018 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Website Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2017 Business to Business, Editorial Use of Data, June 2017 2017 Eddie Awards, Folio: magazine Winner, Business to Business, Retail, Single/Series of Articles, May 2017 Honorable Mention, Business to Business, Retail, Single/Series of Articles, June 2016 2016 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2015 Business to Business, Retail, Single/Series of Articles, August 2015 2015 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Single Article, February 2014

2016 American Society of Business Press Editors, National Azbee Awards Gold, Best How-To Article, March 2015 Bronze, Best Original Research, June 2015

2014 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2013 Business to Business, Retail, Single Article, February 2013

2016 American Society of Business Press Editors, Midwest Regional Azbee Awards Gold, Best How-To Article, March 2015 Silver, Best Original Research, June 2015

2013 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2012

Edward Davidson ER Davidson & Associates (7-Eleven Inc., retired) Jim Hachtel Eby-Brown Co. Chris Hartman Rutter’s

Jack Lewis GPM Midwest

2015 American Society of Business Press Editors, Midwest Regional Azbee Awards Gold, Best Special Supplement, November 2014 Silver, Best Profile (long form), February 2014

4 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

Rick Crawford Green Valley Grocery

Ray Johnson Speedee Mart

2015 American Society of Business Press Editors, National Azbee Awards Silver, Best Profile (long form), February 2014

2013 American Society of Business Press Editors, Midwest Regional Azbee Awards Bronze, Best Editorial/Commentary, July 2012

Laura Aufleger OnCue Express

2016 Trade Association Business Publications Intl. Tabbie Awards Silver, Front Cover Illustration, June 2015

Joe Lewis ExtraMile Convenience Stores Ruth Ann Lilly GPM Investments Danielle Mattiussi Maverik Inc. Vito Maurici McLane Co. Inc. Jonathan Polonsky Plaid Pantries Inc. Greg Scriver Kwik Trip Inc. Bill Stein Core-Mark Roy Strasburger StrasGlobal


CONTENTS MAY 20

VOLUME 56 N UMB ER 5

18 64 30 FEATURES

DEPARTMENTS

COVER STORY

VIEWPOINT

STORE SPOTLIGHT

30 Building Safety & Trust in a Time of Crisis The challenges convenience stores face amid COVID-19 are greater than any the industry has faced before, but retailers are working hard to meet them head-on.

4 How Convenience Retailing Will Change After COVID-19 Post-pandemic business won’t be the same. 10 CSNews Online

64 Where Traditional Meets Contemporary The inaugural Huck’s Market features a vintage, yet modern store design that houses highquality food and beverage offers.

OUT & ABOUT

INSIDE THE CONSUMER MIND

60 What Drives Loyalty? New shopper research examines what it takes to create “customer advocates.”

18 Fresh Times Four Eby-Brown unveiled multiple new foodservice programs at its 2020 Eby-Expo East trade show.

78 A Loyal Bunch Three-quarters of convenience store shoppers patronize the same store every time.

OUT & ABOUT

20 Virtual Learning The 2020 NACS State of the Industry Summit adapted to COVID-19 challenges. 22 New Products SMALL OPERATOR

26 Hello, Neighbor Platte Street Mercantile is on a mission to fulfill the previously unmet needs of its community.

22 6 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

NEW HORIZONS

62 Equal Pay for Equal Work The old refrain still has relevance today.

78


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4/2/20 12:21 PM


CONTENTS MAY 20

VOLUME 56 N UMB ER 5

14

8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Ste. 200, Chicago, IL 60631 (773) 992-4450 Fax: (773) 992-4455 www.csnews.com Direct Mailing Address for Convenience Store News: 11-43 Raymond Plaza West, 16th floor, Newark, NJ 07102 BRAND MANAGEMENT Vice President/Group Brand Director Paula Lashinsky (917) 446-4117 plashinsky@ensembleiq.com EDITORIAL Editorial Director (201) 855-7606

Don Longo dlongo@ensembleiq.com

Editor-in-Chief (201) 855-7608

Linda Lisanti llisanti@ensembleiq.com

Senior News Editor (201) 855-7618

Melissa Kress mkress@ensembleiq.com

Associate Editor (201) 855-7619 Associate Managing Editor (201) 855-7604

INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

38

12 Convenience Stores Weather COVID-19 Restrictions 14 Community Service Spotlight 14 Fast Facts 15 Retailer Tidbits 16 Supplier Tidbits

CATEGORY MANAGEMENT FOODSERVICE

36 Pivot You Must Datassential shares three key c-store takeaways from its ongoing coronavirus research. FOODSERVICE

38 Owning Fast & Fresh Dining Convenience foodservice retailers are fighting to stake a claim to the high-speed, high-quality dining occasion through a variety of competitive initiatives. TOBACCO

48

Angela Hanson ahanson@ensembleiq.com Danielle Romano dromano@ensembleiq.com

Contributing Editor (303) 741-3377

RenĂŠe M. Covino reneek@aol.com

Contributing Editor (201) 280-2614

Tammy Mastroberte tmastroberte@gmail.com

ADVERTISING SALES & BUSINESS Associate Brand Director & Northeast Sales Manager (508) 385-2524

Rachel McGaffigan rmcgaffigan@ensembleiq.com

Associate Brand Director & Western Sales Manager (330) 840-9557

Ron Lowy rlowy@ensembleiq.com

Associate Publisher & Midwest Sales Manager Kelly Fischer (773) 992-4464 kfischer@ensembleiq.com Account Executive & Classified Advertising Terry Kanganis (201) 855-7615 tkanganis@ensembleiq.com Classified Production Manager Mary Beth Medley (856) 809-0050 marybeth@marybethmedley.com EVENTS Executive Vice President, Events & Conferences Ed Several (860) 830-8321 eseveral@ensembleiq.com AUDIENCE List Rental (847) 492-1350 ext.318

MeritDirect Elizabeth Jackson

Subscriber Services/Single-Copy Purchases Omeda (847) 564-1468 CVN@Omeda.com PROJECT MANAGEMENT/PRODUCTION/ART Vice President, Production (877) 687-7321 Creative Director (973) 607-1320

Derek Estey destey@ensembleiq.com Colette Magliaro cmagliaro@ensembleiq.com

48 Innovation Infusion A steady influx of limited-edition products is keeping the cigars segment solid.

Advertising/Production Manager (773) 992-4418

Ed Ward eward@ensembleiq.com

Art Director (973) 607-1321

Lauren DiMeo ldimeo@ensembleiq.com

CANDY

CORPORATE OFFICERS

52 Seasonal Confection Opportunities Unwrapped C-store supplier partners share three key pieces of advice to leverage the segment.

Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Litterick Chief Financial Officer Jane Volland Chief Innovation Officer Tanner Van Dusen Chief Human Resources Officer Ann Jadown Executive Vice President, Events & Conferences Ed Several Senior Vice President, Content Joe Territo

TECHNOLOGY CONVENIENCE STORE NEWS AFFILIATIONS

57 Operating on All Cylinders Efficiency at both the store and corporate levels comes from communication and data.

Premier Trade Press Exhibitor

The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the consent of the publisher. The publisher is not responsible for product claims and representations.

Convenience Store News (ISSN 0194-8733; USPS 515-950) is published 12 times per year, monthly, by EnsembleIQ, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Ste. 200, Chicago, IL 60631. Subscription rates: $125 for U.S. addresses; $190 for Canadian addresses; $275 for all other addresses. Single copies (pre-paid only): $20 in the U.S. Foreign single copy sales (pre-paid only): $85.00. Periodical postage paid at Chicago, IL 60631, and additional mailing addresses. Copyright 2020 by EnsembleIQ. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Reprints, permissions and licensing, please contact Wright’s Media at ensembleiq@wrightsmedia.com or (877) 652-5295. POSTMASTER: send address changes to Convenience Store News, PO Box 3200, Northbrook IL 60065-3200.

8 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m


chain fanatics. ich means we’re also supply wh cs, ati fan sh fre ’re we We can’t help it— fanatics. bility fanatics. Food safety ina sta Su cs. ati fan y alit qu d And innovation fanatics. An h ours. g your business along wit And fanatics about growin

FRESHDELMONTE.COM

1-800-950-3683

Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Inc

DEL MONTE word mark and the Del Monte Shield Logo are registered trademarks used under license from Del Monte Foods, Inc. © 2020 Del Monte International GmbH . All rights reserved.


CSNEWS ONLINE

TOP VIEWED STORIES

1

C-store Chains Close Stores After Workers Test Positive for COVID-19

Convenience stores remain open, taking enhanced steps to offer safe environments for their customers. However, several retailers made the decision to shutter locations for deep cleaning after employees contracted the novel coronavirus. They later reopened to welcome back customers.

2

BP Thanks Local Heroes With Free Food & Fuel Discounts

3

Visa Denies Request to Delay Oct. 1 EMV Deadline

4

Federal Judge Approves Delay of PMTA Deadline for Vapor Products

The oil producer and convenience store operator will provide up to $2 million in free coffee, fountain drinks or hot dogs, and fuel discounts to first responders, nurses, doctors and hospital staff. Fuel discounts are available exclusively at BP and Amoco stations, while the free drink or food offers are available exclusively at ampm stores in Washington, Oregon, Nevada, California and Arizona.

EMV liability on the forecourt is still on target to shift in less than six months. Despite requests by NACS, the Merchant Advisory Group, Petroleum Marketers Association of America, NATSO and Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America, Visa Inc. denied the request to delay the shift for automated fuel dispensers, stating that it is monitoring the situation and believes it is too soon to determine if a delay is needed.

Tobacco and vapor companies have an extra four months to file their premarket tobacco applications (PMTA) for newly deemed tobacco products with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). District Judge Paul Grimm of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland approved the FDA’s request to move the deadline from May 12 to Sept. 9.

5

Wawa, QuikTrip & Sheetz Top C-store Industry in Driving Loyalty

New research from The Coca-Cola Co. on customer loyalty across the convenience, grocery, value (dollar) and drug store channels reveals which characteristics drive trial, frequency and loyalty, and which retailers are succeeding at creating “customer advocates,” or consumers who will recommend that retailer to other shoppers. In the convenience channel, Wawa Inc. tallies the highest advocacy score, at 45 percent, followed by Sheetz Inc. (42.2 percent) and QuikTrip Corp. (42 percent).

BLOG

What Will Convenience Retailing Look Like A.C. (After Corona)? When the panic buying and sheltering-in-place subsides, convenience store retailers should expect to see some behaviors that parallel previous recessions, as well as some things that are unique to the current pandemic, Don Longo, editorial director of Convenience Store News, writes in a new blog post. For example, convenience stores are seeing an increase in shoppers who typically would go to supermarkets for their grocery needs, according to an exclusive study by CSNews’ parent company, EnsembleIQ. This may change when the panic-buying spree ends but, if c-stores are smart, they’ll embrace these new shoppers by enhancing their offerings of basic essentials like milk, bread, eggs, and health and beauty items. 10 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE

FriendShip Kitchen Cooks Up Expansion Through New Builds & Remodels Upon walking into FriendShip Food Stores’ first FriendShip Kitchen store in Elyria, Ohio, it’s immediately apparent why the company has such faith in this new store concept. Open and airy, with the fresh food offering a dominant focal point for those who enter through the main doors, FriendShip Kitchen looks the part of a c-store customers can trust to provide a fresh and tasty bite to eat. The Elyria store was the first of three new-to-market FriendShip Kitchen stores to open in 2018, followed by four remodeled and upgraded locations. Another new build is slated to open this spring. More locations are likely, but dependent on local planning and permitting. For more exclusive stories, visit the Special Features section of csnews.com.

MOST VIEWED NEW PRODUCT

Social Distancing Floor Graphics CStore Promo is making six social distancing floor graphics available to retailers for no charge. Store operators can print and place the decals 6 feet apart in their stores to help customers practice proper social distancing. A downloadable file contains all six versions, and each one is fully scalable to any size and ready to send to a printer. The original size is 18 inches by 18 inches; the minimum recommended size is 6 inches by 6 inches; and the maximum recommended size is 24 inches by 24 inches.

CStore Promo Omaha, Neb. cstorepromo.com


OutdOOr EMV:

infographic

Where Are You on the

rOad tO rEadinEss? Visa has postponed its outdoor eMV deadline to April 17, 2021, and the other credit card brands may do something similar. this creates a great opportunity for fuel chains and c-stores to hit the gas and make it to their destination in time. Complete this itinerary to find out how you’re doing. When you have checked all the boxes in each section, you can mark it complete!

1

2

3

FACT:

idEntiFY FundinG rEsOurcEs.

Plan YOur rOutE. We have….

JUST %

We have identified/secured… ❏ funding ❏ negotiated fuel dispenser discounts

❏ prioritized sites with higher volume and/or higher fraud ❏ identified sites needing dispenser replacements vs. upgrades ❏ balanced whole sites shutdowns versus rolling dispenser installation

41

of sites are expected to have Outdoor EMV in time.

STEP COMPLETED

FACT:

❏ each store’s forecourt credit card fraud rates ❏ our fuel/credit card brand requirements ❏ which stores require more bandwidth ❏ the age/condition of all dispensers

STEP COMPLETED

chOOsE an MnsP, as rEquirEd bY VEriFOnE and strOnGlY rEcOMMEndEd bY GilbarcO. We have: ❏ assessed each store’s network security status ❏ defined secure remote access requirements for all devices ❏ fully vetted MnSP cybersecurity capabilities ❏ determined the MnSP offers the managed services and store services we need

STEP COMPLETED

in outdoor EMV financing will save

❏ are collaborating with our PoS provider and MnSP ❏ will upgrade dispensers while waiting for certified software ❏ have a defined process to respond to cybersecurity threat alerts

STEP COMPLETED

$127k

5

hit thE Gas. We…

4

STEP COMPLETED

$55k

GEt thE Facts. We know…

FACT:

potential chargebacks for noncompliant dispensers over 7 years will exceed

$201k per site

in chargebacks over seven years

6

sPrEad thE WOrd. We are….

❏ promoting card dipping in signage/marketing ❏ educating customers on eMV value ❏ training employees to coach customers

STEP COMPLETED

WhErE arE YOu On thE rOad tO rEadinEss?

FACT:

from 2017-2018 counterfeit fraud dropped

46% inside c-stores thanks to EMV, while rising

36% at the dispenser. Sources: Conexxus, Digital transactions

5-6 sections complete: Stay on top of project details to cross the finish line

3-4 sections complete: Work with your MnSP to overcome delays

0-2 sections complete: MnSP expertise is imperative to catch up

rEachinG thE dEstinatiOn Becoming outdoor eMV compliant by the deadline is not easy. Working with a qualified, certified MnSP like hughes can help you get there faster and maximize your benefits. SPONSORED BY


INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

Convenience Stores Weather COVID-19 Restrictions Majority of operators polled say emergency measures are causing a decline in sales continues to grapple with the spread of COVID-19, the convenience store industry is feeling the effects of stayat-home directives and other restrictions.

AS THE COUNTRY

Three-quarters of U.S. convenience store retailers report that the nation’s social distancing and other emergency measures enacted to slow the spread of the virus have had a negative impact on their sales, according to a recent online poll conducted by Convenience Store News. Of the more than 150 c-store retailers who took part in the poll, only 8 percent said their sales levels haven’t changed significantly since the outbreak. The other 16 percent report an uptick in sales, likely due to panic-buying by consumers. Among other findings: two-thirds of convenience store retailers said they are having trouble staying in stock with indemand products like household cleaners and paper products. Another 10 percent said they cannot keep their store shelves stocked due to intense customer demand. However, 21 percent countered that they haven’t had an issue with product fulfillment during this crisis. More than half of the respondents (58 percent) said they haven’t made any changes to their store hours during the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, about a quarter (26 percent) have scheduled extra

time for store resets and cleaning given the current circumstances. The biggest workforce management challenge, according to c-store retailers, is preventing the spread of the virus among their workforce, cited by 45 percent of respondents. Other workforce issues cited include finding extra staff to support increased demand in certain areas of the enterprise, such as transportation workers and store workers calling in sick. Fifteen percent say they are offering payment, financial support and other services to employees who are temporarily displaced from their jobs.

Business Shifts

The effects are also being seen as some publicly traded convenience retailers have announced adjustments in their business expectations for the rest of the year. Casey’s General Stores Inc. withdrew its financial guidance for its fiscal year 2020 as consumer behavior shifts. The Ankeny, Iowa-based retailer is taking a number of immediate steps to optimize cash flow, including: deferring capital spending, such as new store construction and replacement stores; reviewing terms of payment to suppliers; reducing inventory levels throughout its stores and supply chain; adjusting hours of operation at almost all stores, limiting 24-hour and extended-operation stores; and reducing prepared food production to reduce in-store stale costs. Findlay, Ohio-based Marathon Petroleum Corp. is also taking several steps to weather the current challenges. They include deferring or delaying certain capital expenditures and reducing expenses across the business.

COVID-19 April Milestones MARCH 29, 2020

APRIL 8, 2020

APRIL 10, 2020

President Trump extends the federal social distancing measures to April 30.

The Army & Air Force Exchange Service opens a mobile field exchange in New York City to support military and medical personnel on the front lines of COVID-19.

Wawa Inc. joins other convenience store retailers in setting aside daily shopping hours for at-risk individuals.

12 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

APRIL 14, 2020

A new AAA report states U.S. gas demand is experiencing “fast and furious destruction.”

APRIL 15, 2020

The majority of U.S. taxpayers receive their federal stimulus checks via direct deposit from the Internal Revenue Service.

APRIL 16, 2020

President Trump unveils “Opening Up America,” a phased-in plan to restart the economy beginning by May 1.


In addition, Westlake, Ohio-based TravelCenters of America Inc. furloughed roughly 2,900 field employees, as well as approximately 122 corporate employees, as its full-service restaurant business feels the effects of states’ stay-at-home orders.

Responding With Innovation

At the store level, many retailers are trying new ways to meet the needs of customers. They’re also taking steps to thank their employees for their hard work on the front lines. Among the most recent initiatives: •R  aceTrac Petroleum Inc. launched an online ordering platform. •S  heetz Inc. and Stripes teamed up with thirdparty delivery platforms. •F  riendShip Stores introduced the FriendShip Cares Bonus program, which provides store employees with a $2-an-hour bonus, and $100-per-week bonuses to store managers, district managers and facilities team members. •W  awa Inc. set aside 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. daily at its New Jersey stores to accommodate customers who are considered high-risk individuals.

Legislative Measures

Help could be on the way. In mid-April, U.S. Reps. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) and Dwight Evans (D-Pa.) introduced H.R. 6567, the Giving Retailers and Our Convenience Employees Relief Act, or GROCER Act. The measure would establish a federal tax holiday for c-store and grocery employees from Feb. 15 through June 15 for individuals making less than $75,000 annually. It would also allow the U.S. Treasury to

APRIL 17, 2020

TravelCenters of America furloughs 3,000 employees as the health crisis impacts sit-down restaurant demand.

APRIL 20, 2020

Oil prices enter negative territory as demand crashes around the globe.

extend the benefit for an additional three months. “Our grocery and convenience store employees are serving on the front lines, making sure the rest of us have the food and other crucial supplies we need to get through this pandemic,” Evans said. “This bipartisan four-month income-tax holiday would be a way to thank these vital workers and help them meet their own needs.” NACS, the National Grocers Association and NATSO expressed support for the bill. “Convenience store associates are indeed on the front line of the COVID-19 crisis in every community around the country by providing the food, fuel and necessities required by their customers,” said NACS CEO Henry Armour. “The relief provided by the GROCER Act is a welcome response to these heroes who have continued to serve their communities.” In a separate measure, President Donald Trump on April 24 signed a $484-billion aid package that includes relief for small businesses. Trump said most of the funding in the bill would flow to small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program, which is designed to provide money to small businesses to help them keep workers on their payroll.

APRIL 21, 2020

APRIL 23, 2020

APRIL 24, 2020

The Food and Drug Administration authorizes the first athome COVID-19 test.

Marathon Petroleum Corp. announces an update to its 2020 business plan. Among the changes being made: deferral of some capital expenditures for the year.

President Trump signs a $484-billion rescue package that includes relief for small businesses.

M AY

2020

APRIL 27, 2020

A few states begin to lift restrictions, including Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi and Montana.

Convenience Store News

13


INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

Community Service Spotlight Altria Group Inc. donated $500,000 to the Community Foundation of Greater Richmond’s COVID-19 Response Fund in central Virginia. The tobacco company is also working with its manufacturing communities to respond to priority needs.

FAST FACTS

$1.86 The national average gas price dipped to $1.86 in mid-April, marking a steady seven-week decline as stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on demand.

7-Eleven Inc. provided all of its corporate stores and franchisees with a supply of masks and donated the remaining 1 million masks to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

EG Group is giving away free coffee to healthcare workers, first responders and military personnel. The offer is available across its U.S. c-store network.

— AAA

64.4

%

Since the novel coronavirus began to spread across the United States, 64.4 percent of consumers have reported a decrease in spending at convenience stores. — TrendSource

41% U.S. restaurant customer transactions declined by 41 percent in the week ending April 5 vs. a year ago, on par with the previous week’s decline. — The NPD Group

14 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

Circle K pledged to donate 25 million meals to Feeding America in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting April 10, for every fuel transaction, one meal is being donated to the Feeding America network. Mars Inc. committed $20 million to global coronavirus response efforts. Its support will include a $5 million donation to CARE to support developing nations, and $2 million to the United Nation’s World Food Program. Dash In provided $200,000 in unrestricted grants to four major food banks operating across the Mid-Atlantic region. Each food bank received $50,000.

The retailer pledged to match the first $5,000 raised.

In partnership with sister company McCraw Oil, Kwik Chek joined the #TexansHelpingTexans and #OklahomansHelpingOklahomans initiatives. Customers can contribute by adding $1, $3 or $5 to their total at checkout.

Marathon Petroleum Corp. gave N95 respirator masks to 45 hospitals and other healthcare organizations in 20 states. The Marathon Petroleum Foundation also made a $1 million donation to the American Red Cross.

Danone North America donated $1.5 million to food banks and rescue organizations, including New Yorkbased City Harvest and Feeding Westchester, and Colorado-based Community Food Share and We Don’t Waste. PepsiCo and the PepsiCo Foundation kicked off a $45-million initiative focused on helping the people and communities most affected by COVID-19. Investments are centered on nutrition and meal distribution.


Retailer Tidbits Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. dropped its bid to acquire Caltex Australia Ltd. citing the global uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the company said it remains confident of the deal’s longterm financial and strategic merits.

RaceTrac Petroleum Inc. launched RaceTrac Debit Cards in partnership with Zipline. The private label debit platform is being piloted at 140 stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Pilot Co. introduced Push4Points as a way to thank professional drivers. The program, which runs through June 30, awards drivers more loyalty points on diesel fuel purchases.

Sheetz Inc. went live with a new contactless payment option, SHcan & Go. Customers can use the mobile payment option for everything except gas, agerestricted items, made-to-order food, and Sheetz Brothers Coffee. Casey’s General Stores Inc. tapped Cardtronics to provide turnkey ATM services for its c-stores. The multi-year pact covers the retailer’s more than 2,000 locations. Rutter’s debuted an enhanced mobile app in late March. Its “2.0 app” gives customers more personalization, unique VIP offers, and the ability to go completely cardless.

The straws will completely degrade in less than six months in a composting environment.

Stewart’s Shops switched from plastic straws to plant-based straws. Made from corn, they are 100 percent renewable, BPI-certified compostable and ASTM compliant.

M AY

2020

Convenience Store News

15


INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

Supplier Tidbits

Core-Mark International Inc. launched Track My Order, a GPS-tracking program that provides its customers with real-time updates on their delivery status.

Ferrero plans to add 50 local jobs within the center’s first year of operation.

GasBuddy launched a new “Deal Alerts” feature in its mobile app. The tool gives drivers below-advertised gas prices that are tailored to individuals based on location, retailer- and partner-funded discounts, and frequency of app use. Rich Products kicked off its 75th year in business by making three acquisitions. The company added Rizzuto Foods, Morey’s Seafood International, and two manufacturing plants from TreeHouse Foods.

Ferrero USA Inc. opened a new distribution center in Goodyear, Ariz. The 643,798-square-foot facility was scheduled to begin operations by mid-March. British American Tobacco (BAT) filed patent infringement claims against Philip Morris International (PMI). BAT alleges that PMI’s IQOS device uses heating blade technology found in its glo heat-notburn device. JDA Software Inc. changed its name to Blue Yonder as part of a rebranding initiative. The move better aligns the company’s name with its cloud transformation and product roadmap.

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OUT & ABOUT

Fresh Times Four Eby-Brown unveiled multiple new foodservice programs at its 2020 Eby-Expo East trade show By Angela Hanson CONVENIENCE DISTRIBUTOR Eby-Brown Co. LLC had a lot cooking at its 2020 Eby-Expo East, the first of the company’s two annual trade shows. It debuted four new foodservice programs at the event, including fried chicken, barbecue and two pizza programs. All four include training and dedicated support from the Naperville, Ill.-based distributor.

The four new programs are:

Perfectly Southern

This fresh fried chicken program features eight piece bone-in, tenders and wings with proprietary breading in spicy and mild varieties for a distinct flavor. Marketing support includes proprietary branding for paper goods and sauce dip cups, as well as window clings, banners and kiosk headers.

Delicious BBQ

Genuine, slow smoked, fully cooked barbecue items let retailers offer a variety of proteins, including pulled pork, pulled chicken, beef brisket and smoked sausage, as well as a variety of classic sides. The menu can range from single sandwiches to full meal deals. A wide variety of sauces, ranging from standard BBQ sauce to Caribbean Mango to Moonshine BBQ, can be presented as self-serve condiments or included as part of the order for retailers wanting to offer a full-service experience.

Vai Fresco

This frozen pizza program offers the four most popular pizza varieties — cheese, pepperoni, supreme and breakfast — with

the crust serving as a point of distinction. The handstretched crust has a high-quality crisp texture that is still soft and tender when bitten into. Vai Fresco pizzas can be available as take-and-bake or served hot and fresh in-store.

Red Seal Pizza

Offered as a full-component pizza program, Red Seal lets retailers set their own skill level and decide the specifics of what they’ll offer using provided recipes or the ability to build their own. Available ingredients include known brands used in Italian kitchens across the country courtesy of Richmond, Va.-based Performance Food Group (PFG), which acquired Eby-Brown in 2019. All four new programs are free of franchise fees and designed to be scalable, from small and low-volume stores to larger locations with heavy foot traffic. Training options include hands-on, in-store training with Eby’s foodservice managers, as well as videos and print materials. The new programs reflect the strengths of EbyBrown’s merger with PFG, which has allowed it to act as more of a broadline distributor, according to Curt O’Rourke, executive vice president of merchandising and procurement. “The advantage it gives us is it lets our customers choose from such a wide variety of products without our warehouses having to stock and carry them on an everyday basis,” O’Rourke said, adding that Eby-Brown can work with a retailer as they start with a roller grill operation and then grow into a quick-service restaurant competitor. The wide variety of products and ingredients offered can help c-stores build their own flavor profiles and unique foodservice programs, but he noted that service is as important as the selection. “You don’t go to McDonald’s and see they don’t have Big Macs today,” O’Rourke said. “It’s critical we have those components in stock for them.” The programs’ customizability is their strongest point, added Sharon Kuncl, vice president of merchandising, foodservice, who noted that Eby can work for everyone from “truck stops with 20 feet of food” to “a guy working out of a crock pot.”

The 2020 Eby-Expo East took place in Cleveland March 11-12.

18 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

“I’m excited about the diversity that we’re going to be able to bring to that space, and being able to service a lot of our customers with their needs in a lot of different ways,” she said. CSN


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OUT & ABOUT

Virtual Learning The 2020 NACS State of the Industry Summit adapted to COVID-19 challenges By Angela Hanson & Don Longo

the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic by turning its annual State of the Industry (SOI) Summit into a virtual experience. The event, originally scheduled to take place April 7-9 in Rosemont, Ill., shifted to a series of recorded presentations and discussions available on demand as of April 14.

NACS ADAPTED TO

More than 1,300 attendees participated in the virtual summit, according to the association. While attendees missed out on the traditional face-to-face networking associated with SOI, they were treated to 10 informative education sessions on topics such as analyzing 2019 industry performance, trends and economic forces; as well as forward-looking topics such as how COVID-19 is changing consumer shopping behavior in ways that could shape longterm buying patterns. Event host Andy Jones, CEO of Sprint Food Stores Inc. and NACS Research Committee chairman, noted that although the novel coronavirus has had drastic effects on the world, the convenience store industry is no stranger to thriving in times of chaos. “The storm may be uncharted waters for us, but we can only look to our storied past to know that out of COVID-19, our industry will stand tall with communities to bring forward the services, support and much-needed friendly smiles so desperately needed by all,” he said. The SOI sessions included an examination of the “new normal” the convenience and fuel retailing industry is now presented with, and what it will mean in the days to come.

C-stores are becoming a preferred location for some consumers who perceive grocery store visits as potentially more dangerous due to the longer average visit time. 20 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

The virtual experience offered 10 on-demand sessions.

Wide-ranging uncertainty is a major factor, according to panelist Nick Ruffner, public relations manager for c-store chain Sheetz Inc. No one knows how long the stay-at-home orders will last, when people’s perceptions about the safety of crowds will shift, or if they’ll ever go back to what we used to think of as normal. Adhering to a brand’s values and staying community-connected, however, will help to create safe environments in the present, while preparing to welcome people back in the future. C-stores are becoming a preferred location for some consumers who perceive grocery store visits as potentially more dangerous due to the longer average visit time. Finding certain items in stock is also an issue among shoppers. Some c-store industry trends that were already happening are seeing an acceleration as a result of the pandemic, the SOI presenters noted. This includes the usage of mobile apps for ordering, reliance on delivery, and the popularity of prepared-food takeout. “Effortless convenience” — facilitated by technology such as scan-and-go payment options, apps that provide personalized experiences, and innovations in delivery — is likely to grow. But at the same time, consumers crave connections. For c-stores, connection enablers include frontline friendliness, personal communications, loyalty programs, and local menu touches. Caitlyn Battaglia, associate client director at Nielsen, recommends retailers adapt, while also keeping an eye on the future and the eventual recovery phase. Communication with customers is vital, she said. She believes people will eventually return to their daily routines yet operate with a new consciousness about health. CSN


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1. Jimmy Dean Morning Combos

2. Doritos New Varieties

3. Heinz Mayoracha Sauce

4. CBD Living Hand Sanitizer

Jimmy Dean Morning Combos is a new product line that pairs delicious breakfast flavors in readyto-eat portable packages. Varieties include Mini Maple Pancakes & Maple Sausage Bites, and Blueberry Muffin & Sausage Bites. Each combo pack is ready to eat straight from the package, or can be heated in under 30 seconds for a warm morning snack. Jimmy Dean Morning Combos provide portable yet classic breakfast fare, with eight grams of protein per pack.

Building on the success of its Flamin’ Hot and Cool Ranch varieties, Doritos is taking these fan-favorite flavors up a notch. The brand launched Flamin’ Hot Limon and Amped-Up Cool Ranch varieties to provide fans two entirely new ways to enjoy the legacy flavors. Doritos Flamin’ Hot Limon brings the signature heat with a tangy twist, while Doritos Amped-Up Cool Ranch provides even more Cool Ranch flavor. Both varieties are available in 9.75-ounce bags for a suggested retail price of $4.29, and 2.75-ounce bags for a suggested price of $1.89.

Heinz is launching Mayoracha Sauce as its newest condiment and “BFF” of its recently released Honeyracha Sauce. Mayoracha combines mayonnaise with Sriracha for a kick of heat, and is designed to elevate any meal, according to the company. HoneyRacha Sauce is a combination of two fanfavorite flavors: sweet honey and spicy Sriracha. Heinz Mayoracha Sauce is available in a 16.6-ounce bottle with a suggested retail price of $3.79.

CBD Living released a new addition to its CBD Living Travel line: a 1-ounce hand sanitizer. CBD Living Hand Sanitizer combines 50 milligrams of 100 percent organic U.S.-grown hemp with 62 percent ethyl alcohol to sterilize hands. Vitamin E and aloe deliver moisture and keep skin smooth. CBD Living’s proprietary Skin Retention Technology allows the CBD particles to better absorb through the skin, leading to faster and longer relief, according to the company.

Tyson Convenience Springdale, Ark. tysonfoodservice.com

The Kraft Heinz Co. Pittsburgh & Chicago heinz.com

Frito-Lay Plano, Texas pepsico.com

5. Guardiant Countertop Shield APG Cash Drawer introduces the Guardiant Countertop Shield, which is designed to help reduce the spread of contagious, airborne germs commonly caused by coughing or sneezing. It provides a sense of security for employees, as well as customers. Currently offered in a trifold or single-screen configuration, the Guardiant Countertop Shield comes with window size options, allowing for the safe exchange of product, food or payment through an acrylic protective barrier. The sturdy, no-tip solution comes with counter mounting hardware, a one-year warranty, and is portable for collapsible storage when needed. APG Cash Drawer Minneapolis (763) 571-5000 sales@us.cashdrawer.com cashdrawer.com 22 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

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6. Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew In partnership with PepsiCo Inc., Starbucks is bringing its ready-to-drink (RTD) Nitro Cold Brew, conveniently available in cans, to retailers and select Starbucks locations nationwide. This is the latest product line to join the brand’s ranks since Starbucks and PepsiCo formed the North American Coffee Partnership in 1994. Starbucks RTD Nitro Cold Brew is available in three varieties: Black, Dark Caramel, and Vanilla Sweet Cream. Infused with nitrogen, the beverages deliver a rush of microbubbles as soon as the can is opened. Starbucks Coffee Co. Seattle starbucks.com

7. Old Trapper Sticks Jalapeño & Teriyaki Big Bags Old Trapper introduces Jalapeño and Teriyaki as the latest varieties available in its 15-ounce Big Bags of deli-style beef sticks. The Teriyaki sticks combine the spice of Old Trapper’s famous smoked beef with the tangy flavor of soy sauce. The Jalapeño sticks start with the same wood-fire smoked beef plus the added bonus of jalapeño spiciness. Both varieties contain just two grams of total carbohydrates and deliver nine grams of protein. Each Big Bag has a suggested retail price of approximately $14. Old Trapper Smoked Products Forest Grove, Ore. oldtrapper.com

8. Reed’s Wellness Shots

9. Borden Cheese Crisps ‘n Cubes

Reed’s Wellness Shots provide a daily dose of powerful ginger. Available in two varieties — Daily Ginger and Ginger Energize — each 2-ounce shot contains 3,000 milligrams of organic pressed ginger. Daily Ginger is caffeine free, while Ginger Energize contains 100 milligrams of natural caffeine from green coffee beans and guarana. Both products do not require refrigeration. The suggested retail prices are $2.99 for a single bottle and $35 for a 12-pack.

Borden Cheese Crisps ‘n Cubes features a duo of crunchy 100 percent ovenbaked cheese crisps and delicious 100 percent real cheese cubes. Available in three varieties, the product is a low-carb option for a satisfying and healthy on-the-go snack, according to the maker. The three flavor combinations are: Sharp Cheddar Crisps and Colby Jack Cubes; Jalapeño Crisps and Mild Cheddar Cubes; and Cheddar Crisps and White Cheddar Cubes. The cheese snacks contain no added hormones, added sugar or artificial preservatives. They are gluten free and have only 150 calories, 9 grams of protein, and less than 1 gram of carbohydrates per tray.

Reed’s Inc. Norwalk, Conn. (800) 997-3337 drinkreeds.com

Dairy Farmers of America Inc. Kansas City, Kan. bordencheese.com

10. SmartDome Social Distancing Messenger Indyme introduces SmartDome, a device that heightens real-time awareness of social distancing in retail stores. SmartDome looks like a dome security camera, but it operates much differently. Upon detecting people in the monitored area, it announces a message such as: “For your safety, please maintain at least six feet of social distance.” The device is battery-operated, allowing store staff to quickly self-install these compact devices; no technician or wiring is required. Versatile mounting options facilitate placement above areas where reminders are most needed, such as checkout, service counters, entrances, and busy departments. Indyme Solutions LLC San Diego (858) 268-0717 indyme.com 24 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

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SMALL OPERATOR

Hello, Neighbor Platte Street Mercantile is on a mission to fulfill the previously unmet needs of its community By Danielle Romano PLATTE STREET MERCANTILE co-owners

Tammy Williams and Janine Williams — best friends with the same last name — have been designing grab-and-go markets for the hotel industry for nearly a decade. When they moved their office to Denver’s booming Platte Street community, the retail design veterans recognized an immediate need for a quality grab-and-go convenience store to serve the neighborhood with lunches, beverages, snacks, and grocery and convenience items. “Our entire brand is focused on taking care of our neighbors — from affordable grab-and-go lunches to essential grocery and convenience items for our community residents,” the owners told Convenience Store News. “Our tagline ‘Hello, Neighbor!’ is core to what we bring: a friendly, courteous convenience store for a neighborhood that has no grocery or convenience [store] within a square mile of an absolutely booming area.” Equal parts nostalgic, old school neighborhood market and cutting-edge modern convenience store, Platte Street

Mercantile was 10 years in the making. Janine and Tammy have wanted to open their own store since they began working together at Impulsify, a Denverbased software company founded by Janine, and where Tammy serves as vice president of retail design. The company develops retail technology solutions for the hotel industry, and uses purchasing data collected from guest purchases to design unattended micro-markets for hotels and high-end residences. “Platte Street Mercantile is both a local grab-and-go convenience store, as well as a retail learning lab for Impulsify,” the owners explained. “We always wanted to design a store of our own to be a testing ground for our POS [point-of-sale] technology, retail design, and product mix strategies we offer our hotels. When space opened up down the street from our headquarters on Platte Street, we grabbed it.”

Keeping It Local

For about a year, Janine and Tammy were searching for the right location on Platte Street before taking over the space just

Platte Street Mercantile aims to be equal parts nostalgic, old school neighborhood market and cutting-edge modern convenience store. 26 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m


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half a block from the Impulsify office. They signed the lease in late May 2019, converted the space from a women’s boutique clothing store to a convenience store, and opened the doors of Platte Street Mercantile to the community on Dec. 7, 2019. Tammy designed the c-store to be a juxtaposition of old-school Denver Completely cashless, all transactions are conducted on kiosks. general store mixed with clean, bright modern design features, surfaces and appliances. Platte Street Mercantile’s product mix brings together To create a welcoming environment, she chose a national brands and locally produced goods, including gleaming white waterfall counter, copper shelving and beverages, sweets, snacks, and shelf-stable and frozen accents, bright open-air reach-in coolers, and warm meals. Fresh packaged sandwiches, salads, wraps and wood flooring. pastries also are available from community chefs like Mary Nguyen of Olive & Finch, a local eatery that focuses “We wanted it to be a convenience store that felt more on scratch-made food. like running downstairs to your kitchen,” she said, relating her design inspiration to “pairing a gorgeous The store dedicates a substantial amount of its shelf wedding dress with comfortable cowboy boots.” space to local and regional food and beverages to support Colorado companies such as ChocoLove, Rowdy Located at 1620 Platte St., the store is situated Mermaid Kombucha, and Boulder Chips. Burritos from in a booming area of office, retail and residential another woman-owned Colorado company, Santiago’s, construction. To accommodate the younger resident/ are impossible to keep in stock, according to Platte workforce in the historical Platte Street community of Street Mercantile’s owners. Denver, Platte Street Mercantile is completely cashless; all transactions are conducted on Impulsify’s ShopPoP In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and shelterKiosks, where guests can scan their items, pay by credit in-place mandates, the store also has added a targeted card, and email or print a receipt for true grab-and-go offering of traditional grocery items, from milk, bread, convenience. eggs, cereal, canned goods and easy-to-prepare meals to cleaning supplies and toiletries. “Our core business purpose is to prove that it is possible to be both a self-service, technology-driven retail “Our core mission is to be a good neighbor to our operation and still be hospitable, friendly and courteous community. To have what they need when they need it in as a brand,” the owners said. “So many think that a clean, friendly, welcoming neighborhood market,” the adding self-service technology detracts from customer owners said. engagement and hospitality. We wholeheartedly disagree. When the transaction aspect of retail is Looking to the Future automated for the customer through a kiosk, the store Only six months in, Tammy and Janine said they are attendant is available to authentically engage with the completely blown away by how grateful people are to be customer, be helpful and courteous, tend to the store — treated like a neighbor they’ve known forever. They hope rather than just scan product and swipe credit cards. It to continue building and growing on the human kindness also minimizes overhead and payroll tremendously with aspect of their brand and culture. a single staffing model.” One way they’re doing so is by committing to charitable giving and service projects, and involving the community. Each quarter, the Platte Street Mercantile owners select Colorado-based charities to support through awareness campaigns and charitable donations. The first charity selected was Sleep In Heavenly Peace, which commits time, materials and resources to build bunkbeds for Denver-area foster families and underprivileged homes. The owners are also looking forward to learning, improving and creating better software products and better retail services by being the actual end-user and operator, not just the software developer or retail designer. “It is incredible how much we are learning at Impulsify surrounding our technology and retail best practices,” they told CSNews. “We have already pushed numerous improvements to the kiosk and our back-end inventory software based on discoveries and feedback.” CSN 28 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m


COVER STORY

Building Safety & Trust in a Time of Crisis

The challenges convenience stores face amid COVID-19 are greater than any the industry has faced before, but retailers are working hard to meet them head-on By Angela Hanson

30 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m


the food industry when the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic reached the United States. Not only did workers at all levels have cause to fear for their safety and that of their loved ones, but they also faced radical shifts in their job environment.

EVERYTHING CHANGED FOR

Deemed essential businesses by federal authorities, convenience stores and travel centers continue to serve their local communities across the nation, but the seriousness of the situation and the unprecedented challenges make it more important than ever that retailers take the right steps to protect their employees and their customers, particularly around food safety. From product format to safety practices to consumer demand, retailers are adjusting almost every aspect of their operations. C-store players of all sizes have eliminated self-service for areas such as the coffee bar, fountain and frozen beverage dispensers, and roller grill. They’re also encouraging social distancing via floor markings — and the safety measures don't stop there. A major challenge during this coronavirus crisis is not just the speed at which circumstances have changed, but the fact that things are still changing. Retailers acknowledged to Convenience Store News that what they are doing today could be different tomorrow as the situation evolves. Consumers are changing their purchasing habits in a big way, too. A study in mid-March fielded by CSNews' parent company, EnsembleIQ, revealed that 15 percent of shoppers said they were more likely to shop at c-stores for groceries due to the pandemic. However, by mid-April, an online poll conducted by CSNews found that three-quarters of U.S. convenience store retailers reported

7-Eleven installed plexiglass sneeze guards at the front sales counter of its 9,000-plus U.S. locations.

that the nation’s social distancing and other emergency measures enacted to slow the spread of the virus have had a negative impact on their sales. Of the more than 150 c-store retailers who took part in the poll, only 8 percent said their sales levels haven’t changed significantly since the outbreak. The other 16 percent reported an uptick in sales, likely due to panic-buying by consumers. "Our most notable sales change has been our breakfast daypart declining due to people not traveling to work," said Kevin Smartt, CEO of Kwik Chek, a Spicewood, Texas-based family of convenience stores, grocery stores and quick food operations. "We are still finding a strong need for our fresh prepared food, as well as essential items such as eggs, milk, bread, and any paper goods we can source." The CSNews online poll showed that two-thirds of c-store retailers are having trouble staying in stock with in-demand products like household cleaners and paper products. Another 10 percent said they cannot keep their store shelves stocked due to intense customer demand. Other retailers report that beer and groceries are up, along with delivery at stores that offer it.

Safety & Sanitation

The first, most fundamental, aspect of safety during the pandemic is obvious: clean, clean, and then clean some more. But it's not just the action that matters — it's also the message that cleaning sends to customers that counts. "Have a visual presence," advised Tom Trkla, CEO of Des Moines, Iowa-based Yesway and the recently acquired Clovis, N.M.-based Allsup's, which have enacted "constant cleaning throughout the day." Dedicating at least one employee per shift solely to cleaning duties ensures that vital sanitizing efforts won't be interrupted by

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Convenience Store News 31


COVER STORY

Many c-store retailers are dedicating at least one employee per shift solely to cleaning and sanitizing duties.

other duties. It also keeps customers from wondering when the last cleaning pass took place.

strong communication with their supplier partners, who in turn should be prepared to react to the evolving needs of the times.

Social distancing measures are getting a lot of focus as well. Alimentation CoucheTard Inc. marked the floors at its Circle K stores to provide visual indicators of appropriate distancing for customers, while RaceTrac Petroleum converted its Night Pay Boxes (originally intended for use during late-night shifts) into passthrough windows that allow customers to make purchases without having to physically enter the store.

"The market shifted to delivery and takeout almost overnight, requiring us to focus mainly on packaging, transportation, and — most importantly — safety," said Bill Curtis, vice president of sales for DayMark. "The key concerns now [for operators] are how to best represent the brand, maintain food integrity, and ensure consumer confidence."

"Our first word of advice to retailers and their employees is simple: slow down," said Jeffery Gayer, president and CEO of CMC Group Inc., which includes DayMark Safety Systems. "Make employee and customer safety your No. 1 priority. Your customers will appreciate waiting at safe social distances and being patient as you disinfect hard surfaces between each customer,” he continued. “Your customers will value seeing one of your team members continually sanitizing fuel pumps, door handles, counters and bathrooms." Gayer noted that c-store operators should plan on the average in-store visit taking longer these days. They can use this opportunity to communicate brand message and engage the customer safely. It’s also important that retailers maintain 32 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

Along with in-store safety and sanitation practices, industry experts say retailers should look into packaging that helps customers feel more secure about carry-out or delivery orders. DayMark has seen significant new demand for on-site label printing, automation initiatives for food safety labeling and temperature monitoring, and antitampering measures.

Real-Time Reacting

Overall, retailers express that there is still consumer demand as some individuals want a break from their at-home routine or just want to live their lives as normally as possible. "Our goal is to be able to support them in that process," said Natalie Morhous, president of Atlanta-based RaceTrac, which operates more than 700 c-stores across the South. Retailers that already had routine food safety plans in place were able to quickly react in response to the pandemic, but one of the biggest challenges of COVID19 is that it is not an external, physical hazard such as a hurricane or a power outage that a business might have already planned for, according to Roy Strasburger,


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COVER STORY

president of StrasGlobal, a privately held retail consulting, operations and management provider serving the smallformat retail industry. "We found out we weren't ready, just like everyone else," he said. To aid retailers, StrasGlobal put together a free-to-download contingency plan that focuses on employee and customer safety, communications, and how to help with outreach toward communities. The document is available on its website: strasglobal.com. Experts especially stress the importance of communication with frontline employees, the ones who are making sure stores are safe and dealing with customer concerns in real time. "Frontline feedback is never more important than at this time," said Will Eadie, global vice president of sales and strategy for WorkJam, which provides a suite of workforce tools that help retailers communicate and execute more efficiently and collaboratively. "If a question comes from one [store] site, it's going to come from 100 by the end of the day."

Digital Ordering & Delivery

In recent years, it has become increasingly necessary for c-stores to at least consider offering mobile ordering and/or delivery — as busy consumers have less time on their hands, but more requirements for takeout quality — and that has only accelerated now that millions of Americans are staying home as much as possible to slow the spread of COVID-19. There’s been a rapid shift in how consumers want to buy and pay for their prepared food and grocery purchases. Customers no longer want to risk viral

exposure by handing over cash and receiving change; they want to be able to pay digitally. Several c-store chains, including Casey's General Stores Inc., Kum & Go LC and Sheetz Inc., responded by introducing new contactless payment options. One c-store retailer acknowledged to CSNews that he wished his company had investigated digital payment methods sooner. But it isn't too late to explore these options. Companies such as Liquid Barcodes, PDI and Vroom Delivery have recently launched order-ahead initiatives in response to the pandemic. Additionally, for c-store operators interested in starting delivery, third-party service DoorDash has made a major push into the c-store industry by launching a new convenience vertical. It counts major players such as 7-Eleven Inc., Wawa Inc. and Circle K as partners. As the coronavirus pandemic continues indefinitely, experts recommend that c-stores and other food industry operators make changes that can be sustained for an extended crisis, not a short-term event. "Retail has to demonstrate that they are a safe place to shop, that coming here is still the right thing to do, and we're going to take care of you," said Erik Rosenstrauch, a retail marketing expert and CEO of the FUEL Partnerships agency. In late March, data showed that there was a nearly 1:1 correlation between changing share of food industry visits from restaurants to retail, according to Rosenstrauch. Traditional restaurant traffic fell at nearly the same rate that retail foodservice traffic rose. Looking farther ahead, he expects that certain consumer habits established during the pandemic will persist afterward. Consumers are growing more comfortable with touchless payment and ordering ahead. And while they may not order as much food for delivery in a post-COVID-19 world, Rosenstrauch predicts that what he refers to as BOPIS — buy online, pick up in-store — is most likely to become a long-term habit. "I think that is growing dramatically during this time," he said. Consumers' discomfort with shared-touch surfaces won't instantly disappear when the pandemic ends. They may not want to touch in-store ordering kiosks. So, order-ahead apps could provide both the needed convenience and long-term sense of safety. Near-field communication powered contactless payments like Apple Pay and Google Pay may also see a bump in usage, as they help cut down on contact during payment. Regardless of what long-term changes result from the pandemic, industry experts agree that retailers should look to one another for support and ideas on how to continue operating in a safe manner that consumers know they can rely on. "We're not in a competitive situation on a retail basis anymore," said Strasburger. "The only thing we're competing with is the COVID virus." CSN

34 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m


FOODSERVICE

FOOD I N SIG HT P O W E R E D B Y DATA S S E N T I A L

Pivot You Must Datassential shares three key c-store takeaways from its ongoing coronavirus research WE’RE LIVING THROUGH an unprecedented time. With sweeping closures and shifts in consumer behavior, operators and manufacturers are being forced to pivot. As a result, Datassential is dedicating resources to tracking the near-daily shifts facing consumers and operators.

they were nervous about getting food from a restaurant. Going the extra mile demonstrating hygiene and safety measures, even if it feels extreme, to make patrons feel safe matters.

2. Consumers Turn to Creature ‘Comforts’

In our Restaurant Traffic Briefing on April 6, 2020, we explored consumer behaviors to understand the challenges facing operators. These struggles are not unique to restaurants and by pivoting and adjusting operations around consumer concerns, convenience stores may be better able to weather the storm. Here are three key takeaways from our latest coronavirus research:

1. Cleanliness Is Key

With sweeping closures of dine-in service, eating out has taken a hit. Delivery and takeaway options continue to struggle. As consumer concerns rose in early April, nearly half of surveyed consumers said

With food front and center to much of the turmoil around COVID-19, it’s no surprise that we are beginning to see changes in daily eating routines. “Emotional eating” is on the rise, with 33 percent of consumers reporting that they are eating more comfort foods since the onset of coronavirus. This means there’s plenty of potential for ubiquitous comfort foods — think biscuits, fried chicken, pizza, burgers and barbecue.

3. Dinner Pushes Lunch Out of the Way

Lunch has historically been the most important daypart for operators. As shelter-in-home measures spread across the nation, dinner has stepped into the spotlight as the top daypart, with more consumers choosing dinner when getting food from a restaurant. Family meals, large formats and meal kits are proving to be a popular point for pivoting and capitalizing on the growing popularity of dinner. CSN Datassential’s coronavirus research takes an exhaustive look at industry topics impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. For free access to all of its coronavirus reports and resources, visit Datassential’s COVID-19 page at datassential.com/coronavirus.

The Experience Still Doesn’t Feel Entirely Safe

Even among those getting food from a restaurant, unease is creeping in.

VERY SAFE

51%

April 6

53%

March 25

NERVOUS

AT RISK

42%

7% 6%

41%

And yet, Americans are optimistic — six in 10 believe it’ll be safe to dine inside of restaurants within three months. March 25

When do you feel it will be safe again to dine at a restaurant?

36 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

April 6

It’s already that safe today

10%

10%

1 to 2 weeks

9%

6%

1 month

18%

12%

2 to 3 months

29%

30%

4 to 6 months

15%

21%

Longer than 6 months

10%

14%

It’ll never be as safe as before

9%

7%


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FOODSERVICE

Owning Fast & Fresh Dining Convenience foodservice retailers are fighting to stake a claim to the high-speed, high-quality dining occasion through a variety of competitive initiatives By Angela Hanson TO ANYONE PLUGGED into the foodservice side of the convenience store industry, it's no surprise that fresh is a requirement for retailers who want to make a major play for the dollars of hungry Americans. Whether that means made-to-order meals, grab-and-go items prepared daily in-store or at a local commissary, or an upgraded roller grill offering complete with fresh toppings, the bar has been effectively raised. And of course, the ability to make a fast purchase has always been an intrinsic part of the c-store shopping experience.

Together, though, fast and fresh are more than just adjectives. Combined, they represent an increasingly important dining occasion for c-stores, as well as their competitors. The fast and fresh dining occasion can take place during any daypart and incorporate a wide variety of food types, appealing to consumers who are hungry and starved for time, but don’t want to sacrifice quality

for a speedy meal. This gives c-store operators a great deal of flexibility in how they try to own the fast and fresh occasion — but that same flexibility also means it can be difficult to choose the best path forward.

Prototyping for Today's Foodservice Customer For some c-store operators, updating their foodservice program to be faster and fresher is part of a larger go-to-market strategy. Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based QuickChek Corp., Convenience Store News' 2019 Prepared Foods Innovator of the Year, updated the entire store experience with its new "Fresh to Go" store locations, which are specifically designed to meet the needs of fast-casual shoppers and dedicate more than 50 percent of the space to fresh foods and beverages.

"We serve busy people on the go with products and services that are made for immediate consumption," QuickChek CEO Dean Durling said of the Fresh to Go concept. "Today's consumer — especially young professionals, families and health-conscious people — want

QuickChek's new "Fresh to Go" stores dedicate more than 50 percent of the space to fresh foods and beverages. 38 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m


FOODSERVICE

Fast-casual shoppers are the target demographic for QuickChek's new "Fresh to Go" stores.

Convenience and grocery store operator Hy-Vee Inc. is another retailer that is going all-in on the fast and fresh dining occasion. Its new Hy-Vee Fast & Fresh store concept — as well as a smaller version, Hy-Vee Fast & Fresh Express — is a hybrid retail experience that mixes the convenience and smaller size of convenience stores with the types of offerings more commonly found at grocery stores, such as fresh produce, meat, and meals to go. Photo caption here Photo caption here Photo caption here

"Today's consumer — especially young professionals, families and health-conscious people — want fresh." — Dean Durling, QuickChek Corp. fresh, so we have dedicated more than half of our stores to foodservice and fresh beverages, including our guaranteed fresh brewed hot and iced coffees. Our fresh, new look inside and outside enhances our store experience." Fresh to Go, which debuted in May 2019 at a North Brunswick, N.J., location, is now in place in the interior of 20 newer QuickChek stores. Large standalone food stations put the focus on such products as never-frozen soups with real ingredients and restaurantquality sandwiches that feature more meat and bakery-fresh ciabatta bread and make use of seasonal flavors. 40 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

"More people are eating on the go these days, and convenience stores are becoming more of a typical place to stop to grab a meal vs. just a snack, with younger consumers doing so most frequently," explained Hy-Vee Director of Public Relations Christina Gayman. The product mix available at Hy-Vee Fast & Fresh locations isn't radically different from the usual c-store fare, as customers can find traditional grab-and-go products. However, these stores distinguish themselves by placing an emphasis on the retailer's proprietary signature foodservice offerings, which include Mia Pizza, Hy-Vee Market Grille Express and Nori Sushi. Customers also can take advantage of the Hy-Vee Aisles Online pickup program. Additionally, the stores features a coffee shop, wine and spirits section, a large selection of Hy-Vee Short Cuts fruits and vegetables, bulk packages of nuts and trail mix, dietitian's choice options, and more. The grocery options in a smaller format have attracted a customer base that recognizes the advantages of the format, according to Gayman. "It's a nice mix of a traditional Hy-Vee grocery store shopper who just needs a make a smaller trip for whatever reason, but also those looking for quick, on-the-go meal options," she said. The Hy-Vee Fast & Fresh concept has been successful


FOODSERVICE

enough that it is slated to double in size with the company’s purchase of four former QuikTrip stores in the Des Moines metro area. These acquired stores will transition into Fast & Fresh Express locations. Wawa Inc. is yet another c-store retailer to recently launch a smaller operation to meet customers' food-focused needs. In January, it opened a new location in Philadelphia that is half the size of its standard Wawa stores and specifically geared toward meeting the needs of local community members who require quick food options without sacrificing fresh and quality ingredients, according to David Simonetti, senior director of store operations. The Philadelphia store features Wawa’s first-ever outdoor PickUp Window for mobile orders, and online ordering to speed up service. There’s also an expanded line of "Good to Go" hot and cold express food items, and a self-serve hot tea bar.

Crafting the Menu

Redesigning a store isn't the only way to find success in the fast and fresh dining space. Developing the right menu is a critical step. Research shows today’s consumers have an increased interest in variety and customization. This is particularly true of Generation Z, which will make up 40 percent of all U.S. consumers this year. It is the most diverse generation in history, and Gen Zers want to experience other cultures, particularly through food, meaning convenience foodservice retailers need to balance functionality with trending flavors. "Right now, our in-demand food items are our tacos and tenders," said Kevin Smartt, CEO of Kwik Chek, a Spicewood, Texas-based family of convenience stores,

grocery stores and quick food operations. "Not only are they made fresh in-house, but our tacos and tenders are both easy to transport, on-the-go menu items. These items are also customizable to fit the preference of our guests." Such handheld items are easy to prepare quickly, but customers still get to enjoy choosing from a range of filling options and feel confident that their food was freshly prepared. Kwik Chek also rotates seasonal deals on its food menu to keep customers interested in what's next and encourage them to take part in the retailer’s rewards program. On the grab-and-go front, experts recommend carefully choosing the packaging, as well as the products. By their nature, grab-and-go items are a fast purchase, but customers should be able to visually evaluate the freshness of the product. Transparent packaging is the simplest method as it lets retailers show they have nothing to hide. Colors and branding also can contribute to customers feeling a connection with a store's specific grab-and-go program. Building the right fast and fresh menu doesn't only apply to food, either. Consumers show interest in unique beverages as well. Some operators have answered this demand with baristas and handcrafted drinks, while others have invested in self-serve equipment, such as smoothie and milkshake machines and fountains that offer hundreds of flavor combinations. Offering non-alcoholic beverages on tap is another way to serve up quick, quality beverages. Consumers associate beverage taps with craft beers, which they consider to be higher quality, and that perception extends to other drinks on tap as well, one coffee manufacturer told Convenience Store News at the most recent NACS Show. 7-Eleven Inc., the nation’s largest convenience store chain, has begun offering on-tap beverages such as tea, cold brew, kombucha and nitro cold brew at its Evolution Stores. These locations are real-time, real-life, experiential testing grounds where customers can try and buy the retailer's latest innovations in revolutionary new store formats. They are also the first 7-Eleven stores to integrate restaurant concepts into the store design. Another way 7-Eleven is innovating around fast and fresh beverages is with the launch of a new dispensed beverage platform at its stores in Long Island, N.Y. Self-serve touchscreen machines can make lattes, espressos, cappuccinos, Americanos and more on demand, plus there’s bean-tocup brewers for customers who want an ultra-fresh cup of coffee. "Seeing fresh whole beans ground instantly and transformed into a perfectly hot cup of coffee brewed to a customer's personal taste preferences is the ultimate fresh experience consumers can get from a cup of coffee," said Emmanuel Couppey, vice president of marketing for Schaerer Ltd. "When coffee is prepared this way, it is never cold, never old and consistently perfect."

Experts recommend transparent packaging so that customers can visually evaluate the freshness of a product. 42 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m


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FOODSERVICE

Hy-Vee's new Fast & Fresh small-format stores combine the offerings of a convenience store with those of a grocery store.

The visual power of whole beans dropping into grinders adds to the authenticity of the fresh experience. Customers can trust their eyes, as well as their noses when they smell the coffee's aroma as it is made.

take to be a serious contender in today’s rapidly evolving foodservice industry. Mobile ordering can facilitate in-store pickup, curbside pickup or delivery. The key is to give consumers the option to order what they want from wherever they are — extending convenience as far as it can go.

"Coffee has always been an anchor for convenience store retailers to draw customers into their stores," Couppey said. "Consumers' expectations are so much higher today, so both how retailers offer coffee and what coffee they offer matters."

While in-store pickup is the simplest option for c-stores, adding it means operators still have to answer some important questions: Should there be a separate pickup line for mobile orders? Is there a limit to how many mobile orders can be placed at one time to ensure that in-store customers won't be neglected? Do mobile orders require digital payment, or can customers place an order and then pay cash upon pickup?

The Digital Revolution

One cannot talk about owning the fast and fresh dining occasion without addressing the role that technology is now playing, particularly in mobile ordering and on-demand delivery. Some industry insiders believe mobile ordering is the most important step to 44 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

There are no one-size-fits-all answers for these questions; the answer to each one depends on store size, location, staffing levels, and other factors. Experts recommend retailers think through potential bestand worst-case scenarios to determine what will work for them. It might be tempting to only change a little at a time


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FOODSERVICE

"You really want to be seamlessly integrated to have the best experience for your customers," she said. The decision to deliver is a bit more challenging, as offering delivery service means c-stores must dedicate employees to it or partner with a third party. Still, Shelcusky believes it merits serious consideration since delivery is a rising tide in the foodservice world that shows no sign of subsiding. "It's continuing to grow and grow," she said. Practical considerations for delivery include selecting packaging that will keep the food at the optimal temperature and quality upon delivery, which can be more challenging as some regions are pushing back on the use of plastic bags, Styrofoam and like items. C-stores should also have a plan in place should something goes wrong with a third-party delivery. Eighty-two percent of customers blame the original restaurant in such cases, not the driver or the ordering app. Retailers should be ready to replace or refund the order, even if the fault is with the delivery provider, in order to maintain customer goodwill. Also in the digital realm, frictionless checkout is yet another way c-store retailers can keep things fast and fresh. Amazon Go first made headlines for its proprietary technology that lets customers walk out with their purchases without ever having to interact with a cashier, but other options exist that similarly remove friction from the purchase process.

In its Fast & Fresh stores, Hy-Vee places an emphasis on its proprietary signature foodservice offerings, such as Mia Pizza and Nori Sushi.

Demand for frictionless checkout, contactless ordering and other digital initiatives is only expected to rise in the wake of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. when it comes to mobile ordering, but Jessica Shelcusky, convenience store marketing specialist for Paytronix Inc., is a proponent of integrating mobile ordering with marketing elements such as coupons, gift card redemption and loyalty programs in order to reduce friction for customers. 46 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

In particular, Skip Checkout is making significant inroads in the convenience channel. The service, which was first adopted chainwide by Enmarket, is a mobile-based application that lets customers scan their purchases and pay from their phone using the Skip mobile app. Cashier interaction is limited to a quick check of the phone on the customer’s way out. Security features alert store employees when a Skip customer enters the store. Along with Enmarket, c-store chains such as High's and Cruizers have implemented the Skip Checkout program. Kwik Chek is currently testing Skip at select stores and plans to roll it out to the rest of the chain once it is fully integrated with the retailer’s loyalty host. Demand for frictionless checkout, contactless ordering and other digital initiatives is only expected to rise in the wake of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Social distancing measures are likely to have the long-term side effect of making consumers more comfortable with incorporating technology into their food and beverage ordering habits. C-stores ultimately have a wide range of options to explore when it comes to owning fast and fresh. The best choices will vary based on each retailer’s individual strengths and existing capabilities. The only choice guaranteed to be wrong is not exploring these options at all, as the window of opportunity to own this dining occasion is closing — fast. CSN


For trade purposes only. ©2019 Swedish Match North America LLC

CONTACT YOUR SWEDISH MATCH REPRESENTATIVE OR CALL 800-367-3677 FOR ADDITIONAL DETAILS


TOBACCO

Innovation Infusion A steady influx of limited-edition products is keeping the cigars segment solid By Renée M. Covino

is well-known for its ups and downs, and twists and turns. But there is one segment of the business that has become somewhat of a sanctuary for convenience store retailers: cigars. In particular, mini cigars and cigarillos.

THE TOBACCO CATEGORY

These little, but mighty tobacco products have emerged as dependable performers, thanks to a steady influx of limited-edition products and new packaging innovation. Seasonal blends are at the forefront of the growth, according to category experts. Several times during the calendar year, manufacturers are shipping new, inventive cigar flavors in limited quantity and with limited production time. These efforts are turning consumers’ heads — and turning profits for c-store operators. Part of the allure is teasing consumers that they have the power to bring their favorite limited editions back. On its website, Swisher International Inc., which offers Swisher Sweets Limited Edition pouches, states that: “With names like Island Madness and Summer Twist, these bold and exciting blends won’t last long, so we suggest you try them now. We want to see if these hybrid blends are good enough to stick around. If you like it, we may just bring it back for good.” This then leads to Swisher

Sweets Encore Edition status, earned by such SKUs as White Grape. Seasonal marketing is so powerful in the cigars segment that special seasonal packaging even on core brands is becoming an emerging trend, Victor Cavanaugh, senior manager, category management at Swisher International, told Convenience Store News. “The new, fresh look keeps loyal consumers even more engaged,” he said. For instance, Swisher Sweets is offering a unique collection of its original red pouches to celebrate the summer season. Swedish Match, the maker of White Owl cigars, is seeking a fresh take on limited-time offerings with its new Duos cigarillos, which deliver limited-edition flavor pairings. Berries and Cream launched nationwide as the first edition of the Duos series in April. The next edition, Mango and Pineapple, is slated to arrive in stores in August. “White Owl’s limited-edition cigarillos have always been in high demand with users,” said Katherine Macomber, senior brand manager, cigar and pipe tobacco, for Swedish Match. “To deliver an enhanced experience, Swedish Match developed its new rotating flavor model, sustaining user excitement throughout the year and offering even more options on a seasonal basis.” Packaging innovation is a part of the category buzz, too. Garcia y Vega, also from Swedish Match, recently launched the Game Leaf five-pack, offering the same rolled leaf cigars, but in a new packaging format. “Unlike other rolled leaf five-packs, which are packaged in a paper-like substrate, Game Leaf is packaged in a resealable foil pouch,” Jay White, Garcia y Vega/Game marketing manager, told CSNews. This new packaging, which includes a resealable zipper, results in a fresher cigar, he said, explaining that rolled leaf cigar consumers say freshness is their top concern for their smoking experience.

Future-Proof Fixtures To properly merchandise all these new products and packages, there’s also a lot of innovation happening around fixtures and the optimal setup for a convenience store’s backbar. “Many retailers have invested in new, larger and better fixtures in order to have future flexibility as the nicotine universe changes,” noted Joe Teller, category management director at Swedish Match. “Newer fixtures make the most of the still-limited space available

48 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m


and are flexible enough to allow for continuous remerchandising as the category develops and changes. The new fixtures are critical to ‘future proofing’ the space as trends change.”

“Distributors ordered heavily in March to ensure supply in case there were disruptions,” he said. “It’s early for a good retail read, given typical data lag times, but consumption looks unaffected at worse, and maybe even positively impacted.”

This trend has evolved rapidly due to the growth momentum around vape and nicotine pouch sales volume. According to Teller, retailers have had to suddenly get “creative” with fixtures to fulfill cigarette company vape and nicotine pouch program requirements.

Tobacco and nicotine consumption is “probably increasing a bit as people are stressed about coronavirus news and staying at home, going stir-crazy,” Teller said. He doesn’t expect much, if any, impact on retail cigar sales, and believes current sales trends will continue.

“Cigarette space gets cut where possible and every vertical inch of height gets used to maximum effect in order to fit as many shelves as possible for all the products,” he explained. Total cigar space hasn’t been impacted much, although cigar placement in the backbar fixture is moving around as retailers create the dedicated vape and nicotine pouch sections to adhere to “the onerous pouch program requirements” according to Teller. Swisher’s Cavanaugh likewise made note of the fact that “the OTP section has evolved recently to include nicotine on demand (NOD) products,” which retailers have had to accommodate and include in their sets.

Coronavirus Impact Looking to the future, the cigars segment is expected to remain steady, even in the face of challenges presented by the COVID-19 coronavirus global pandemic. Speaking to CSNews in mid-April, Swedish Match’s Teller said no impact has been seen yet.

“The cigar category is very resilient, and the cigar smoker is very loyal. The cigar consumption occasion is unique and not easily substituted with other types of products.” — Joe Teller, Swedish Match

50 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

“The cigar category is very resilient, and the cigar smoker is very loyal. The cigar consumption occasion is unique and not easily substituted with other types of products,” he added. Cavanaugh echoed that cigar sales were strong during March and April. “Consumers see our products as essential and do not want to run out. We are actually seeing increased purchases at all levels of trade,” he reported. In a recent newsletter, Vivien Azer, managing director and senior research analyst for investment firm and financial services company Cowen Inc., noted that the supply of combustibles from major tobacco manufacturers remains stable. “Manufacturers are still producing at normal rates with products continuing to shuffle down to wholesalers,” she observed. She pointed to the fact that convenience stores, gas stations and travel centers can, and will, remain open during the pandemic as a plus for the tobacco category. Convenience stores represent around 80 percent of total cigar volume, Teller cited. “A broad selection of products at good prices and store locations everywhere have built up strong loyalty with cigar smokers,” he said. “Also, the cigar smoker makes about eight visits per month to c-stores and buys around three other products besides the cigars each time.” CSN


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CANDY

Seasonal Confection Opportunities Unwrapped C-store supplier partners share three key pieces of advice to leverage the segment By Danielle Romano

WHEN IT COMES to confections, seasonal momentum can help convenience store retailers win all year long. Traditionally, the core four holiday occasions are Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas/wintertime. More than 60 percent of the confectionery category’s sales come during these four periods, and 16 percent of sales are generated by seasonally coded items, the National Confectioner Association’s (NCA) Sweet Insights: State of Treating 2020 report showed.

For the year ended Dec. 29, 2019, the inaugural State of Treating report revealed that: • E  aster generated more seasonal-item sales than any other candy holiday; • Seasonal candy sales around the winter holidays showed the strongest period gain at 6 percent growth vs. 1.8 percent in everyday candy sales; and • Nine in 10 consumers celebrate the “Big Four” seasons by gifting chocolate and candy. “[Consumers] confirmed what we already know: chocolate, candy, gum and mints are so special in our lives because of the emotional connection we have with them,” NCA President and CEO John Downs said. “We love candy not only because it’s ‘yummy,’ but because of its indelible place in our holidays and celebrations, the warm memories it evokes, and the happy smiles it brings to the faces of our friends and family when we gift and share it. After all, 78 percent of us agree that sharing and gifting seasonal chocolate and candy is a great American tradition.” Consumers, in general, may not currently think of convenience stores as a go-to destination for seasonal confection purchases, but this is a misconception. To change their perspective, c-store supplier partners have three key pieces of advice for retailers:

52 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

1. Leverage the shift in consumer exploration

According to NCA’s Sweet Insights report, throughout the year, 69 percent of shoppers tend to purchase confectionery along with the rest of their groceries at their primary grocery store. However, while supermarkets continue to lead as the primary grocery store for shoppers’ confectionery purchases, share is moving to other formats as consumers frequent traditional stores less often and explore other channels. When it comes to seasonal confectionery buying, 19 percent of consumers will shop one or more stores in addition to the primary grocery channel. When asked why they’d purchase confectionery in a different place, consumers had four key reasons: better variety of types and brands, lower prices, spur-of-the-moment decisions, and convenience. The key to engaging these consumers who are willing to shop elsewhere is education, Daniel Sadler, principal, client insights for IRI, told Convenience Store News. “Seasonal confections are about moments, family, sharing, and reflection on childhood. In addition, consumers love to shop the seasonal aisle because of the themed products and engaging section,” he said. “The seasons offer convenience store retailers an opportunity to engage with their shoppers in a fun and experiential way that will drive incremental traffic and sales. The key will be to inform consumers about their offerings, so consumers know to try.”

2. Take advantage of everyday celebrations

Seasonal candy sales have been a growth driver for the confectionery industry for several years, driven by boosts from the core four holidays. In 2019, total seasonal candy grew 6.1 percent in dollar sales, with increases at Valentine’s Day (2.4 percent), Easter (11 percent), Halloween (5.4 percent) and the end-of-year holidays (2.3 percent), according to IRI figures. Because seasonal holidays are waiting-to-happen events, though, “everyday celebrations” are bountiful opportunities for c-store retailers to take advantage of, according to suppliers. Several definitive “shoulder holidays” exist, such as Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, back-to-school, Kwanza and Hanukkah. There are also several shoulder holidays that are very specific to geographic regions or local culture. Think rodeos, summer concerts, amusement parks and baseball season openers, noted Clark Taylor, senior vice president of sales and marketing for CandyRific LLC, which sells yearround and seasonal novelty confectionery items that boast unique features.


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“The trick to capitalizing on these events is long-range planning,” Taylor said. “[Operators] need to be able to look three to six months in advance to see what is coming and then to structure their displays, buying and merchandising with enough advanced notice to their suppliers to bring the products together at the perfect time. Be bold in your direction.”

3. Be a master at seasonal merchandising

Late last year, Mars Wrigley U.S. collected insights into what’s important to shoppers at certain points within each season, and developed recommendations to help retailers

“The seasons offer convenience store retailers an opportunity to engage with their shoppers in a fun and experiential way that will drive incremental traffic and sales.” — Daniel Sadler, IRI

54 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

shift to capitalize on seasonal opportunities year-round and increase product sales. The manufacturer found that implementing seasonal promotions to increase visibility will help retailers leverage seasonal confectionery’s impulsivity and increase shopper satisfaction in stores. Some of Mars Wrigley’s recommendations include: • U  sing navigational cues such as touchpoints throughout the store that complement the main seasonal/candy aisle and secondary displays; • Creating mini destinations in the main seasonal/candy aisle that highlight the season and inspire shoppers; • Utilizing bold pricing, which is critical to driving aisle navigation and encouraging impulse confectionery purchases that meet shoppers’ different budgets; and • Showcasing seasonal products in high-visibility checkout areas to invoke shoppers’ impulsivity before they exit the store. “Consumers are using confections at mini and master moments to create celebrations yearround. This trend is growing, and we don’t expect it to change,” said Jim Dodge, vice president of convenience at Mars Wrigley. “C-store retailers have a great opportunity to capture the consumer and remind them why confections are vital to any celebration. In turn, retailers will drive sales and create a more exciting shopping experience.” CSN


COMING THIS SUMMER

For more information, contact your Swedish Match representative. 800-367-3677 • customer.service@smna.com • whiteowlcigar.com © 2020 SMCI Holding, Inc.

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34th ANNUAL

SAVE THE DATE! 11.04.2020 | Savannah, Georgia

ANNOUNCING... From the most established brand in the convenience store retailer space comes one of the highest honors in the industry: the Convenience Store News Hall of Fame. This is a must-attend gala event with some of the most admired retailers and suppliers in the c-store industry in attendance, honoring some of the industry’s most influential retailer and supplier executives.

4 REASONS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE CSNEWS HALL OF FAME EVENT: • • • •

Strengthen and develop industry relationships Be known as a leader in the industry Gain visibility for your brand and products Reach retail and supplier executives and key decision-makers

Hall of Fame is an intimate awards gala reception, dinner and award ceremony celebrating the induction of outstanding men and women who have exhibited exceptional leadership and provided significant contributions to the convenience store industry.

2020 HONOREES

RETAILER HALL OF FAMER

SUPPLIER HALL OF FAMER

Greg Parker

Dave Onorato

Founder and CEO, Parker’s

Vice President, General Manager, Small Format Stores, The Hershey Co.

RETAILER EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR

Darren Rebelez President and Chief Executive Officer, Casey’s General Stores

For more information please contact Paula Lashinsky, VP/Publisher, plashinsky@ensembleiq.com

AND FEATURING OUR EXCLUSIVE

Join us as we help nurture and celebrate the exceptional leaders of tomorrow in the convenience store industry. The Convenience Store News Future Leaders in Convenience program celebrates and develops the next generation of convenience retail leaders by providing a forum for talented young business people to hone their leadership talent while recognizing the achievements of an emerging leaders under the age of 35 at the time of nomination. The CSNews Future Leaders in Convenience program provides a comprehensive workshop and networking program that teaches young convenience store managers and executives how to achieve their full potential as leaders in their organizations and the industry at large.


TECHNOLOGY

Operating on All Cylinders Efficiency at both the store and corporate levels comes from communication and data By Melissa Kress WHEN IT COMES to retail technology, many are in search of the next big thing to bring customers through the door — whether that door is a brick-and-mortar store or a mobile app.

After all, why wouldn't convenience store retailers focus on building foot traffic? With increased competition from dollar stores, grocery stores and online retailers, capturing share of the consumer dollar is an everyday challenge for the convenience channel. With that in mind, many c-store operators are ramping up their customer-facing technology, but they are also taking a back-to-basics approach and placing some of their focus on the operational efficiency of their stores. Ankeny, Iowa-based convenience store chain Casey's General Stores Inc. has been busy lately rolling out technology initiatives such as a new digital platform and a price optimization strategy. The operator of nearly 2,200 stores in 16 states also has been busy expanding its footprint, even building a third distribution center in Joplin, Mo., to meet the needs of its growing network.

Casey’s realizes, though, that growth cannot come at the expense of operational efficiency. Presenting at the company's 2020 Investor Day earlier this year, Casey's President and CEO Darren Rebelez noted that creating investment capacity through efficiencies is one of the three strategic pillars of the company's current agenda. This piece of the puzzle, according to Jay Soupene, senior vice president of operations, will drive efficiencies to improve the shape of Casey's business and fund future growth. "Maintaining positive control and sustaining a culture of continuous improvement are key elements of our strategy," he said during the 2020 Investor Day, held Jan. 9 in New York. Casey's is focused on four primary areas for greater efficiency: • Transforming its fuel capabilities; • Driving procurement excellence; • Optimizing the supply chain; and • Driving process improvement and store-level efficiency. Similarly, Westlake, Ohio-based travel center chain TravelCenters of America Inc. (TA) wants to sharpen its operating efficiency, as new CEO Jonathan Pertchik's agenda includes several site-level and corporate-level efficiency initiatives.

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NOVEMBER 16-18, 2020

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CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA

CONTACT DON LONGO TO REQUEST YOUR EXCLUSIVE INVITATION. DLONGO@ENSEMBLEIQ.COM PRESENTED BY

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TECHNOLOGY

In February, Pertchik, who in midDecember joined the operator of 260plus locations in 44 states and Canada, said TA is "highly focused" on increasing operating efficiency through a greater emphasis and cultural focus on financial performance and cost control. "These disciplines will allow the company to get more leverage out of its size and scale; they'll provide better visibility and accountability; and they will provide opportunities to improve the bottom line," he explained during the company's fourthquarter and full-year 2019 earnings call. TA's selling, general and administrative expenses have "grown at an unsustainable annual growth rate of 7 percent" since 2012, according to Pertchik. At the same time, nonfuel sales have grown at a 4.6 percent compound annual growth rate, and overall fuel volumes have declined 2.8 percent.

delivery suppliers. This data also can help capture and quickly address pricing discrepancies, Delaney noted.

"The company is evaluating ways to reverse this historical trend. The process of effecting change is focused on creating an efficient and adaptable operation, and then designing the organization around that operation," the chief executive said. "By focusing on process and operational efficiency, we intend to create a betterrunning organization with improved visibility and accountability, as well as improved financial performance."

"Simply put, c-store operators need to act on it. Countless retailers collect enormous amounts of data, but struggle to internalize and address the insights provided. For example, there are a number of technologies that can capture video information at the shelf level — collecting and acting on that data is critical to customer satisfaction and provides a valuable service to the communities they serve," Delaney explained, adding that many retailers are actively recruiting associates with data science backgrounds to help them monetize their data.

Opening Lines of Communication

"Putting more technology in the hands of store associates is one of the best ways that retailers can improve efficiency within their operations,” he advised. “Providing associates with these devices equips them with the information they need to better serve customers and improve the in-store experience.”

From a foodservice standpoint, operational data can be used to regulate refrigerator and freezer temperatures and cycle times, which can indicate food quality issues and sometimes help identify equipment issues that could reduce the number of food spoilage incidents. This data also can be used to automate food safety logs and audit reports to demonstrate compliance with health department regulations, according to Mark Delaney, a retail industry consultant at Lincolnshire, Ill.-based Zebra Technologies, a convenience channel supplier partner.

Zebra Technologies’ 12th annual Global Shopper Study found that 85 percent of retail executives believe that equipping their associates with the latest technology, such as mobile solutions, provides a better experience for their shoppers.

Two major components of operating efficiently are keeping communication flowing between all areas of the business and paying attention to what data is relaying about performance.

In the area of merchandising, out-ofstock data can be captured and instantly communicated to a c-store retailer’s distribution centers and direct-store

Effective communication and data mining are even more critical now as the convenience channel navigates the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Delaney, communication — broadly speaking — is paramount at times like this. "Being able to communicate with headquarters or suppliers regarding supply chain challenges is critical and helps ensure corporate directives, such as updates to store hours or even changes in cleaning procedures, are shared with all associates," he said. "Keeping associates informed with transparent communications can also reduce stress and increase productivity." CSN M AY

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FEATURE

WHAT DRIVES LOYALTY?

New shopper research examines what it takes to create “customer advocates” By Don Longo THE COCA-COLA CO. has

been conducting an annual study of shoppers and shopping behavior since 2013. Called iSHOP — short for Individual Shopping Habits, Occasions and Perceptions — the comprehensive study surveys consumers on a daily basis throughout the year to account for seasonal differences and other potential variables in their needs and habits. The research goes beyond Coca-Cola’s own beverage categories to gain insights about the entire shopping experience, and polls beyond the primary household shopper to cover all consumers. Respondents range in age from 16 to 75. The results encompass roughly 40,000 interviews each year. New iSHOP research specifically focused on customer loyalty across the convenience, grocery, value (dollar) and drug store channels reveals which characteristics drive trial, frequency and loyalty, and which retailers are succeeding at creating “customer advocates” — those consumers who will recommend that retailer to other shoppers. In the convenience channel, Wawa Inc. tallies the highest advocacy score, at

45 percent. Sheetz Inc. and QuikTrip Corp. are not far behind, with advocacy scores of 42.2 percent and 42 percent, respectively. They’re followed by Casey’s General Stores Inc. (38.4 percent), Speedway LLC (28.5 percent) and RaceTrac Petroleum (28.2 percent), according to the findings. Along with having the highest advocacy score, Pennsylvania-based Wawa also scores the highest grades with loyal shoppers on four of the top five drivers measured: 53 percent of frequent shoppers rate Wawa tops for “is a store I trust"; 49 percent for “has friendly, comfortable atmosphere"; 58 percent for “clean shopping area"; and 34 percent for “provides good value.” The food-forward convenience store chain also ranks second, at 37 percent, for the fifth driver of “helpful employees.” In the No. 2 position overall, Tulsa, Okla.-based QuikTrip ranks first for “helpful employees” with 41 percent of shoppers; second in “has friendly, comfortable atmosphere” (45 percent); third in both “clean shopping area” (57 percent) and “provides good value” (28 percent); and fourth in “is a store I trust.” Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz, in the No. 3 position overall, ranks second in three of the top five drivers: “is a store I trust” (51 percent), “provides good value” (34 percent), and “clean shopping area” (57 percent). The retailer also ranks third in “has friendly, comfortable atmosphere” (45 percent), and fourth in “helpful employees” (32 percent). Directly behind those top three performers is Ankeny, Iowa-based Casey’s. The large publicly held Midwest c-store chain ranks third in “is a store I trust"; fourth in both “friendly, comfortable atmosphere” and “clean shopping area"; and seventh in “provides good value.” Enon, Ohio-based Speedway, a division of Marathon Petroleum Corp., ranks fourth in value; fifth in trust, cleanliness and helpful employees; and sixth in atmosphere. Other c-store chains in the study include: 7-Eleven Inc. (its highest ranking on the top five drivers is fifth in “provides good value”); Circle K (it ranks third in both “is a store I trust” and “helpful employees"); and RaceTrac (its highest ranking is fifth in “has friendly, comfortable atmosphere”). The study also includes such store banners as Hess (acquired by Speedway), Kangaroo Express (acquired by Circle K parent Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.), and Stripes (now part of 7-Eleven). Other prominent convenience retailers, such as Kwik Trip Inc., Maverik Inc. and Cumberland Farms, are not included in the final results because they did not receive enough customer responses to achieve statistically accurate data, according to Coca-Cola.

60 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m


More than 60 companies overall were studied for this unique research report.

The Different Aspects of Loyalty

For convenience store retailers, the research determined that the top drivers for trial — putting the retailer into the shopper’s consideration set — are: 1. A  good place to grab a quick meal or snack; 2. Easy to get in and out quickly; 3. Familiar layout; 4. Convenient hours; and 5. Good checkout experience. However, different factors drive frequency (repeat visits) and advocacy (recommending the store to others). For frequency, the top drivers are: items I buy are in easy locations; one-stop shopping; is a store I trust; helpful employees; and good overall value. For advocacy, the top drivers are: store I trust; good atmosphere; clean shopping area; good overall value; and helpful employees. These are the factors Coca-Cola researchers say will build long-term traffic. The study also ranked c-store retailers on several other drivers of shopping frequency, from couponing policies to checkout experience to fuel prices. The leaders in select categories are: • Has Good Coupon Policy: Speedway ranked first, with 7-Eleven in second. •H  as Good Fuel Prices: Speedway ranked first, with Sheetz in second.

•H  as Everyday Low Prices: QuikTrip ranked first, with Sheetz in second. •H  as High-Quality Products: Wawa ranked first. Sheetz in second by less than 1 percent. • Rarely Runs Out of Stock: Wawa ranked first. QuikTrip in second by less than 1 percent. •H  as Clean Restrooms: QuikTrip ranked first, with Sheetz in second. • Has Safe Parking Facilities: Sheetz ranked first, with Casey’s in second. • Has Quick Checkout Experience: QuikTrip ranked first, with Casey’s in second. • Good Place to Grab a Quick Meal: Sheetz ranked first, with Wawa in second. • Has Good Loyalty Program: Speedway ranked first, with Sheetz in second.

C-stores vs. Competitors

Comparing convenience stores with other retail channels reveals that c-stores trail grocery retailers on the top drivers of shopping frequency and advocacy. Among grocery chains, H-E-B, Wegman’s, Trader Joe’s and Publix score the highest marks in four of the top five drivers. For the final driver, “good overall value,” the top grocers are H-E-B, ALDI, King Soopers and Lidl. The rankings of value chains (dollar stores) and drugstores are more similar to those of c-stores than grocery stores and club stores. Dollar Tree and Dollar General generally have higher scores on the top drivers than the 99 Cents Only Stores and Family Dollar chains. CVS and Walgreens dominate the drug channel rankings, followed by Rite Aid. Costco leads the club channel, trailed by BJ’s and Sam’s Club. CSN M AY

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NEW HORIZONS

Equal Pay for Equal Work The old refrain still has relevance today “EQUAL PAY FOR equal work” — the constant refrain of working women from the early 19th century. This powerful motto speaks to the simple fact that no one should be paid less for their work on the basis of gender. Yet, almost 60 years after the Equal Pay Act of 1963, women in the United States still make just 82 cents for each dollar made by their male counterparts.

By Sarah Alter, President & CEO, Network of Executive Women

Why are women still making less than men? According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), there is no simple answer. One major contributing factor, however, is that occupations dominated by women tend to pay less. “Around the world, occupations like teachers pay less than occupations like engineers. So, gender differences in occupational choice affect gender differences in earnings,” says the WEF. Throughout history, women have commonly been pushed into “low-value” work. In a recent article in Time, an expert noted that “historically, we have undervalued care work because it has been seen as very feminine. And we tend to undervalue feminine jobs that involve care.” Another contributing factor is housework. Though we pride ourselves on the strides women have made in the last century, women are still doing more unpaid housework than men. According to CNBC, if men and women were compensated for housework at the average American pay rate of $26.82 an hour, men would earn an extra $469.35 a week, and women would earn an extra $761.69 a week — which comes out to nearly $40,000 a year. Debates that play out on the public stage remind us that preconceptions are still very much in the way of pay equity for women. In the fight for pay equity between the women’s and men’s U.S. soccer teams, U.S. Soccer has argued that “the job of a [men’s national team player] carries more responsibility within U.S. Soccer than the job of a [women’s national team] player.” This despite the fact that the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team is without doubt the better team. According to CNN, the women’s team has won four World Cups and four Olympic gold medals, while the furthest the men’s team has advanced in

62 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

the World Cup was the 2002 quarterfinals. And the men’s team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Right now, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research cites that at the current rate of change, it will take until 2059 to achieve parity in pay between men and women. Even worse, they state that a girl born in the United States in 2017 has a life expectancy of 87 years. In 2082, when she turns age 65, a wage gap will still remain in 13 states. We cannot accept this crawl toward equality. All working women, no matter where they are in their careers, no matter what industry they work in, need to be paid a fair wage to create tangible change.

What Needs to Change

Change could come in many forms, including raising the minimum wage. The National Women’s Law Center notes that women represent “six in 10 minimum wage workers...today, the federal minimum wage is just $7.25 per hour, and full-time earnings of $14,500 a year leave a family of three thousands of dollars below the federal poverty line.” But action doesn’t start and end with policy. Action starts with you — right here, right now. Leaders can advocate for important access to childcare for working mothers. A New York Times article on the subject, simply titled “The Gender Pay Gap is Largely Because of Motherhood,” states that “some women work less once they have children, but many don’t, and employers pay them less, too, seemingly because they assume they will be less committed.” Paid childcare is one potential solution to discriminatory pay for mothers, who earn even less than the total average for women — a shocking 69 cents on the dollar. If you’re a woman in the workforce, you can start by negotiating for better pay, and advocating for pay transparency in your workplace. If you’re a company leader, even better — you may be able to institute transparency in your workplace yourself. Data has shown that banishing the secrecy that has often hidden rates of pay from


workers can reduce or eliminate the gender pay gap within organizations. If you can make it happen, an open salary policy could be a game changer for your organization — and for pay equity in general.

Kick Glass

In NEW’s proprietary study on women in the workplace, “Kicking Glass,” we noted a few other things that company leaders can do to encourage equal pay. Remove any reference to pay history when setting salaries for employees — female employees were likely underpaid at their last position, so don’t let that affect what they get paid at your organization. Ensure that maternity and disability leave doesn’t affect the advancement of your employees. Familyfriendly and flexible policies allow women to build their careers without the stigma. And don’t forget to lean on the data. Turnover analysis and engagement surveys can uncover barriers to equal pay and retention. The name of the game is resilience. Be determined. Don’t take no for an answer. Though women may be less likely to get a raise when they ask for it, that doesn’t mean we should stop asking. And though there may be a long path to equality, leaders can speed the pace by taking decisive action.

Convenience Store News is pleased to continue this series of educational columns by the Network of Executive Women (NEW), coinciding with the annual CSNews Top Women in Convenience awards given out each fall. Fifty-three female managers, executives and directors who work in the convenience store industry will be honored in our 2020 program. In addition to being a presentation sponsor for the Top Women in Convenience program, NEW and CSNews have partnered to develop this series of columns directed at helping corporate leaders drive more inclusive company cultures. 2020 SPONSORS Founding & Presenting Sponsor:

Platinum Sponsors:

Women’s Work

Women have always been expected to work, even when that work has been undervalued and underpaid. We were expected to work as mothers, as cleaners and as unpaid laborers. Those expectations — that women’s work is taken for granted, not to mention unpaid — still linger as ghosts in the consciousness of modern Americans. It’s time to take concrete steps to banish the past and create a future where our daughters earn what they deserve: equal pay for equal work. CSN

Gold Sponsors:

Sarah Alter is president and CEO of the Network of Executive Women, a learning and leadership community representing 12,400 members in 22 regional groups in the United States and Canada. Learn more at newonline.org. Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.

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STORE SPOTLIGHT

Where Traditional Meets Contemporary

The inaugural Huck’s Market features a vintage, yet modern store design that houses high-quality food and beverage offers By Danielle Romano

convenience store landscape in the last decade alone, it is clear an evolution has occurred. Modernday c-store operators have adapted to survive and thrive by moving beyond just the traditional categories of gas and cigarettes, and giving today’s shoppers what they want: expanded food and beverage options, limited-time deals, enhanced technology, and more.

LOOKING AT THE

At a Glance Huck’s Market Location: 1373 W. Tipton St., Seymour, Ind Size: 4,800 square feet Special features: A refreshed and modernized brand package that starts at the forecourt and then flows throughout the convenience store; high-quality food offers, including fresh pizza, fried chicken and fresh bakery items; Huck’s branded fuel

Huck’s — the Carmi, Ill.-based operator of more than 120 c-stores in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee — realized that today’s busy consumers are more concerned with convenience than at any time in the past. That, coupled with statistics showing how many consumers struggle with meal decisions, led the retailer to take a new long-term approach. As one company executive put it: “Today we’re a gas station that sells food. In the future, we want to be known as a restaurant that sells gas.” Thus, the Huck’s Market brand was born. “We have been in the prepared food business for over 40 years. There is certainly nothing wrong with our traditional stores’ look, but we felt that it was time for a change. We think our new

64 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

look will attract more female customers, millennials and Generation Z,” explained Huck’s President and CEO Murat Tokad. “The new Huck’s Market is all about the food. While the traditional Huck’s stores carry high-quality food and drink offerings, the new version takes it to another level with fresh pizza, fried chicken, subs made on-site, salads, fresh bakery items, and many more foods not usually associated with a convenience store.”

Modern Look, Modern Offers

Nearly a year in the making, Huck’s Market made its debut at 1373 W. Tipton St. in Seymour, Ind., on Jan. 14. The retailer tapped retail services provider GSP to help achieve its goal of shifting to a fresh, new look and feel that would resonate with both new and existing customers. “Drawing on history from the original Huck’s store as inspiration, GSP’s design team worked closely with Huck’s to create a refreshed brand package that reflects a modern, yet vintage look,” explained Steven Cohen, vice president of design at GSP. “From concept to future store rollouts, our goal is to help partners, like Huck’s, save time while creating an exciting brand that impacts the entire store from forecourt to foodservice.”


The exterior of Huck’s Market is the first eye-catching feature. Customers are welcomed by a brick façade with dark tones, an elegant sign built into the brick front, and complementary earth tones. Brown and gray earth tones continue to flow into the 4,800-square-foot store, where Huck’s Market makes a nod to the past with soft blue signs on corrugated metal to resemble an old-fashioned washboard, and a floor showcasing a woodgrain look that resembles stores from the not-so-distant past. Weathered faux wood accented with vinyl applications drape the cabinetry, while stylish category headers use laser-cut metal boasting a wrought iron and rustic wood look. “I would describe the aesthetics of the new Huck’s Market concept as ‘vintage modern.’ It’s friendly, inviting and comfortable; almost feels like an old pair of jeans,” Cohen expressed. Beyond the design, Huck’s Market aims to have what customers are craving, no matter the daypart: •F  or the morning drive to work, the store offers breakfast sandwiches, breakfast pizzas, and bakery fare comprised of doughnuts, cookies and pastries. •L  unch and dinner finds include Godfather’s Pizza and Huck’s Famous Fried Chicken. Other menu options are livers, gizzards, submarine sandwiches, salads, hot dogs and other roller grill items. • In-between-meal fillers and snacks include healthy options, such as fresh fruit, keto-friendly snacks, yogurt, and a wide offering of protein-packed items. More indulgent packaged goods can also be found. When it comes to amenities, the forecourt at Huck’s Market features 10 fueling positions that offer the retailer’s proprietary branded fuel and diesel at competitive prices. Additionally, taking a modernized approach to technology, the retailer is getting ready to launch the Huck’s Buck loyalty program, which will feature a frictionless checkout option for enhanced convenience. The Huck’s Market in Seymour is not a one-and-done deal. This summer, the retailer plans to introduce a second location that’s larger at 6,000 square feet — the first of this size for Huck’s — in Newburgh, Ind. Remodels of existing stores are on the drawing board, too.

The inaugural Huck’s Market store aims to be a restaurant that sells gas, rather than a gas station that sells food.

“Remodeling existing stores to mirror the new image will be an ongoing project. With 125 stores to update, it will be a long-term plan that will eventually touch the entire company,” Tokad told Convenience Store News, adding that two other Huck’s Market locations are currently at various stages of construction in Washington, Ind., and Hannibal, Mo. CSN

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INSIDE THE CONSUMER MIND

A Loyal Bunch Three-quarters of convenience store shoppers patronize the same store every time Loyalty appears to be a concept that resonates strongly with convenience store shoppers. The 2020 Convenience Store News Realities of the Aisle Study, which surveyed 1,500-plus consumers who shop a c-store at least once a month, revealed that more than seven in 10 shoppers patronize the same store every time. Furthermore, shoppers cite a loyalty program as the top element that has influenced their decision to visit a specific convenience store. Other key findings from the study include:

On a daily basis, in-store-only

shopping trips occur more often at c-stores than fuel-only trips, or trips where both in-store items and fuel are purchased.

27% VS. 16% VS. 16% Men are more likely than women

19% VS. 12%

78%

respectively.

millennials and Generation X are more likely to make duel trips daily.

MILLENNIALS 18%

GENERATION Z 8%

GENERATION X 17%

BABY BOOMERS 6%

11%

of shoppers say they purchase in-store merchandise and/or foodservice every time they stop for fuel at a convenience store. And 35% say

they do so almost every time.

78 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

of convenience store shoppers say they patronize the same store every time. Daily c-store shoppers are especially loyal, with

to make daily c-store trips that include both fuel and in-store purchases —

Generationally,

74%

visiting the same store each time.

Factors that were most influential in getting shoppers to make an in-store purchase during a recent c-store trip to buy fuel include:

SALE Water $1

Loyalty program

27%

Mobile app promotion

27%

Banners/ window signs

25%


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The 2020 Convenience Store News’ Top Women in Convenience awards program recognizes the integral role women play in convenience retailing. Women will be honored from the retailer, wholesaler and supplier communities in four different categories:

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