Convenience Store News July 2021
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
Inside the Minds of the Industry’s Small Operators Most small operators are bullish on 2021, but some plan to throw in the towel.
THE TOP 100 CONVENIENCE STORE CHAINS Volume 57, Number 7
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Message to Small Operators: Don’t Despair The pandemic affected smaller retailers more than others A YEAR AGO,
I wrote that the pandemic would likely cause a greater bifurcation of the convenience store industry into the haves and the have-nots. I wrote that when we were still in the middle of lockdowns and social distancing restrictions. C-stores were in crisis mode, scrambling to keep their employees and customers safe while searching for new ways to serve an apprehensive populace.
Today, most retailers are seeing their sales and profits bounce back after the pandemic. This Memorial Day weekend, more than 37 million Americans traveled more than 50 miles over the three-day holiday, a 60 percent jump from last year, according to AAA. While larger chains and many smaller operators are experiencing traffic gains at both the pump and inside the store, it appears a significant number of the industry’s small operators are still struggling, according to the Convenience Store News 2021 State of the Small Operator Study (see page 28). Nearly one in five small operators (defined as those with one to 20 stores) said they expect their sales and profits this year will be slightly less than last year’s mostly anemic results, and another 22 percent are expecting similar results as in 2020. More concerning, almost 7 percent of single-store and small operators said they expect to either decrease their store counts this year or completely sell their stores and exit the business.
In a recent blog post, Rajeev Sharma, founder and CEO of VideoMining, pointed out that the increased car trips translate to more visits to the gas pump. What’s more, the pump-to-store conversion rate, which cratered by as much as 30 percent last year for those who pay at the pump, is already showing encouraging trends. According to Sharma, the pumpto-store conversion rate was up by 12.5 percent for pay-at-the-pump customers in the first quarter of this year. Overall, in-store traffic is still down 14 percent compared to the seasonally adjusted pre-pandemic levels. But there are more signs that consumers’ fear of the pandemic is diminishing. According to VideoMining, shoppers spent 13.6 percent more time in the store, bought more items (2.6 vs. 2.4), and spent more dollars ($9.33 vs. $7.69) in the first quarter of 2021 compared to 2020. With business picking up, my message to small operators is don’t despair. The c-store business is still one of the most lucrative and satisfying retail channels around. I know the past 18 months have been stressful, but don’t give up just when conditions are improving.
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EDITORIAL EXCELLENCE AWARDS (2013-2021)
EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Brett Atherton Bolla Management
2021 Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award Finalist, Best Infographics, June 2021
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
2020 Eddie Award, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Series of Articles, September 2019 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
Rick Crawford Green Valley Grocery
2017 Eddie Award, 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
Edward Davidson ER Davidson & Associates (7-Eleven Inc., retired)
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 2016 American Society of Business Press Editors, National Azbee Awards Gold, Best How-To Article, March 2015 Bronze, Best Original Research, June 2015 2016 American Society of Business Press Editors, Midwest Regional Azbee Awards Gold, Best How-To Article, March 2015 Silver, Best Original Research, June 2015
2015 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Single Article, February 2014
2013 American Society of Business Press Editors, Midwest Regional Azbee Awards Bronze, Best Editorial/Commentary, July 2012
Jim Hachtel Eby-Brown Co.
2014 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2013 Business to Business, Retail, Single Article, February 2013
Chris Hartman Rutter’s
2013 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2012
Ray Johnson Speedee Mart
2015 American Society of Business Press Editors, National Azbee Awards Silver, Best Profile (long form), February 2014 2015 American Society of Business Press Editors, Midwest Regional Azbee Awards Gold, Best Special Supplement, November 2014 Silver, Best Profile (long form), February 2014
Laura Aufleger OnCue Express
Robert Falciani ExtraMile Convenience Stores Ruth Ann Lilly GPM Investments Vito Maurici McLane Co. Inc. Matt Paduano Lakeport Markets Jonathan Polonsky Plaid Pantries Inc. Greg Scriver Kwik Trip Inc. Bill Stein Core-Mark Roy Strasburger StrasGlobal
Jack Lewis GPM Midwest
2020 Trade Association Business Publications Intl. Tabbie Awards Honorable Mention, Best Single Issue, September 2019 2016 Trade Association Business Publications Intl. Tabbie Awards Silver, Front Cover Illustration, June 2015
Convenience Store News
CONTENTS JULY 21
VOLUME 57 N UMB ER 7
COVER STORY PAGE 28
28 Inside the Minds of the Industry’s Small Operators Most small operators are bullish on 2021, but some plan to throw in the towel.
3 Message to Small Operators: Don’t Despair The pandemic affected smaller retailers more than others.
58 Standing Firm at the Top 7-Eleven’s acquisition of Speedway solidifies its position as a c-store industry powerhouse.
8 CSNews Online 20 New Products NEW HORIZONS
4 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
72 DEI: It Starts With You Efforts may start small, but they have an outsized impact on your employees.
74 Racing Into a New Channel RaceTrac is expanding its products and services to the professional trucking community. INSIDE THE CONSUMER MIND
90 Shedding the Pandemic Pounds Nearly two-thirds of convenience store shoppers say they are health-conscious.
CONTENTS JULY 21
VOLUME 57 N UMB ER 7
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10 INDUSTRY ROUNDUP
10 C-store Retailers Move Into New Markets
12 CrossAmerica Redeveloping & Expanding Joe’s Kwik Marts Brand
44 Convenience Is More Important Than Ever Many Americans have become accustomed during the pandemic to eating in their car.
12 Fast Facts 14 Retailer Tidbits 16 Eye on Growth 18 Supplier Tidbits
46 On the Mend The COVID-19 pandemic severely disrupted convenience foodservice, but retailers are optimistic about the year ahead.
TECHNOLOGY 68 Moving Beyond Cash or Credit How consumers want to pay for their purchases has changed dramatically.
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6 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
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TOP VIEWED STORIES
7-Eleven Charges Ahead With ‘Massive’ Electric Vehicle Installation Project
Kevin Smartt Named Convenience Store News’ 2021 Retailer Executive of the Year
7‑Eleven Inc.’s latest initiative calls for installing at least 500 Direct Current Fast Charging (DCFC) ports at 250 select conve‑ nience stores in the United States and Canada by the end of 2022. The convenience retailer will own and operate the new DCFC ports.
Kevin Smartt, CEO of Texas Born (TXB), previously Kwik Chek Food Stores Inc., has been selected the 2021 Retailer Exec‑ utive of the Year by Convenience Store News’ blue-chip panel of convenience retailing leaders. Smartt, who has led his company for more than 25 years, currently serves as chairman of industry trade association NACS.
Bill to Ban All Flavored Tobacco Product Sales in Maine Moves Forward
The Maine Legislature’s Committee on Health and Human Services introduced a bill during a virtual hearing that would ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars and dips, and electronic cigarettes. Opponents of the bill raised concerns about lost revenue and growth of the state’s black market
Wawa Brings Back ‘Free Coffee Tuesday’ Promotion
Wawa Inc. gave Wawa Rewards members an extra reward in May through its returning “Free Coffee Tuesday” campaign. This year, in addition to choosing from any existing hot coffee, members could redeem their rewards on the chain’s newest Boosted Blend hot coffee, which has 22 percent more caffeine, or a fresh-brewed iced coffee.
GPM Celebrates Opening of First Store in Its Remodel Initiative
GPM Investments LLC welcomed customers to the first of what will be multiple stores that are part of the operator’s remodel initiative and showcase an enhanced store design. The fas mart store, located in Collinsville, Va., hosted a grand-opening celebra‑ tion on June 10.
How to Sell Age-Restricted Products on Your C-store Mobile App It can be difficult to navigate the advertising of tobacco products and alcohol due to the simple fact that they’re age restricted — meaning not all store visitors or loyalty program members have the ability to purchase the items until the legally determined age set by your state or local government, writes Melissa West, vice president, product marketing for PDI Software. Because of these restrictions, choosing when and how to promote these products becomes a more involved process to make sure you, your store and your manufacturers remain compliant with local laws. This is especially true when you’re eyeing promotional space within your mobile app and loyalty program. As restrictions on tobacco and alcohol continue to shift year over year, it’s important for convenience retail owners and consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands to understand the benefits of showcasing products via a digital presence. 8 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
Refuel Sets Its Sights on At Least Tripling Its Current Store Count Refuel Operating Co. LLC is making a name for itself as one of the fastestgrowing convenience store retailers in the United States, and has no intentions of slowing down. What began as a singlestore operation in 2010 has grown into a network of nearly 130 c-stores spread out across a five-state footprint. “We love what we do. This is a great business to be in. Our mission is to continue to enjoy the industry and continue to grow,” Refuel CEO Mark Jordan told Convenience Store News. Refuel’s acquisition-based strategy is designed to roll smaller c-store properties into a larger entity, achieving the advantages of enhanced operational efficiency, scale and brand-building across a wider geographic footprint. For more exclusive content, visit the Special Features section of csnews.com.
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Clear Demand Tobacco Pricing Solution Price optimization provider Clear Demand launched a Tobacco Pricing Solution (TPS) that addresses tobacco pricing complexities by state, sub-state, zone or individual store levels using POS, demographic, syndicated and retail science data. According to the company, tobacco retailers struggle with the complexity of data management spe‑ cific to promotional programs and state compliance requirements. TPS is the only rules-based application capable of providing seamless integration and automation of promotional allowance management (buy-down allowances) for enterprise and independent tobacco retailers, according to Clear Demand. Clear Demand Scottsdale, Ariz. (480) 699-5889 cleardemand.com
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C-store Retailers Move Into New Markets Kum & Go, Buc-ee’s, Kwik Trip, Alta Convenience and 7-Eleven are among the operators expanding their footprints GROWTH IS A COMMON GOAL among
convenience store retailers. For some, it may come through merger-and-acquisition moves; for others, it may come through new-to-industry builds. Recently, for several c-store chains, it’s come through market expansions. Des Moines, Iowa-based Kum & Go LC will enter the Utah market with multiple convenience stores set to open in the Salt Lake City area in 2022, marking the chain’s first entrance into a new state in more than a decade. The retailer plans to open 30-plus stores in Utah over the next five years. The first five are under contract and will be newly constructed buildings. Lake Jackson, Texas-based Buc-ee’s is also adding a new state to its footprint — part of an expansion strategy that is bringing the brand outside of its Texas roots. Following moves into Florida, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina, the retailer is bringing its popular travel-center format next to Crossville, Tenn. Kwik Trip Inc. has announced plans to plant its banner in a new market as well. The La Crosse, Wis.-based chain is on
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track to begin construction on its first Michigan store in May 2022. For Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven Inc., foodservice expansion is on the docket. The retailer is bringing its Laredo Taco Co. brand north of the Texas border for the first time. The first Laredo Taco Co. restaurant in Colorado will open in Platteville, with more than 10 additional locations planned for the Centennial State this year. “We have started opening Laredo Taco Co. locations in areas outside of our home in south Texas where we know there are serious taco fans. And Colorado was one of our top contenders for expansion,” said Brad Williams, 7-Eleven’s senior vice president of corporate operations and restaurant platforms. “As soon as the word gets out about handmade tortillas and fresh-made salsas, our restaurants start drawing crowds with lines out the door. I can tell you though, one bite and you’ll know it is definitely worth the wait.” While those expansion moves will come in the form of new builds, Denver-based Alta Convenience is expanding its footprint with the acquisition of Red Horse Oil’s Get ‘N Go Stores. Rock Springs, Wyo.-based Red Horse is a fuel distributor and operator of five convenience stores, car washes and cardlocks.
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CrossAmerica Redeveloping & Expanding Joe’s Kwik Marts Brand The partnership will bring the proprietary banner to its newly acquired 7-Eleven stores By Angela Hanson CROSSAMERICA PARTNERS LP will rebrand the 106 convenience stores it is acquiring from 7-Eleven Inc. as Joe’s Kwik Marts.
CrossAmerica’s $263-million deal with 7-Eleven consists of company-operated sites included in Irving, Texasbased 7-Eleven’s divestiture process in connection with its recent acquisition of Speedway LLC from Findlay, Ohio-based Marathon Petroleum Corp. (MPC). CrossAmerica expects to complete its purchase of the 106 stores on a rolling basis, starting approximately 60 to 90 days after the 7-Eleven/MPC closing date, which occurred May 14. Additionally, the company announced that it will partner with its existing branded fuel suppliers to bring nationally well-known fuel brands to these sites. The Allentown-based partnership has been working on redeveloping and reimaging its proprietary Joe’s Kwik Marts brand for the past 18 months, CrossAmerica President and CEO Charles Nifong said during the company’s first-quarter 2021 earnings call on May 11. “The timing of the acquisition corresponds perfectly with this rebranding initiative and allows us to accelerate our rollout of the reimaging and refreshed Joe’s Kwik Marts,” Nifong said. The stores are in prime locations that are a strategic fit within CrossAmerica’s existing store network, allowing the partnership to manage them efficiently within its existing retail network, according to the chief executive.
Located in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions of the United States, the stores include 105 currently branded Speedway sites, and one site that is branded 7-Eleven. Ninety are fee-based and the other 16 are leased. The average lot size is 1.1 acres, while the average store size is 2,050 square feet. In the 12 months ended Dec. 31, 2020, the sites distributed 154 million gallons, or an average of approximately 1.45 million gallons per site. Merchandise sales were $136 million, or an average of approximately $1.28 million per site. “We are eager to get into the execution phase of the transaction and to welcome our new colleagues working at the sites to the CrossAmerica team,” Nifong said. Formed in 2012, CrossAmerica Partners is a distributor of branded and unbranded motor fuel in the U.S. It distributes fuel to approximately 1,700 locations, and owns or leases approximately 1,100 sites. The company’s geographic footprint covers 34 states.
32% When it comes to snacking, Americans are getting more adventurous, with consumers preferring new, spicy and bold flavors (25 percent in 2020 vs. 32 percent in 2021). — Frito-Lay, U.S. Snack Index
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$ Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, sales generated through digital ordering platforms have more than tripled. — Paytronix, Annual Order & Delivery Report: 2021
Generation Z is a powerful generation of shoppers that currently accounts for 20 percent of all U.S. consumers and $143 billion of direct buying power.
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GPM Investments LLC signed an extended 32-month master supply agreement with Core-Mark Holding Co. Inc. The pact increases the number of GPM store locations serviced by the distributor from 865 to 1,055.
Toms Sierra Co. Inc. sold 13 of its 16 c-stores to an undisclosed buyer. The stores are located outside Sacramento, Calif., and operate under the Sierra Express brand name.
Kum & Go LC added an ordering feature to its mobile app. Customers can now order fresh food and convenience items from all of the retailer’s 400-plus locations.
Stewart’s Shops, Wawa Inc. and GPM Investments LLC are among the retailers helping to provide vaccine access to their communities. Wawa teamed up with a pharmacy, while GPM and Stewart’s Shops worked with local boards of health. Sheetz Inc. is the first convenience store chain to accept digital currency in-store and at the pump. It is working with Flexa and NCR to bring the payment option to its Sheetz Cafe Stores this summer. 7-Eleven Inc. is making a big splash with Big Gulp this summer. The retailer gave its famous lineup of fountain drinks a bold refresh by introducing five new, nontraditional flavors at participating stores.
The c-store chain has set a goal of rolling out self-checkout to all Spinx locations by the second or third quarter of 2022.
Gulf Oil unveiled a new brand platform. “It All Starts Here” features modernized elements of Gulf’s brand iconography, including an update to the famous Gulf disc, a refreshed font, and vibrant colors. The Spinx Co. launched a self-checkout pilot program at a store in Greenville, S.C. The frictionless offering is slated to expand to four additional stores by the end of this fall. Pilot Co. entered the chicken sandwich wars, adding two new crispy chicken sandwiches to the menu at more than 300 participating Pilot and Flying J travel centers.
14 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
Stewart’s Shops is marking 100 years in the ice cream business. The anniversary is being celebrated with a “Century of Ice Cream!” exhibit at the Brookside Museum in Ballston Spa, N.Y.
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Blueox cited increased difficulty in remaining competitive as a midsize operator as its reasoning for exiting the convenience channel.
Eye on Growth
Stewart’s Shops Corp. is purchasing the Blueox Neighborhood Market chain of convenience stores in Central New York. The acquisition includes eight locations, seven of which are currently operating. GPM Investments LLC closed on its acquisition of the 60-store ExpressStop chain. The purchase complements GPM’s consolidation strategy and adds to its existing network of 165 stores in Michigan and nine stores in Ohio. Yesway began ringing up customers at new stores in Bangs and Wall, Texas. These stores are the most recent in the company’s announced series of 27 new-to-industry stores and major razeand-rebuilds.
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Kum & Go LC opened the doors of its newest no-fuel, no-parking, retail walk-up store in Denver. The retailer already operates the urban store concept in Des Moines and Ames, Iowa, and Omaha, Neb. Love’s Travel Stops is now serving customers in Diamond and Etna, Ohio; Mosheim, Tenn.; and Walsenburg, Colo. The four new travel stops add 372 truck parking spaces to the company’s overall network.
RaceTrac Petroleum Inc. opened its second new build in Alabama this year in late April. The Oxford, Ala., store joins RaceTrac’s first location in Gardendale, Ala., which opened in January. Two more sites will open in the state this year. Chevron USA Inc. expects to rebrand or open more than 30 compressed natural gas (CNG) sites by 2025. The Allied Clean Fuels Plaza retail station in Napa, Calif., was rebranded as its first CNG site.
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The Hershey Co. completed its acquisition of Lily’s for a purchase price of $425 million. Lily’s low-sugar products fit into Hershey’s multi-pronged betterfor-you snacking strategy. Anheuser-Busch teamed up with the White House to help the U.S. attain a 70-percent vaccination goal by July 4. When the goal is met, the brewer will buy consumers a beer from its portfolio of more than 100 brands. Advanced Digital Data Inc. (ADD Systems) is partnering with Vroom Delivery to help c-stores expand into order-ahead pickup and delivery. ADD clients can automate the pricebook maintenance of their e-commerce and offer more products online.
The savory snack manufacturer started the Utz 401(k) Profit Sharing Plan more than 40 years ago.
Utz Brands Inc. announced an approximately $6-million profit sharing contribution for its associates. Since 2000, Utz’s 401(k) profit sharing contributions have exceeded $75 million.
18 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
Dover Fueling Solutions (DFS) entered into a commercial partnership agreement with EdgePetrol Ltd., a provider of cloudbased software for revenue and operating results management. DFS also completed its acquisition of AvaLAN Wireless Systems Inc., a provider of ethernet solutions, managed routers, softwareas-a-service and cloud-based services. DRB Systems LLC acquired Washify. Both car wash technology providers will maintain their own brand entities and niches, while leveraging synergies. PAR Technology acquired Punchh Inc. for $500 million in cash and shares of PAR common stock to Punchh stockholders. The acquisition makes PAR a unified commerce cloud platform for enterprise restaurants.
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1. Soulboost Sparkling Waters Soulboost is a sparkling water beverage featuring functional ingredients and a splash of real juice. Its two varieties, Lift and Ease, offer a combined four flavors at just 10 to 20 calories per 12-ounce can. Lift contains 200 milligrams of panax ginseng to help support mental stamina, and is available in Blueberry Pomegranate and Black Cherry Citrus. Ease contains 200 milligrams of L-theanine to help support relaxation, and is available in Blackberry Passionfruit and Strawberry Rose. Soulboost captures the fun of a fruity drink through light, guiltfree sparkling water refreshment, according to the maker. PepsiCo North America Purchase, N.Y. getsoulboost.com
2. Pillsbury Single-Serve Brownies & Bars Designed to meet the rising demand for higher-quality desserts and smaller portion sizes, Pillsbury Single-Serve Brownies and Bars are low labor and require minimal handling for increased safety. The single-serve brownies come in Molten Chocolate Ganache and Molten Caramel varieties, and only need to be thawed and served for a rich and decadent flavor. Their molten centers stay gooey without heating, but can be served warm for extra indulgence. The individually wrapped Triple Layer Bars come in Cookie Caramel Brownie and S’mores varieties, and also just need to be thawed and served. General Mills Convenience & Foodservice Minneapolis generalmillscf.com
3. BON V!V Raspberry Dragonfruit Spiked Seltzer Following limited releases in Los Angeles, San Diego and Salt Lake City, BON V!V Spiked Seltzer is now releasing its newest variety, Raspberry Dragonfruit, nationwide. Developed in partnership with the brand’s creative advisor, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, the beverage features a balance of ripe raspberry flavor with delicate notes of exotic, juicy dragonfruit. With zero grams of sugar and a light and refreshing taste, BON V!V Raspberry Dragonfruit comes dressed to impress in a new, sleek can design wrapped in metallic pink and donned with Chopra Jonas’ signature, which is exclusive to this new flavor. Anheuser-Busch Cos. LLC St. Louis bonvivspikedseltzer.com
5. Heineken Minis Heineken USA is reintroducing Heineken Minis, smaller versions of the popular beer. They feature the same traditionally smooth, nicely blended bitterness and clean finish as a full-size Heineken, according to the maker. Heineken Minis are currently available in 7-ounce bottles and 8.5-ounce cans in 24 states, with expansion to additional markets planned for later in the year. Heineken USA Inc. White Plains, N.Y. heinekenusa.com
20 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
4. Reese’s Crunchy Peanut Bar The Hershey Co. introduces another permanent addition to the Reese’s product family. The new Reese’s Crunchy Peanut Bar features the same peanut butter and chocolate combo that Reese’s fans love, but now with peanuts and peanut butter creme to give the bar a crunchy and creamy taste. The Reese’s Crunchy Peanut Bar is available nationwide in a 3.2-ounce king size with a suggested retail price of $1.89. The Hershey Co. Hershey, Pa. hersheyland.com
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6. Original Gummi FunMix New Varieties Swirl’z Party and Tropical Fish Party are joining the Original Gummi FunMix lineup of innovative gummy candies. Swirl’z Party is a mix of five fruit flavors, all swirled with cream, including: Oranges ‘n Cream, Lemon ‘n Cream, Lemon-Lime ‘n Cream, Strawberries ‘n Cream, and Blue Raspberries ‘n Cream. Tropical Fish Party features 18 tropical fish shapes, each with twin exotic flavors, such as: Kiwi Guava ‘n Mango, Passion Fruit ‘n Lemonade, and Watermelon ‘n Tropical Punch. All varieties of Original Gummi FunMix are available in various sizes, including 4-ounce and 5-ounce peg bags with a suggested retail price of $1.49 to $1.79. The Promotion In Motion Cos. Inc. Allendale, N.J. gummifunmix.com
7. Rich’s Filled Dessert Donuts & Jumbo Filled Donut Bites Rich Products introduces ready-to-finish Filled Dessert Donuts and Jumbo Filled Donut Bites. The Filled Dessert Donuts line includes four on-trend varieties: Banana Cream Pie, Fudge Brownie, Neapolitan, and Apple Pie. With prep that is as easy as thaw, bake, top and serve, this new turnkey portfolio is available in two options — with toppings or without. The Jumbo Filled Donut Bites line includes two varieties: French Toast, which features a cake donut bite with maple bits and cinnamon notes with maple filling; and Birthday Cake, which boasts a cake donut bite with confetti pieces and a creamy, vanilla frosting filling. Like the Filled Dessert Donuts, the prep process is also turnkey for the Donut Bites. Rich Products Corp. Buffalo, N.Y. richsconvenience.com
8. POM Antioxidant Super Tea POM Wonderful debuts two new varieties of its antioxidant Super Tea. POM Pomegranate Elderberry Boost Tea combines the antioxidant power of pomegranates and elderberry with a boost of black tea, while POM Pomegranate Orange Blossom White Tea combines crisp white tea with the antioxidant goodness of pomegranates and the fragrant flavor of orange blossom. According to the maker, consumers are looking for products that harness the power of antioxidants now more than ever. The launch of these two new flavors, as well as the entire POM Antioxidant Super Tea line, is being supported with a robust digital and in-store presence. The Wonderful Co. Los Angeles pomwonderful.com
10. Powerade Sports Freezer Bars The Jel Sert Co. and The Coca-Cola Co. have partnered to launch Powerade Sports Freezer Bars, offering everyday athletes a new way to enjoy Powerade. Available nationwide, the bars feature Powerade’s most popular flavors, including Mountain Berry Blast and Fruit Punch. Each bar — available in sizes ranging from 1.5 ounces to 5.5 ounces — features Powerade’s advanced electrolyte solution, ION4, which helps replace sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium, along with delivering vitamins B3, B6 and B12. Jel Sert Co. West Chicago, Ill. jelsert.com
22 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
9. White Claw Hard Seltzer Variety Pack Flavor Collection No. 3 In response to requests from tens of thousands of fans for new flavors, White Claw Hard Seltzer introduces a new variety pack. Flavor Collection No. 3 features three new flavors: Strawberry, Pineapple and Blackberry, alongside existing fan-favorite Mango. All White Claw Hard Seltzer beverages are gluten free, have a 5 percent ABV, and contain just 100 calories per can. White Claw Hard Seltzer is crafted using a proprietary BrewPure process, which produces the most refreshing flavors on the market, according to the company. White Claw Hard Seltzer Chicago whiteclaw.com
SERIES ON SPECIAL REPORT: COPING WITH THE UNIQUE FRICTIONLESSOF ENGAGEMENT CHALLENGES THE YEAR AHEAD
Headlines Are Title Casing Subheads are sentence casing, and can run two lines if need be if the copy is running, you know, a little long!
Weathering the Storm: Part II Retail and c-store industry insiders advise how to stand tall in these turbulent tobacco times In this second of a series of articles exploring how convenience stores are coping with the unique challenges they face in the year ahead, Convenience Store News investigates how c-stores can protect and build their tobacco business. By Renée M. Covino
THOSE WHO SELL TOBACCO are a strong bunch, and getting stronger, as they continue to ride out taxation hurricanes and regulatory downpours from local, state and federal forces.
have adjourned for the year, others are still ongoing, “so it remains to be seen if any states actually pass a flavor ban of some kind during 2021,” he said.
While many experienced favorable tobacco sales during the pandemic (due to more consumers smoking at home and stockpiling), the propensity of regulators to excessively restrict tobacco retailing was unchanged by COVID-19, according to most tobacco retailers.
Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in late April that it is taking steps to ban menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and ban all characterizing flavors, including menthol, in cigars within the next year, arguing that it will help save lives.
“In 2020 alone, New York State enacted a flavored vaping ban, a tobacco coupon ban, a cigar tax increase, a pharmacy tobacco ban, a ban on exterior tobacco signage near schools, and a doubling of penalties for underage tobacco/vape sales,” reported Jim Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS). Flavors are currently at the top of regulatory issues. This year, 21 state legislatures considered some form of a flavored tobacco and/or flavored electronic cigarette ban, according to Thomas Briant, executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO). “This kind of ban removes legal products from store shelves and results in lost tobacco product and ancillary product sales,” he explained. So far this year, no state has passed such a bill, Briant told Convenience Store News. While some state legislatures
Activity around the regulation of vapor and other nicotine products through restrictions on nicotine content, or on which types of retailers can sell these products, is also heating up at the state and local levels. Meanwhile at the federal level, the Biden Administration announced in late April that it is considering capping nicotine levels in cigarettes; however, this was not included in the FDA’s menthol announcement. As if that’s not enough, another long-standing key issue in the tobacco arena continues to be taxation — state efforts to increase cigarette and tobacco tax rates. “While there was great concern that the tax environment for tobacco products would be overwhelmingly negative due to the economic J ULY
Convenience Store News
the power to impact change. Legislators around the country are consistently voting for policies that impact your livelihood. As a business owner, your voice matters in local, state, and federal issues – and we can ensure it is heard. Own It Voice It created a portal to amplify your voice on the legislation and policies that have the biggest impact on your business.
Scan the QR Code and take action now!
Thousands of retailers reached out to legislators in 2020 to enact change.
SPECIAL REPORT: COPING WITH THE UNIQUE CHALLENGES OF THE YEAR AHEAD
impact on state budgets because of COVID-19, many states’ fiscal situations have improved greatly, lessening the threat, for now, of increased taxation,” David Spross, vice president, state government relations at Reynolds American Inc., told CSNews. However, he added, “the threat of taxes and prohibitions on menthol and other flavored tobacco products will continue to keep the industry vigilant each and every year.” Steve McClain, director of public affairs and communications for the Kentucky Retail Federation, said his association fully expects that the attempt by local governments to take control of tobacco sales and marketing will be back on the legislative agenda this year. “As an association, we will have to continue to monitor and rebut all attempts at the state level to abdicate regulatory authority to local governments,” he stated. “Increased taxes on tobacco and vape products are always possible as government bodies search for increased revenue.”
Protecting & Building the Business The good news is the pandemic brought some pleasant surprises to the “sin” categories — tobacco and alcohol sales both benefitted from pandemic-induced restrictions and stress. “While alcohol lost the away-from-home bar/restaurant business, thereby giving c-stores the sales advantage, tobacco sales also went up in c-stores thanks to stay-athome restrictions and a more open smoking environment than typically encountered at work or social gatherings,” said Don Stuart, managing director of Cadent Consulting Group, based in Wilton, Conn. Foot traffic in the convenience channel rebounded dramatically this spring, according to Placer.ai, which offers insight on consumer behavior. It recently reported that convenience stores saw more than double the traffic in key weeks this spring vs. a year ago. So, how can c-stores protect and build out their tobacco business in these hopeful and rebounding — yet still highly regulatory — times? Here are some key ideas:
Develop Lawmaker Relationships The most important thing that retailers can do is develop a relationship with local, state and federal lawmakers, according to Briant. “Reach out to them, communicate with them, invite them to your store for a tour,” he said. “The more lawmakers know about store operations, including employee jobs, the more likely they will consider the impact of tobacco-related legislation before they vote on a proposed restriction.”
Tobacco in the 2020 U.S. Economy The U.S. Treasury’s Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) issues monthly reports on the movement of taxable tobacco products. Highlights of the overall 2020 results include: • Shipments for domestic cigarette manufacturers and importers were up 2.3 percent from 2019 — the first increase since 2015. Until 2020, domestic shipments had been trending downward, at an average of 3 percent, over the last 10-year period between 2009 and 2019. Although 2020 saw a rise in domestic shipments, the Tobacco Merchants Association (TMA) cautiously anticipates that the overall historical rate of volume decline will resume “once the U.S. returns to normalcy in the second half of 2021.” • Manufacturers’ cigarette prices rose by 5.3 percent in 2020 when compared with 2019. Prices for all tobacco products, other than cigarettes, rose by 2.1 percent. Since June 2020, cigarette prices have been increased twice (once in September 2020 and again in January 2021). In the first four months of 2021, manufacturers’ cigarette tobacco prices rose by 3.3 percent when compared with those of 2020, while prices for all tobacco products, other than cigarettes, rose by 2.9 percent. • OTP sales were up 3.4 percent last year, and are up almost 57 percent since 2010. Moist snuff sales have led this increase. Snuff shipments were up 2.7 percent in 2020, while chewing tobacco shipments were up almost 0.7 percent. • Large cigar shipments were down 2.9 percent in 2020. Large cigar sales decreased by almost 6.6 percent, while little cigar sales were up nearly 1.1 percent.
McClain agrees that retailers need to engage with policy makers “to ensure their voices and the voices of their consumers are heard on tobacco issues. It is critical to educate legislators.”
• Roll-your-own (RYO) tobacco shipments were down 5.5 percent last year. American-made pipe tobacco was down 4.1 percent.
Reynolds informs, aligns and puts its trade partners, including c-stores, “in a strong position to engage and register their voice when threats come their way,” according to Matt Domingo, senior director of external relations for Reynolds Marketing Services Co. Working directly with retailers and
• Vapor product imports dropped in 2020. They were down by 22.8 percent.
26 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
Source: Tobacco Merchants Association Issues Monitor, June 2021
SPECIAL SERIES ON FRICTIONLESS ENGAGEMENT
through various state and national trade associations, “we are able to stay in front of all matters — be they local, state or federal legislation,” he explained. One tool Reynolds offers is its “Own It Voice It” trade partners digital grassroots platform that aims to help retailers prepare testimony, leverage media, and more. Earlier this year in Hartford, Conn., c-store owners showed up big and defeated a proposed ban. “At the end of the discussion, before they voted to kill it, City Council President Maly Rosado said it was an outcome of the small businesses of Hartford coming together, and thanked the trade partners for having a voice and engaging with the council,” Domingo told CSNews.
Utilize Point-of-Sale Systems With Electronic Age Verification EMV compliance, along with the popularity of contactless payments, retail apps and mobile ordering/ delivery, forced many retailers to upgrade their technology. Electronic age verification, which lets retailers scan a driver’s license strip, came with many of the new systems. In addition to eliminating some human errors, electronic age verification dissuades minors from attempting illegal purchases. “The scene of the kid outside offering someone money to buy beer isn’t happening as much,” said David Crawford, president of Las-Vegas-based Green Valley Grocery, which operates more than 60 c-stores. “Without this software, you’re behind.” Another age verification tool, TruAge, is being pilot tested by c-store industry trade association NACS. Compatible with popular technology platforms, TruAge supports remote sales and delivery of agerestricted merchandise. The free-to-operate system improves compliance, accuracy and transaction speed. Jeff Lenard, NACS’ vice president of strategic industry initiatives, said the pandemic-induced popularity of digital home delivery accelerated the need for such a platform. Advanced technologies, however, do not negate the importance of employee training. For example, workers must remember to make sure the license photo matches the customer, noted Jeff Carpenter, director of training at Cliff’s Local Market, based in Utica, N.Y, and operating 21 locations. Many c-stores have developed successful training programs. New York, though, offers state-approved training. Penalties are less severe for retailers that utilize it. “But both retailer and employee can be fined,” added Carpenter. “Make certain your cashiers prevent sales to minors in order to eliminate that as the excuse for politicians to impose more restrictions,” Calvin at NYACS urged.
Offer Choice Remain willing to differentiate and take on new, emerging categories and forms of tobacco. “Those retailers that take chances are typically the
ones that end up capturing the bigger slices of the volume that becomes available,” Domingo pointed out. This means continuous assessment and evolution of a retailer’s tobacco real estate is necessary to truly meet the demands of today’s tobacco consumer. Forward-thinking tobacco retailers should “carefully manage the gradual integration of non-combustible alternative nicotine products into the category,” Calvin advised. Heat-not-burn is part of the alternative products movement that Cadent Consulting’s Stuart believes is the future of the tobacco category. C-store retailers need to be proactive with merchandising and communication of these products, he said. Ray Johnson, operations manager for Las Vegas-based Speedee Mart, which operates c-stores in Nevada, is one convenience channel retailer keeping abreast of alternatives. The way he sees it, the future is smokeless, vape, and heat-not-burn. Part of the tobacco focus for the second half of this year at RaceTrac Petroleum Inc. is “having the assortment or innovation tobacco consumers are looking for,” said Laura White, category manager. Headquartered in Atlanta, RaceTrac operates more than 550 c-stores across Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Tennessee. “They want more options,” White said of RaceTrac’s tobacco customers.
Pay Attention to Oral Nicotine In its first-quarter 2021 Nicotine Nuggets survey, Goldman Sachs reported that retailers and wholesalers “remain bullish on the oral nicotine opportunity.” The investment bank and financial services company noted that the broader smokeless category grew 17 percent in the first quarter of 2021, led by top oral nicotine brands such as on! (up 28 percent), ZYN (up 27 percent), and VELO (up 22 percent).
Keep Up With Cannabis Some believe there is a hidden agenda behind the Tobacco 21 effort, which in December 2019 saw the raising of the federal minimum age for purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21. “It’s easier to bring in marijuana if the minimum tobacco purchasing age is 21,” said Jon Crawford, president of the Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association. With more and more states legalizing recreational use, cannabis remains an interesting opportunity for c-stores, according to Stuart of Cadent Consulting. “This raises the question: If beer and wine can be sold in convenience stores in many states, why can’t cannabis?” he posed. Although he believes it will be a while before this happens, Stuart said c-store operators should not only keep abreast of the cannabis laws in the states where they operate, but also keep an open mind toward future revenue potential. CSN J ULY
Convenience Store News
28 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
BY DON LONGO & ANGELA HANSON
Most small operators are bullish on 2021, but some plan to throw in the towel LIKE THEIR LARGER chain brethren, the majority of operators of single-store and small-chain convenience stores are seeing their sales and profits bounce back this year after a difficult pandemic-depressed year in 2020. However, the past 18 stressful months have given a significant number of small operators (1-20 stores) pause about the future of their businesses. According to the exclusive 2021 Convenience Store News State of the Small Operator study, 43 percent of small operators say their sales and profits are trending better in 2021 than they were last year, and another 14 percent say 2021 financial results will be one of their best years ever. J ULY
Convenience Store News 29
How will your store count change in 2021? However, a sizeable percentage of small operators experienced business difficulties in 2020 that are affecting their plans for 2021 and beyond. Nearly one in five respondents say they expect their sales and profits in 2021 to be slightly less than last year’s results, and another 22 percent estimate this year’s financial results will be “about the same” as in 2020.
We plan to increase our total store count 68.5%
We plan to decrease our total 5.8% store count
One disturbing sign is that almost 7 percent of singlestore and small operators say they expect to either decrease their number of stores this year or sell them and exit the business. About 25 percent say they will increase their store count in 2021, while about 70 percent expect to keep store count the same. The majority of small operators are seeing signs of the end of the pandemic as almost 60 percent report that their motor fuel volume is trending higher this year than last year, when most areas of the country locked down for a significant period of time. Another 22 percent say their fuel gallons sold are tracking about the same as last year, while 17 percent say their fuel volume is down compared to 2020. Almost two-thirds of all small operators say in-store merchandise sales will be higher this year than last year, with 16 percent anticipating that 2021 will be “one of our best years ever.” Another 21 percent say in-store sales are running about equal to last year, 11 percent say sales are behind last year’s pace, and 2 percent say in-store sales are significantly lower than they were last year. As reported in CSNews’ 2021 Industry Report published in June, the foodservice category was one of the hardest-hit areas due to COVID-19 precautions. It appears the category is making a big rebound this year among small operators. Thirty-eight percent of respondents say their foodservice sales are trending better this year than last, and another 14 percent anticipate 2021 foodservice sales will be their best ever. About a third of small operators, though, are still waiting for their foodservice sales to rebound postpandemic. Thirty-three percent say their foodservice sales are about the same as last year, while 7.5 percent note that their foodservice sales are slightly lower than a year ago. In what has become a common refrain throughout the business community, finding good employees is cited as the biggest challenge in the year ahead by a whopping 82 percent of small operators. Other factors contributing to small operators’ concerns are: • Insufficient attention from suppliers that favor larger chains or grocery stores; • Industry consolidation and competition; • Keeping up with emerging technologies; • Tobacco regulation from bans on menthol and other flavors; and • Motor fuel margins. 30 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
Our store count will remain the same We plan to sell our stores and exit the business
To date, overall sales and profit performance in 2021 is: 21.9%
One of our best years ever Better than in 2020
About the same as 2020 Slightly lower than 2020
Significantly lower than 2020
To date, motor fuel volume in 2021 is:
One of our best years ever Better than in 2020
13.4% 56.7% 4% 3.5%
About the same as 2020 Slightly lower than 2020 Significantly lower than 2020
To date, in-store merchandise sales in 2021 are: 16.4%
One of our best years ever Better than in 2020
About the same as 2020 Slightly lower than 2020 Significantly lower than 2020
To date, foodservice sales in 2021 are: One of our best years ever 38.4%
Better than in 2020 About the same as 2020 Slightly lower than 2020
Significantly lower than 2020
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Phil Cashion Director of Sales, TBHC
Paul Weier Senior Director, Field Operations, PWL
30 YEARS OF BUILDING GREAT PARTNERSHIPS Hunt Brothers® Pizza began as a family business with a simple goal—to help convenience store owners build a proﬁtable business with a low-labor pizza program. They prioritized doing it the right way, striving to be a blessing to their customers. Now, the company’s celebrating thirty years of blessings by celebrating customers that represent over 8,000 locations across the country. This incredible group of convenience store owners provide delicious pizza to small towns across America and bring the Hunt brothers’ family values to life every day.
Overs the years, the company built a team of dedicated pizza professionals who were passionate about servicing stores. “We really are a people company that sells pizza,” says Paul Weier, Senior Director, Field Operations. “We have so many customers who work just because they want to, and that feeds into the success of their operations.” “You can go anywhere in the country and ﬁnd a story where our program has made an impact in someone’s life, such as helping put a child through college,” Cashion mentions. Ultimately, the Hunt Brothers Pizza c-store owners are what makes the company tick—and thirty years of success came by caring for them well so they could work with enthusiasm and integrity.
HELPING KEEP OUR PARTNERS AFLOAT EVEN IN TOUGH TIMES With a simple, branded program and a dedication to consistency, this people-focused approach gave Hunt Brothers Pizza the foundation it needs to thrive—including throughout the recent global pandemic. “Being deemed essential added another level of responsibility to all of us,” adds Weier. “We all took that very seriously,” especially when it came to providing meals for ﬁrst responders and others on the front lines. Being a blessing is more than blessing a customer or consumer—it’s blessing a community.
DESIGNING A PIZZA PROGRAM WITH C-STORES IN MIND From the beginning, the Hunt Brothers Pizza branded pizza program was designed speciﬁcally to meet the needs of convenience store owners in rural areas. “The brothers, Don, Lonnie, Jim and Charlie, created a very consistent, simple program,” says Phil Cashion, Director of Sales. “That allows the company to build strong partnerships, put owners ﬁrst, and understand their speciﬁc needs as they pursue success.” The program was reﬁned over the years by working closely with store owners to ensure Hunt Brothers Pizza was truly meeting their needs. The Hunt brothers continually asked, “What’s the simplest possible way to do it—and execute it fast?” They also worked to make their branded pizza program relevant and impactful for store owners, setting them up for success.
Business continued as close to normally as possible, even during the toughest times, providing a source of comfort for c-store owners. “The greatest blessing that we gave our customers is that we didn’t change,” Cashion says. “The pandemic was hard and scary at times, but at the end of the day there was virtually zero disruption of the Hunt Brothers Pizza way.” “The people drawn to this company are working harder than they’ve ever worked in their lives,” Cashion continues. “And they come back the next day ready to do it all over again— with smiles on their faces. I’ve never been prouder to be associated with any organization.”
BLESSINGS FOR YEARS TO COME The unique Hunt Brothers Pizza program was built by men and women working to bring the company’s values to life at their c-stores. The team looks forward to continuing the family legacy started by the four brothers with a group of customers who share the same powerful vision for giving back, being a blessing—and serving up great pizza.
BUILDING 30 YEARS OF SUCCESS FROM TRUE PARTNERSHIPS The Hunt Brothers Pizza customer—the c-store owner—is the true hero of the business and the driving force behind their location’s success. Nurtured by the hard work of their owners, c-stores “aren’t part of the community— they are the community,” says Cashion. C-stores represent the fabric of America played out in small towns across the country. They provide a place for friends to gather for coffee or offer up a quick meal everyone can depend on.
6/28/21 12:13 PM
Our biggest business challenges in the year ahead are: 82%
Finding good employees
Inefficient attention from suppliers Industry consolidation and competition
Keeping up with emerging technology
Tobacco regulations and bans on flavors
Motor fuel margins
The rise of e-commerce
Competition from outside the c-store industry
Continued traffic declines
Rebuilding foodservice sales post-pandemic
Changing consumer expectations post-pandemic
Declining tobacco sales volume
Whether inspired by the pandemic or not, small operators are offering many new “enhanced convenience” services to their customers. Forty-four percent offer mobile payment at the pump, 23 percent offer mobile payment in-store, and 22 percent offer curbside pickup. The State of the Small Operator study also found that more than half of retailers (54 percent) say remodeling and updating current stores will be their biggest investment this year. About one-third say they are investing in new technology to enhance the customer experience, and one-third say they are enhancing their foodservice offerings. About 30 percent say they are investing in new technology to add efficiency to current operations.
2020: A Year Unlike Any Other Looking back on 2020, it was a year of feast or famine for small operators. Declining sales in motor fuels and key in-store product categories presented significant challenges, despite notable boosts in segments such as alcoholic beverages and grocery. Data from the second-annual State of the Small Operator study reveals that a minority of retailers simply maintained last year. In category after category, their sales either decreased or increased, with few small operators reporting no change in either direction. 34 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
Which “enhanced convenience” services do you currently offer? 44%
Mobile payment at the pump Mobile payment in-store
Mobile ordering In-house delivery Contactless shopping via app
The COVID-19 pandemic struck a major blow to average total dollar sales in 2020. Just more than a quarter of small operators (25.5 percent) said their average total dollar sales per store increased — roughly half the 51.3 percent who reported an
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increase the previous year. Not only that, but nearly two-thirds of small operators (66.7 percent) said their average dollar sales per store decreased in 2020. Those who saw no change were in the minority at 7.8 percent. In a small silver lining, average dollar sales per store among small operators saw a smaller decline than what was experienced by the total c-store industry, which posted a 16.5 percent decline in average dollar sales per store. Small operators averaged a net loss of 14.6 percent, a sharp fall from the 1.7 percent average net gain reported in 2019. When it came to sales inside the store, small operators reported better news, with 61.6 percent saying their average in-store merchandise sales per store rose in 2020. This actually marked an increase from 2019, when 56.4 percent of small operators saw this metric rise. However, the pandemic still had a significant effect on in-store sales, as the percentage of small operators who saw their average in-store merchandise sales per store decrease rose from 17.9 percent in 2019 to 33.3 percent last year. The percentage of small operators whose average in-store merchandise sales stayed the same fell from 25.6 percent to 5.1 percent. Overall, small operators’ average in-store merchandise sales per store increased 5.3 percent in 2020, up from 2.2 percent growth the previous year, but lagging behind the 6.9 percent increase experienced by the total c-store industry in 2020. Small operators’ average number of in-store weekly transactions per store (which includes merchandise and foodservice) were 2,566 in 2020, down 10.6 percent, while the average number of motor fuel weekly transactions per store were 1,808, down 18.2 percent. Despite these large declines, small operators performed slightly better than the total c-store industry, which saw average weekly transaction falls of 11.4 percent and 20.3 percent, respectively. The average dollar amounts per transaction were a mixed bag for small operators: inside the store, the average non-fuel merchandise purchase increased 15.8 percent to $13.20, while the average motor fuel purchase decreased 12.8 percent to $26.81. The in-store average among small operators was higher than the industrywide counterpart of $10.78. The motor fuel average was lower than the industrywide counterpart of $27.05.
Motor Fuels Performance Small operators struggled with motor fuels in 2020, as people across the country stayed home and filled up their gas tanks less. In 2019, half of small operators reported that their average motor fuel dollar sales per store had decreased; this downhill trend grew steeper last year, as 71.4 percent of small operators said their average motor fuel dollar sales decreased. Those who saw their average motor fuel dollar sales 36 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
My biggest investments in 2021 will involve: Remodeling/updating current stores
New technology to enhance customer experience
Foodservice category enhancement
New technology to add efficiencies
New store growth via acquisition
New store additions via organic growth
More than half of small operators say remodeling and updating current stores will be their biggest investment this year.
per store increase in 2021 were solidly in the minority at 17.9 percent, down from 31.8 percent the previous year. Overall, average motor fuel dollar sales posted a staggering net loss of 24.5 percent. Average motor fuel gallons per store were also down among small operators last year, with 69.5 percent reporting a decrease (up from 35 percent in 2019), and 22.2 percent reporting an increase (down from 40 percent in 2019). Overall, average motor fuel gallons posted a net loss of 26.8 percent for small operators, slightly less than the net loss of 28.8 percent for the total c-store industry. Small operators’ average gross margin cents per gallon increased for the second straight year to reach 25.5 cents, up from 22.4 cents in 2019. Still, this was 2.6 cents below the total industry’s 28.1-cent-per-gallon margin. The average price per gallon fell for the second year in a row to $2.21 per gallon for small operators, 14 cents less than the total industry average of $2.35 per gallon.
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Average Total Dollar Sales per Store The average number of fuel dispensers for small operators slipped to 6.5, down from 7 in 2019.
Foodservice Performance Unsurprisingly, foodservice sales among the c-store industry’s small operators suffered from pandemicprompted changes in shopper habits, as well as service restrictions in many areas of the country. In 2019, just 21.6 percent of small operators saw their average foodservice sales per store decrease. But in 2020, this number jumped to 57.5 percent, while the percentage of small operators whose average foodservice sales per store stayed the same (15 percent) or increased (27.5 percent) both plummeted compared to the prior year. Small operators experienced a net loss of 11.3 percent in average foodservice sales per store, compared to a net loss of 9.2 percent for the total c-store industry. Within the overall foodservice category, segment performance varied: • Prepared food sales decreased for 61.5 percent of small operators, a steep jump from 16.7 percent in 2019. Meanwhile, the percentage of those whose prepared food sales increased dropped just over 10 points to 23.1 percent. The average net loss in this segment was 6.1 percent for small operators vs. a net loss of 5.8 percent for the total industry. • In hot dispensed beverages, the percentage of small operators whose dollar sales stayed the same (33.3 percent) did not change year over year, but the percentage whose sales decreased jumped from 20 percent to 41.7 percent. The average net loss in this segment was a whopping 21.4 percent for small operators, but this was more than two points better than the total industry average net loss of 23.7 percent. • In cold dispensed beverages, more than six in 10 small operators said their sales decreased, while just under a quarter (24.2 percent) reported their sales increased. The average net loss for the segment was 5.3 percent for small operators, the smallest within the category but worse than the total industry average net loss of 4.9 percent. • Frozen dispensed beverages saw the most dramatic turnaround year over year. In 2019, no small operators reported a decrease in sales; in 2020, 59.3 percent reported a decrease. Frozen dispensed sales increased in 2020 for just 29.6 percent of small operators, down from 62.5 percent the previous year. The average net loss was 5.9 percent for small operators, half a point worse than the total industry net loss of 5.4 percent.
Tobacco Performance Cigarettes performed well in 2020, with 63.6 percent of small operators reporting their sales increased, up 38 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
2020 vs. 2019 Increased 25.5%
Stayed the same 7.8%
Net change -14.6%
Average In-Store Merchandise Sales per Store 2020 vs. 2019 Increased 61.6%
Stayed the same 5.1%
Net change +5.3%
Small operators’ 5.3% increase in average in-store merchandise sales per store lagged behind the total c-store industry’s 6.9% increase.
Average Foodservice Sales per Store 2020 vs. 2019 Increased 27.5%
Stayed the same 15.0%
Net change -11.3%
Average Motor Fuel Dollar Sales per Store 2020 vs. 2019 Increased 17.9%
Stayed the same 10.7%
Net change -24.5%
Average Motor Fuel Gallons per Store 2020 vs. 2019 Increased 22.2%
Stayed the same 8.3%
Net change -26.8%
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from 43 percent the previous year. Meanwhile, the percentage of small operators who said their cigarette sales decreased dipped slightly, from 28.6 percent to 27.3 percent. Small operators averaged a net gain of 4.7 percent in cigarette sales, a jump from 0.7 percent growth in 2019 and just ahead of the total c-store industry average net gain of 4.3 percent. Other tobacco products (OTP) had a similarly solid year in 2020, as 66.7 percent of small operators said their sales increased. However, this figure did not change from 2019. The number of small operators who reported their OTP dollar sales decreased climbed from 11.1 percent to 22.2 percent. Small operators averaged a net gain of 8.6 percent for OTP last year, slightly below the total industry average net gain of 9.2 percent.
Beverage Performance Sales in the packaged beverages category increased for 58.3 percent of small operators last year, nearly 14 points higher than in 2019. This is likely a side effect of the pandemic, which shut down many fountain-beverage stations for months, pushing thirsty customers to the cold vault. Small operators’ average net sales gain for packaged beverages was 4.1 percent, less than half a point below that of the total c-store industry.
Average Motor Fuel Gross Margin Cents per Gallon
$2.21 $2.57 2020
40 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
(including merchandise & foodservice)
Beer and malt beverages also performed well for the year, with more than 62.5 percent of small operators seeing sales increase, and a quarter reporting status quo. Small operators’ average net gain for the category was 15.2 percent, just ahead of the total industry’s 14.9 percent gain.
More small operators saw candy sales both rise and decline last year compared to 2019. Candy sales increased for 57.1 percent of small operators (up from 50 percent), while 28.6 percent saw sales in the category decrease (up from 16.7 percent). This resulted in an average net sales gain of 2.3 percent for small operators, shrinking from the 5.1 percent average net gain of 2019 and just trailing the 2.5 percent average net gain for the total c-store industry.
Average Number of Weekly Transactions per Store
Candy & Snacks Performance
Average Motor Fuel Price per Gallon
The pandemic shut down many fountainbeverage stations for months, pushing thirsty customers to the cold vault.
Rounding out the good news for beverages, 75 percent of small operators reported increased wine and liquor sales for 2020, while 8.3 percent said their sales in the category stayed the same. The average net sales gain for wine and liquor was 29.9 percent among small operators — the highest of all the in-store merchandise categories, making it one to watch.
Average Dollar Amount per Transaction In-store
(including merchandise & foodservice)
Salty snacks took a major hit from the pandemic, with just 30.4 percent of small operators reporting higher category sales in 2020 — less than half the 62.5 percent whose sales increased the previous year. Nearly 61 percent of small operators reported decreased salty snack sales in 2020, up dramatically from 12.5 percent in 2019. The average net sales loss was 3.1 percent for small operators, close to the total industry average loss of 3.3 percent. The alternative snacks category fared far better, with 61.5 percent of small operators reporting an increase in sales, a sharp jump from 37.5 percent in 2019. Still, the number of small operators whose alternative snack sales decreased also rose to 23.1 percent from 12.5 percent the previous year. The average net gain in the category for small operators was 3.3 percent, just ahead of the 3.1 percent average gain for the total industry.
Grocery Performance The grocery categories were one of few outright success
Category Dollar Sales 2020 vs. 2019 INCREASED
STAYED THE SAME
Other tobacco products
Wine & liquor
Health & beauty care
Prepared food (prepared on-site or off-site)
Hot dispensed beverages
Cold dispensed beverages
Frozen dispensed beverages
stories for small operators in 2020, as consumers turned to c-stores for a variety of their grocery needs due to overstressed supermarkets and the desire to avoid longer trips to larger stores. Edible grocery sales were on the rise pre-pandemic and 2020 continued that upward trend, with 72.7 percent of small operators reporting an increase in sales, up from 57.1 percent in 2019. Still, success in the category wasn’t guaranteed, as 19.2 percent said their sales decreased, up from zero in 2019. Edible grocery posted an average net sales gain of 10.9 percent for small operators, slightly ahead of the total industry average net gain of 10.5 percent. Non-edible grocery enjoyed a similar bump, with 72.7 percent of small operators reporting increased sales last year, a boost of more than 22 points from 2019. The percentage of small operators whose non-edible grocery sales decreased shrank to 9.1 percent last year. Small operators’ average net sales gain for 42 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
non-edible grocery was 14.7 percent, trailing the total industry average net gain of 15.1 percent.
General Merchandise & HBC Performance General merchandise was another bright spot in 2020. Sales of the category increased for 62.5 percent of small operators, a sharp jump from 30 percent in 2019. Only a quarter reported that their sales decreased, down from 40 percent a year ago. Small operators’ average net sales gain of 4.6 percent in the category slightly outpaced the industry average gain of 4.3 percent. Health & beauty care (HBC) saw similar improvement, with 63.2 percent of small operators reporting their sales increased in 2020, up from 30 percent the previous year. The percentage of small operators whose sales decreased was 21.2 percent, a slight uptick. Small operators’ average HBC net gain of 4.5 percent surpassed the 4.2 percent gain of the total industry. CSN
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FOOD I NSIG HT P O W E R E D B Y DATA S S E N T I A L
Convenience Is More Important Than Ever Many Americans have become accustomed during the pandemic to eating in their car AS CITIES START to open again, convenience is more important than ever.
Many Americans have become accustomed to eating in their car as indoor dining is still not at full capacity. Bite-sized snacks and easy-to-grab-and-go meals are more important now whether they are needed during a morning commute or a road trip. Taking a deep dive into Datassential’s 2021 Convenience Store Keynote, we can begin to understand the attitudes toward the market, as operators are still trying to navigate COVID-19 and added restrictions.
But First, Breakfast It is said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and the emphasis is evident as we look at c-stores. According to Datassential’s Convenience Store Keynote, 58 percent of operators say that hot breakfast foods are driving their sales. When operators think of ways to get traffic into their stores, all-day breakfast availability and ready-to-graband-go options are top of mind. Handheld breakfast options like quesadillas, burritos and tacos are the perfect innovation when thinking of grab-and-go as they can be easily customized for every diet type, from vegetarianfriendly to extra protein. “Healthy enough” breakfast dishes, like avocado toast, have seen a spike the past few years. According to
Datassential’s MenuTrends database, avocado toast has grown on breakfast menus by 691 percent the past four years, and it’s not stopping there. National brand Dunkin’ introduced avocado toast on its menu topped with cherrywood smoked bacon on sourdough toast — for just $4. And who said millennials were spending too much money on avocado toast?
Blend It Up C-store leaders have pushed the boundaries when it comes to what a convenience store can make in-house. C-store menu innovation tracked in Datassential’s SCORES database shows that frozen and blended beverages stand out for both unique appeal and frequency, which drive repeat ordering. Blended beverages have increased in presence at both c-stores and other quick-service operators. Blended beverages like smoothies and milkshakes are standout items that have become more interesting over time. For instance, nostalgic flavors like cotton candy, s’mores and birthday cake are indulgent and bring out the kid in anyone. Cold brew, which has grown 795 percent on blended beverage menus, has made an appearance at quickservice operators like Jamba and Smoothie King, which offer smoothies with cold brew, fruit and protein powder as a morning or afternoon pick-me-up.
By the Slice Fifty-one percent of consumers say they would be interested in customizing their own pizza at convenience stores; however, only 16 percent of operators offer the option. Pizza is a ubiquitous platform that can be customized from the crust to sauce, cheese and toppings. Sauce, in particular, can change the whole flavor profile of pizza — as it has for other foodservice items. Operators have incorporated sauces such as Thousand Island Dressing to reimagine sandwiches like Reubens or McDonald’s Big Mac. C-store chain Casey’s General Stores Inc. has introduced a variety of pizzas the past year from Chicken Quesadilla Pizza to Philly Cheesesteak Pizza, which has grown by 17 percent the past four years on permanent pizza menus. It’s evident that Americans love pizza by the fact that 26 percent of consumers say they purchased pizza the last time they visited a c-store. Build-your-own pizzas are a great way to personalize each slice. CSN
Datassential, a Chicago-based food and beverage industry research and consulting firm, brings clients real-world insights on flavor trends, foodservice and consumer packaged goods, globally. Learn more at datassential.com.
44 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
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On the Mend The COVID-19 pandemic severely disrupted convenience foodservice, but retailers are optimistic about the year ahead By Angela Hanson
COVID-19 AFFECTED ALL aspects of foodservice during the past year. Convenience store retailers had to revisit their approaches to everything from sanitation measures to packaging to ordering options, all while dealing with a major drop in foot traffic and changes in consumers' shopping patterns.
Tracking Sales & Forecasting the Future As in previous years, most c-store foodservice sales still come during breakfast and lunch, but the pandemic certainly shook up traffic patterns driven by the increase in working from home. Twenty-seven percent of retailers in this year’s study said lunchtime saw the biggest sales growth in 2020, a four-point jump from the previous year.
Yet none of this lessened the importance of the foodservice category in the c-store space, and participants in the exclusive 2021 Convenience Store News Foodservice Study largely express positive sentiment about the future, as recovery from the pandemic is ongoing.
Unsurprisingly, breakfast was cited most by retailers as the daypart that experienced the greatest sales decline in 2020. However, in their predictions for 2021, retailers point to dinner as the daypart they expect will experience the biggest sales decline this year.
While new and different challenges have emerged, particularly related to hiring and retaining employees, the current outlook has improved compared to last year's study.
Retailers are more optimistic about breakfast sales this year, as an equal number (27 percent) predict that their breakfast and lunch dayparts will experience the most growth in 2021.
"Sales are up vs. last year, and waste is down," one retailer participant commented. "People are going back to work, going out more in general."
More than half of c-store operators (53 percent) report that their foodservice sales decreased in 2020, up from 14 percent who reported a sales decrease the previous year. Just 35 percent report that their 2020
Past-Year Foodservice Sales, Costs & Profits 2020 SALES VS. 2019
COSTS IN PAST YEAR
2020 PROFITS VS. 2019
Stayed the same
indicates statistically significant difference year over year at 95% confidence level
46 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
Actual 2021 Foodservice Sales
foodservice sales increased, down from 67 percent a year ago.
(January - May)
Likewise, the percentage of c-store operators reporting a decrease in foodservice profits in 2020 jumped from 15 percent to 52 percent. Just under a third (32 percent) report that their foodservice profits increased last year, down from 61 percent the previous year.
Decreased 10% Stayed the Same 16%
Large operators were more likely to report drops in both foodservice sales and profits.
Perhaps due to COVID-19 related supply chain issues, foodservice costs were up for more than eight in 10 c-store operators (83 percent) in 2020. Even more small operators than large operators reported a rise in costs — 93 percent vs. 73 percent, respectively. The good news is that foodservice sales appear to have rebounded in the first half of 2021. Nearly three-quarters of respondents (74 percent) report that their foodservice sales increased from January through May, with small and large operators seeing similar performances.
Actual 2021 Foodservice Profits (January - May)
And they are even more optimistic for 2021 as a whole, with 84 percent of all respondents expecting their full-year 2021 foodservice sales to increase, and just 2 percent expecting a decrease. This is a major turnaround from last year’s Foodservice Study when just 44 percent expected their foodservice sales to increase for the year and 28 percent expected a decrease.
Stayed the Same 20% Increased 72%
Among those who expect a sales increase, the average annual growth anticipated is 19 percent. Foodservice profits also experienced a turnaround during the first half of 2021, with 72 percent of retailers reporting an increase vs. 9 percent reporting a decrease. As with sales, small and large operators offered similar assessments of their foodservice profits.
Expected Full-Year 2021 Foodservice Sales
For full-year 2021, 80 percent of retailers expect to see their foodservice profits increase vs. just 5 percent who expect a decrease. The average annual profit growth expected is 25 percent.
Expected average increase: +19%
Stay the Same 14%
Many study participants point to an increase in foot traffic and pent-up demand for travel as reasons they expect their sales and profits to improve in 2021. "Foot traffic has returned. Impulse and smaller-ticket customers have returned," remarked one retailer. "We are not just seeing the large-purchase stops only."
For some, the pandemic even provided strategic opportunities. Note:
48 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
indicates statistically significant difference YOY at 95% confidence level
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“My store stole a lot of customers from a major competitor when they had to close to quarantine their crew due to COVID," noted another retailer. Despite the general sense of optimism, though, some study participants point to ongoing interruptions in the supply chain as a chief reason for some wariness. “We are having a hard time getting certain items that we sell (egg rolls, burritos, etc.) and a hard time getting the containers we serve our food in as well," said one operator. "Cost of items is also going up, which will require us to charge more to the customer as well."
of all operators offering them. Other prepared food items carried by at least two-thirds of respondents are: other sandwiches, snacks/ appetizers, pizza, and bakery items. Products that made modest but noticeable gains in availability over the last year include chicken, wraps and tacos/quesadillas, which could be an early sign of future menu trends. Retailers cite menu innovation and menu expansion as the top planned changes for their foodservice programs this year, as well as more promotions and ordering/payment options.
Expected Full-Year 2021 Foodservice Profits
Current & Planned Offerings When it comes to the foodservice category, the majority of c-store operators offer prepared food, as well as hot and cold dispensed beverages. However, the percentage of operators carrying hot dispensed beverages dropped from 97 percent last year to 89 percent this year.
Stay the Same 15%
The hot dispensed segment likewise dropped in its contribution to total foodservice sales — going from 25 percent in 2020 to 21 percent this year. The cold dispensed segment also saw its contribution decline, dropping from 27 percent to 24 percent. Conversely, the prepared food segment increased in its contribution to total sales, rising from 47 percent to 51 percent.
Expected average increase: +25%
Within the prepared food segment, breakfast sandwiches remain dominant, with 87 percent
Foodservice Segments Offered Avg. % of foodservice sales derived from*
% offering service
Prepared food (hot or cold, i.e., sandwiches, chicken, pizza, burgers, salads, soups, bakery, etc.)
Hot dispensed beverages (coffee, tea, etc.)
Cold dispensed beverages (fountain, etc.)
Frozen dispensed beverages (slush, etc.)
indicates statistically significant difference YOY at 95% confidence level
50 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
* Asked only of stores that offer the segment
“You don't have enough space for all we are doing," said one retailer. "Product development, training, new concepts, and so much more. Don't sit still!" The top options that c-stores plan to add in the future are third-party delivery, drive-thru, in-house delivery, and meal kits. Small operators are more likely to say they will add thirdparty delivery and take-home/heat-and-eat dinner solutions, while large operators are more likely to have plans for drive-thru, in-house delivery, meal kits, indoor and outdoor seating, and catering.
Retailers’ leading future plans for ordering options include ordering ahead via app, at-pump touchscreen ordering, ordering ahead by computer, and curbside pickup. With the exception of ordering ahead via app, large operators are more likely than small operators to anticipate adding all of these options in the near future. There is also a general feeling of uncertainty about future additions: 24 percent of small
Looking at currently available ways to order and pay for food, ordering ahead by phone remains the top method at 46 percent of the total c-store industry. However, size makes a stark difference as more than 61 percent of small operators offer this compared to just 30 percent of large operators. In-store contactless payment is the No. 2 option at 44 percent industrywide. Tech-based ordering methods are not yet available at all c-stores, but they are on the rise. From 2020 to 2021, the most growth occurred in ordering ahead by computer (up from 9 percent to 21 percent) and pumpside pickup (up from 4 percent to 16 percent.) Large operators appear to be more invested in ordering technology and are particularly more likely to have ordering ahead via app, ordering ahead via computer, and in-store touchscreen ordering.
Foodservice Ordering Options: Plan to Add Order ahead via app
At-pump touchscreen ordering
Order ahead by computer
In-store touchscreen ordering
Pumpside pickup Contactless payment in-store
Order ahead by phone
Order ahead by fax
Biggest Obstacles to Foodservice Success Total
Difficulty in hiring & retaining employees
COVID-19 restrictions on self-service food & beverage
Changes in store traffic & trips due to COVID-19
Lower foot traffic in stores
Negative consumer perceptions around c-store foodservice
Increasing competition for foodservice business
Operational inefficiencies at store level (i.e., quality control, consistency issues)
Finding the right products/programs
Lack of alternative shopping options (i.e., mobile ordering, curbside pickup, delivery)
indicates statistically significant difference YOY at 95% confidence level
52 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
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operators and 23 percent of large operators say they don't know what ordering options they will add in the future. Still, this is ahead of the 17 percent of small operators and 10 percent of large operators who say they don't plan to add any new ordering options.
Some of the changes are sticking around. Nearly half of retailers plan to keep their more rigorous cleaning schedule in place; a third of retailers say they will keep the plexiglass; and a quarter expect to retain other protective measures at self-service food areas.
A Post-COVID Future
Other measures, however, are on their way out — particularly those tied to reducing the contagion of COVID-19, rather than general sanitation. When asked which operational updates they have already rolled back or plan to roll back, the top responses are: requiring employees to wear face coverings (cited by 49 percent); requiring customers to wear face coverings (47 percent); closed seating areas (35 percent); reduced capacity in-store (32 percent); and the installation of social distancing markers (31 percent).
The ongoing pandemic recovery has prompted a major shift in convenience store retailers’ perception of obstacles to foodservice success. Topping this year’s list are difficulty in hiring and retaining employees, and the supply chain. Last year’s top obstacles — COVID-19 related issues such as self-service restrictions, changes in store traffic and trips, and lower in-store foot traffic — are still considered challenges, but were cited by significantly fewer operators this year. As state- and local-mandated restrictions ease in most areas of the United States, c-store operators are also changing some of the operational updates they instituted in response to the pandemic. Additional safety measures were widespread in 2020, with a significant majority of c-stores implementing more rigorous cleaning, requiring employees to wear face coverings, and installing plexiglass at checkout, among other steps.
Overall, many c-store operators feel that the easing of safety measures goes hand in hand with a brighter future for the convenience foodservice business. “Foot traffic is increasing as COVID restrictions are lifted and warmer weather arrives," said one retailer. "[We're] anticipating people will continue to shop more as herd immunity continues to grow." CSN
COVID-19 Operational Changes Made change
Expect to keep change
Have rolled back/plan to roll back
Implemented more rigorous cleaning
Employees required to wear face coverings
Installed plexiglass at checkout
Installed social distancing markers
Customers required to wear face coverings
Implemented protective measures at self-service beverage
Implemented protective measures at self-service food
Reduced capacity in-store
Closed seating areas
Added contactless payment in-store
Shifted self-serve food to full-service
Added curbside pickup
Added buy online, pickup in-store
Added delivery services
Added pumpside pickup
54 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
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CANDY & SNACKS
Boosting Sales Outside the In-Store Experience C-store operators can meet shoppers where they are with an omnichannel approach By Danielle Romano
usually means lower impulse sales, but this doesn’t have to be the case.
LOWER FOOT TRAFFIC
Although consumer behavior has changed, whereby today’s convenience store shoppers demand an omnichannel experience, one truth still reigns: the right offer at the right time can have a major impact on a retailer’s bottom line. According to an AlixPartners study released in January that surveyed 1,001 adult U.S. consumers, convenience store visits remained low as 29 percent of respondents said they didn’t make even one visit to a c-store in the past week. Even looking ahead to the next six months, 26 percent said they would stay away from c-stores, while 20 percent said they would visit three to four times a week, and just 15 percent said they would visit at least daily. The highest percentage — 39 percent — said they would make one to two visits per week.
56 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
Conversely, the AlixPartners 2021 Convenience Store Industry Outlook study found that c-store consumers across all age groups expected to order more deliveries over the next 12 months than they did in the previous 12 months. Additionally, 23 percent of the consumers who participated in the study said they used curbside pickup in the past six months. “The good news for c-stores is that the pandemic has squeezed five years of progress into seven months,” said Eric Dzwoncyk, global co-leader of the restaurants, leisure and hospitality practice at AlixPartners, a business consultancy. “By focusing on loyalty programs and delivery services, c-stores have closed the gap with other retailers, especially QSRs [quick-service restaurants]. As a megatrend, convenience is only going to get bigger. Who’s better positioned than a good convenience store?” Today’s convenience channel operators must account for this major shift in consumer purchasing behavior, which is anticipated to continue post-pandemic. Adapting is especially important for impulse-driven categories — namely, candy and snacks.
Shoppers expect personalized, relevant marketing, and they’re looking to be met outside of the store, online, and through mobile apps and loyalty programs.
Effective E-Commerce Solutions Although the pre-pandemic world was largely defined by e-commerce, the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the digital domain, taking it from a convenience to the norm. “An effective e-commerce solution allows [operators] to leverage digital advertising much more effectively than in-store, as a potential customer can make a purchase decision immediately upon seeing an advertisement,” Vroom Delivery founder and CEO John Nelson told Convenience Store News. “For example, say that a customer sees an ad on Facebook for a particular candy bar that they want. Rather than having to get into their car and drive to a store to buy it — or, worse yet, potentially going to a competitor to do so — they can click on it, buy it with a few taps, and have it delivered without having to leave their couch.” Impulse buys account for a large portion of the candy and snacks that find their way into online baskets. On average for both pickup and delivery orders, this category is in the last third of items added to a cart prior to checkout, data from Vroom shows. Vroom Delivery is an e-commerce solution designed specifically for the needs of c-stores and small markets. “In other words, candy and snacks are often the final items that people add to [their] cart before checking out,” Nelson noted. “Furthermore, when prompted during the checkout process, up to 15 percent of customers add an additional snack or a beverage to their cart because of upsells, cross-sells and suggestive selling.” On an average delivery order, 23.7 percent of all baskets contain at least one item from the candy and snacks category, according to Vroom Delivery figures. About 5 percent, or $1.50, of the basket is snacks/candy by value, and 8 percent by number of items. On an average pickup order, 9 percent of all baskets contain at least one item from the candy and snacks category. About 2 percent, or 49 cents, of the basket is snacks/candy by value, and 3.2 percent by number of items. Because candy and snacks are typically one of the top-selling categories amongst loyalty customers, and c-store customers in general, a best practice for mobile/online ordering is to target customers with candy and snack add-on items, according to Jeff Hoover, data insights strategist for convenience stores at Paytronix Systems Inc., a Newton, Mass.based company that provides software-as-a-service customer experience management solutions for convenience stores and restaurants.
“Not only can we use this to build check size, but since we have historical transactional data on these customers, we can again target specific segments and only present offers for certain products or categories to those people who have not purchased these products before, or at least give smaller offers to other customers and avoid cannibalizing sales,” he explained.
The Role Of Loyalty Programs Loyalty programs can play a big role in marketing candy and snacks by enabling brands to directly message customers with targeted offers. In the AlixPartners survey, 36 percent of consumers said loyalty programs are c-stores’ best lever for driving online-ordering frequency. This is particularly true among younger consumers. Sixty percent of those aged 18-24 and 51 percent of those aged 25-34 said loyalty programs are important to them.
Loyalty programs provide c-store operators with two key elements: the first is a way to contact customers, and the second is the information needed to influence customers’ purchasing behavior. As an added element, loyalty programs also provide insight into customers’ purchase history, which can be used to target them with individualized, relevant offers that encourage an extra visit or a bigger basket, Paytronix’s Hoover pointed out. “This means a retailer could identify customers who only purchase gas, then target them with an offer that is sent to them while they’re pumping gas,” he said. “It also means retailers can deliver offers that are relevant to other buying patterns, and even identify when customers have fallen out of their regular pattern, so they can be enticed back.” After beverages, candy and snacks tend to be one of the highest-selling categories of in-store food and merchandise, so Hoover advises that c-store retailers should incorporate this category into their loyalty programs and reach out to frequent customers who haven’t purchased candy and snacks. He suggests working with CPG partners to fund offers that will introduce these customers to new categories. He also recommends that retailers target low-frequency category purchasers with lower-value or multipleproduct offers to reinforce and increase their existing behavior. “This can all be funded by your vendor partners, who will highly value campaign analyses that show a positive ROI for this spend,” he said. CSN
Convenience Store News 5 7
Standing Firm at the Top By Melissa Kress
7-Eleven's acquisition of Speedway solidifies its position as a c-store industry powerhouse THE SALE OF SPEEDWAY LLC
had its ups and downs. In October 2019, Findlay, Ohio-based Marathon Petroleum Corp. (MPC) announced its intention to spin off its Enon, Ohio-based retail arm. Three months later, MPC began entertaining offers for the nearly 4,000store convenience chain. Then, the world all but shut down as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe. Even in the face of the challenges presented by the health crisis, MPC reached an agreement in August 2020 to sell Speedway to 7-Eleven Inc. for $21 billion — making it the largest transaction in the convenience channel in some time. With an expected closing date of Q1 2021, the transaction was pushed back to the second quarter as both sides waited for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to finish its anticompetitive review. Despite the starts, the stops and the delays, MPC and 7-Eleven officially sealed the deal on May 14, paving the way for Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven to cement its place among the top chains in the U.S. c-store industry.
58 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
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“We are very excited to welcome Speedway into the 7-Eleven family,” Joe DePinto, president and CEO of 7-Eleven, said at the time of the closing. “Speedway is a great brand and a strong strategic fit for our business that significantly
diversifies our presence throughout the North American market, particularly in the Midwest and on the East Coast. Together, we have the opportunity to redefine and enhance the customer convenience experience nationwide. This is a ground-
TOP 100 2021 Rank
Company, City, State
Annual ACV* ($000)
Total U.S. Store Count
Franchise/ Licensee Stores
Primary Store Names
7-Eleven Inc. Irving, Texas*
Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.
Couche-Tard, Circle K, Holiday
Casey's General Store, Bucky's Convenience Store
Admiral Petroleum, Apple Market, BreadBox, ExpressStop, E-Z Mart, Fas Mart, Jetz, Jiffi Stop, Jiffy Stop Food Marts, Li’l Cricket, Next Door Food Store, 1-Stop Food Stores, RStore, Roadrunner Markets, Scotchman, Shore Stop, Town Star, Village Pantry, Young’s
7-Eleven, Speedway, Stripes, Tedeschi Food Shop, White Hen Pantry
Laval, Quebec, Canada* 3
Casey's General Stores Inc. Ankeny, Iowa*
EG America Westborough, Mass.
GPM Investments LLC Richmond, Va.
Cumberland Farms, Fresh Eats MKT, Kroger Express, Kroger Fuel Center, Kwik Shop, Loaf ‘N Jug, Quik Stop, Tom Thumb, Turkey Hill Minit Market, EG America
Wawa Inc. Media, Pa.
QuikTrip Corp. Tulsa, Okla.
Kwik Trip Inc.
Kwik Star, Kwik Trip, Tobacco Outlet Plus Grocer
La Crosse, Wis. 9
Pilot Co. Knoxville, Tenn.
Flying J, Mr. Fuel, Pilot Express, Pilot Food Mart, Pilot Travel Center
Sheetz Inc. Altoona, Pa.
Love's Country Stores Inc.
Love's Country Store, Love's Travel Stop
Oklahoma City 12
RaceTrac Petroleum Inc. Atlanta
Military Arlington, Va.
AAFES Exchange Store, Coast Guard Mini Mart, Marine Corps Shoppette, NEXCOM Mini Mart, Shoppette, Troop Store
Murphy USA Inc.
Murphy Express, Murphy USA, QuickChek
Kum & Go
El Dorado, Ark. 15
Kum & Go LC Des Moines, Iowa
BW Gas & Convenience LLC Beverly, Mass.
Maverik Inc. Salt Lake City
Delta Express, Discount Food Mart, Favorite Market, MAPCO, MAPCO Express, MAPCO Mart
My Goods Market, United Oil, We Got It! Food Mart
Long Beach, Calif. 19
Stewart's Shops Corp. Ballston Spa, N.Y.
COPEC Inc. Franklin, Tenn.
Global Partners LP/ Alliance Energy Corp.
Chevron ExtraMile, Jacksons Food Store
Alon, DK, 7-Eleven
Alltown, Alltown Fresh, Convenience Plus, Fast Freddie’s, Honey Farms, Jiffy Mart, Mr. Mike's, P&H Truck Stop, T-Bird, Xtra Mart
Waltham, Mass. 22
ExtraMile Convenience Stores LLC Pleasanton, Calif.
Jacksons Food Stores Inc.
Meridian, Idaho 24
Delek US Holdings Inc. Brentwood, Tenn.
Two Farms Inc. Baltimore
60 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
TOP 100 breaking moment in our company's proud history.”
while also strengthening the company's financial profile. The addition diversifies the convenience retailer's presence to 47 of the 50 most populated metro areas in the United States, and expands its company-operated store footprint as well.
According to 7-Eleven, acquiring Speedway accelerates its growth trajectory
Company, City, State
TravelCenters of America Inc. Westlake, Ohio
Texas Petroleum Group LLC
Annual ACV* ($000)
Total U.S. Store Count
Franchise/ Licensee Stores
Primary Store Names
Petro Stopping Center, TA, TA Express
United Refining Co. of Pennsylvania Warren, Pa.
Country Fair, Kwik Fill, Kwik Fill & Smokers Outlet
Giant Eagle Inc. Pittsburgh
CEFCO Convenience Stores
Meijer Gas Station
United Dairy Farmers
Joe's Kwik Mart, One Stop WV, Rocky's Market, Stop In, Uni Mart, Zommerz
Hy-Vee Fast & Fresh Express, Hy-Vee Gas Station
Par Mar Stores
Hightail, Sudden Service, T Fuel, Tri Star Energy, Twice Daily
Louisville, Ky. 31
Cal's Convenience Inc. Frisco, Texas
Fikes Wholesale Inc. Temple, Texas
Meijer Grand Rapids, Mich.
United Dairy Farmers Cincinnati
CrossAmerica Partners LP Allentown, Pa.
Hy-Vee Food Stores Inc. West Des Moines, Iowa
Croton Holding Co. Pittsburgh
G&M Oil Co. Inc.
Chevron ExtraMile, G&M Food Mart
Huntington Beach, Calif. 39
Bolla Management Corp. Garden City, N.Y.
Terrible Herbst Inc. Las Vegas
Tri Star Energy LLC Nashville, Tenn.
Anabi Oil Co. Upland, Calif.
True North Energy LLC
FL Roberts, Lil Mart, Nouria
2 Go Mart, Aisle 1, Rebel
Brecksville, Ohio 44
Blarney Castle Oil Co. Bear Lake, Mich.
Nouria Energy Worcester, Mass.
Martin & Bayley Inc. Carmi, Ill.
Go Mart Inc. Gassaway, W. Va.
Englefield Oil Co. Heath, Ohio
Enmarket Inc. Savannah, Ga.
Circle K, Cruizers Convenience Marketplace, Double Quick, Refuel
Mount Pleasant, S.C.
Convenience Store News
So, it comes as no surprise that 7-Eleven keeps its crown as the No. 1 chain on the 2021 Convenience Store News Top 100 ranking. According to data provided to CSNews by Nielsen TDLinx, the retailer boasted a total U.S. store count of 12,973
locations as of June 2021 — broken out to 5,282 company-operated stores and 7,691 franchise stores. That figure far outnumbers No. 2 chain Laval, Quebecbased Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.'s 5,833 total U.S. store count, and new No. 3 chain Ankeny, Iowa-based
TOP 100 2021 Rank
Company, City, State
Petrogas Group SC LLC
Annual ACV* ($000)
Total U.S. Store Count
Franchise/ Licensee Stores
Applegreen, Express Lane/Petrogas, Freedom Valu Center, Pitt Stop, Speedway
Primary Store Names
CF Altitude LLC Los Angeles
Victory Marketing LLC
Ridgeland, Miss. 54
Plaid Pantries Inc. Beaverton, Ore.
Town Pump Inc. Butte, Mont.
Hassan & Sons Inc.
Circle K, Star Stop
Chevron ExtraMile, Power Market
Orange, Calif. 56
Little General Stores Inc. Beckley, W. Va.
Mirabito Energy Products Binghamton, N.Y.
Stinker Station Inc. Boise, Idaho
M.M. Fowler Inc. Durham, N.C.
Panjwani Energy LLC Houston
Vintners Distributors/AU Energy Fremont, Calif.
Chevron ExtraMile, Loop
Sampson Bladen Oil Co. Inc.
Han Dee Hugo's
FiveStar Food Mart
Clinton, N.C. 64
Newcomb Oil Co. Bardstown, Ky.
Gas Express LLC Atlanta
The Spinx Co. Inc.
Greenville, S.C. 67
Toot N Totum Food Stores Inc. Amarillo, Texas
Toot N Totum
Reid Stores Inc.
Lockport, N.Y. 69
FKG Oil Co. Belleville, Ill.
Sunoco LP Dallas
APlus, Aloha Market, Menehune Market
CHR Corp. York, Pa.
Atlantis Management Group
Atlantis Fresh Market
Mount Vernon, N.Y. 72
Johnson Oil Co.
Rock Falls, Ill. 74
E&C Mid Atlantic Ventures Chantilly, Va.
Krist Oil Co. Iron River, Mich.
62 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
APlus, Corner Mart, Crown Express Mart, The Wine Rack, Washington Express Krist Food Mart
Casey's General Stores Inc.'s 2,365 total store count. (MPC was previously in the No. 3 spot.)
Gauging the Industry Impact Contemplating the impact of this acquisition on the overall c-store industry, Terry Monroe, founder and president of American Business Brokers & Advisors, believes 7-Eleven’s takeover of Speedway is a positive move for the U.S. convenience channel. “Speedway was a very good chain of stores and was in the process of building new stores with a good image. However, I think 7-Eleven brings more consistency and name recognition to the customer than Speedway or any other convenience store chain in the United States,” he said. “7-Eleven is quickly becoming the McDonald’s of the convenience store industry.” Monroe went so far as to note that he sees nothing bad about the acquisition. “I am very bullish on this acquisition and see nothing but a positive outcome,“ he said. In his opinion, having a dominant player could be a good thing for the industry — and the consumer. “Contrary to what you hear, people don't like surprises. As a friend once told me, surprises are good for birthdays and Christmas, but not in business or when dealing with customers,” he said. “Customers like for things to be consistent, meaning when they visit a store or a business whether in person or online, they don't want to have to be concerned about what the outcome is going to be.”
“Together, we have the opportunity to redefine and enhance the customer convenience experience nationwide. This is a groundbreaking moment in our company's proud history.” — Joe DePinto, 7-Eleven Inc.
He pointed to quick-service restaurant giant McDonald's as an example. “McDonald's was the first to train America on this principle and they have been very successful over the world with their focus on consistency. The French fries and cheeseburger taste the same whether you are in Fargo, N.D., or Miami, Fla.; it doesn't matter, they are the same," he explained. “This same principle applies to the convenience store industry. “…In Pennsylvania, Sheetz may be your convenience store of choice and further east, Wawa may be your local choice, but get out of their region and the customer wants consistency. And if 7-Eleven can continue to control its operations, it will be able to deliver to the customer the consistency they are looking for,” Monroe stated.
Ripple Effects The Speedway transaction will have ripple effects beyond just the retailer community. J ULY
Convenience Store News
Any large consolidation impacts those that support the channel in terms of products and services, as most acquisitions focus on efficiencies and synergies, according to Scott Burchfield, chief operations officer at
Impact 21, a retail consulting partner to c-stores. “Therefore, anyone supplying or servicing an acquired company could find themselves on the outside looking in,” he acknowledged. “That said,
Company, City, State
Annual ACV* ($000)
Total U.S. Store Count
Franchise/ Licensee Stores
Primary Store Names
Quick Track Inc.
BellStores, Minuteman Food Mart
Bedford, Texas 77
C.N. Brown Co. South Paris, Maine
Family Express Corp. Valparaiso, Ind.
Campbell Oil Co. Massillon, Ohio
First Coast Energy LLP Jacksonville, Fla.
MFA Oil Co. Columbia, Mo.
Break Time, MFA Oil, Petro Card 24
Southwest Georgia Oil Co.
Sun Stop, S&S Food Store, Sun Valley Market & Deli
Clarks Pump N Shop
Hele, Mid Pac 76, Nomnom
Conomart Super Store, Harts, KB Express, Superpumper Store
Chucky's Food Store, Sam's Food Store
Convenient Food Mart
Dandy Mini Mart
Bainbridge, Ga. 83
Gate Petroleum Co. Jacksonville, Fla.
BFS Foods Inc. Morgantown, W. Va.
Clarks Pump N Shop Inc. Ashland, Ky.
Par Pacific Holdings Inc. Houston
Parkland USA Minot, N.D.
Sam's Food Store Rocky Hill, Conn.
Convenient Food Mart Inc. Mentor, Ohio
Dandy Mini Marts Inc. Sayre, Pa.
Kenk Inc. Northridge, Calif.
Weigel's Stores Inc.
Parker's, Parker's Kitchen
USA Mini Mart
Powell, Tenn. 93
The Parker Cos. Savannah, Ga.
Midjit Market Inc. Las Vegas
Green Valley Grocery Store
7-Eleven Hawaii Inc.
OnCue Marketing LLC Stillwater, Okla.
S&G Stores LLC Sylvania, Ohio
Walters-Dimmick Petroleum Inc. Marshall, Mich.
Holiday Oil Co.
West Valley City, Utah 100
Andretti Petroleum Group Eureka, Calif.
Byrne Dairy Inc. Weedsport, N.Y.
Source: Nielsen TDLinx, April 2021 *Data as of June 2021 to reflect recent completed acquisitions *All Commodity Volume (ACV) is provided by Nielsen TDLinx. ACV is an annualized range of the estimated retail sales volume of all items sold in a store that pass through the retailer’s cash registers. Lottery sales are not included; gas sales are included where applicable. The Nielsen TDLinx ACV is an estimate — a directional measure to be used as an indicator of company size.
64 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
TOP 100 acquisitions are a great time for retailers and suppliers to review best practices between companies and evaluate the best go-forward strategies, which will generally be a positive to the bottom line.” Burchfield leads the Acquisition Business Transformation practice at Lexington, Ky.based Impact 21. He noted that it is always difficult for a supplier or service provider to the channel when retailers are acquired, particularly if they do not have an existing relationship with the company that is doing the acquiring. “As companies get bigger, they also expect to have greater leverage purchasing goods and services, so this could definitely impact all vendors,” he added. Aside from the top three chains, EG America, GPM Investments LLC, Wawa Inc., QuikTrip Corp., Kwik Trip Inc., Pilot Co. and Sheetz Inc. round out the top 10 on this year’s Top 100 ranking. The top 10 retailers account for a combined 28,041 industry stores (or 19 percent) — and of those, the top three retailers account for a combined 21,171 stores (or 15 percent). Still, the convenience channel remains very segmented. “Despite having large, dominant players, over half of all convenience stores are single-store operators. When large companies buy large companies, this dynamic doesn't change,” Burchfield pointed out. “That said, there is often an opportunity during these acquisitions for other retailers to buy stores that the dominant player wants or needs to ‘spin off.’ This provides other medium or small retailers a rare opportunity to expand [their] footprint in their existing and/or new geographies, often with quality assets that may not have been available otherwise.”
competition within the existing marketplace; all you did was change who is now running the store,” he said. Of course, there are many other factors that come into play when a retailer chooses to exit the business, such as the age of the owners, succession plans (or lack thereof), and the financial investments needed to compete in today's marketplace. “A business has to spend money to maintain the quality of their business and if one is not careful, they will keep making money and spending it on the stores and basically just keep trading dollars and not really improving their lifestyle. It becomes a treadmill with no end,” said Monroe.
The Acquirers Club Speedway changing hands has not been the only notable merger-and-acquisition transaction this past year — or even on May 14 of this year. That same day, Casey's closed on the most significant transaction in the company's history with the acquisition of Omaha, Neb.based Buchanan Energy, owner of Bucky's Convenience Stores.
“Despite having large, dominant players, over half of all convenience stores are single-store operators. When large companies buy large companies, this dynamic doesn't change.” — Scott Burchfield, Impact 21
Seeing Exit Signs? Even with the high rate of consolidation in the channel, the c-store industry still provides a compelling and profitable model, and will for decades to come, according to Burchfield. “This will continue to attract investors and new types of operators. So, large acquisitions alone should not be the reason that other operators exit the industry,” he said. Monroe echoes that 7-Eleven's acquisition of Speedway alone should not have an impact on more operators stepping away from the channel. “You have to remember, no new stores came into the marketplace to increase J ULY
Convenience Store News
145,003 TOTAL NUMBER OF STORES IN THE INDUSTRY*
PERCENTAGE OF STORES OPERATED BY THE TOP 100
19% PERCENTAGE OF STORES OPERATED BY THE TOP 10
15% PERCENTAGE OF STORES OPERATED BY THE TOP 3
NUMBER OF STORES OPERATED BY THE TOP 100
NUMBER OF STORES OPERATED BY THE TOP 10
NUMBER OF STORES OPERATED BY THE TOP 3
SOURCES: CONVENIENCE STORE NEWS MARKET RESEARCH; NIELSEN TDLINX *INDUSTRY STORE COUNT AS OF JUNE 2021
66 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
TOP 100 The deal, which the retailers initially announced in November 2020, deepens Casey's presence in the Midwest — notably, in Nebraska and Illinois — and boosts its total number of company-owned and -operated convenience stores to more than 2,300 locations. The $580-million transaction included 94 retail stores and 79 dealer locations, as well as multiple parcels of real estate for future new store construction. (Casey's will divest six stores as part of a consent order with the FTC.) The acquisition fits into the company’s three-year strategic plan to add 345 additional stores to its portfolio. Casey's launched the plan in January 2020. The Buchanan Energy acquisition also unlocks additional M&A opportunities for Casey's through a new wholesale fuel business and dealer network capability, which will provide further flexibility in support of Casey's long-term business plan. Casey's will manage fuel supply agreements to these stores. Over the past year, El Dorado, Ark.-based Murphy
USA Inc. also made waves when it entered into an agreement to acquire Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based QuickChek Corp. in December 2020. The $645-million transaction closed just six week later in January 2021. The deal added 157 convenience stores in the Northeast to Murphy USA's portfolio. Six months in, the retailers are busy working on integration efforts — which have validated the value creation opportunity of the deal, Murphy USA President and CEO Andrew Clyde said during the company's first-quarter 2021 earnings call, held April 29. Murphy USA views value creation through three different lenses: leveraging scale, sharing best practices, and accelerating critical strategy initiatives. The company also sees opportunity with vendor contracts that are slated for renewal later this year and in 2022. CSN
After the Deal Closes Being No. 1 has its privileges. In the case of 7-Eleven Inc., consumers in just about every corner of the United States will recognize the banner.
For example, large companies invest millions in technology that can change rapidly, and it’s often harder for them to implement and change as quickly as others.
But a large footprint — regardless of the retailer — can also bring some challenges.
“That said, this is actually improving as most large companies in the channel are investing in the cloud and focusing on project-management methodologies for IT and business alignment (e.g., cross-functional workstreams, Agile),” he said.
“While a large store count provides critical mass and economies of scale to operate more efficiently than [the] competition, in some cases it can also be an Achilles heel for any company to be nimble and maintain flexibility in order to meet the changing needs of its customers,” noted Scott Burchfield, chief operations officer at Impact 21. Most companies, he said, end up investing as much in the integration efforts post-acquisition as they do in the actual acquisition. “Organizations that create an in-depth integration plan before the transaction closes will experience a higher success rate and benefit from early synergies,” he advised, pointing out that many such plans call for the creation of an internal team, or seek out expertise, to develop a comprehensive roadmap to bring the organizations together at all levels. “Most companies have strong, broad stroke goals to achieve when business entities come together. Making it happen is a different story,” Burchfield added.
Looking at 7-Eleven specifically, it’s important to remember that the nation’s largest convenience store chain operates mostly with a franchisee model. “This can be both good and bad,” said Terry Monroe, founder and president of American Business Brokers & Advisors. As he pointed out, 7-Eleven cannot completely control the franchisee when it comes to operations and presentation of the store to the customer. Sometimes, you are going to get a sloppy operator who doesn't keep the store as neat and clean as they should and gives the brand a bad image, according to Monroe. “Where 7-Eleven does excel is in [its] food offerings and private label products. 7-Eleven has worked hard at having food offerings that are quick and easy to offer to their customers without a lot of labor or preparation in a small space,” he said. “Plus, they focus on carrying many proprietary 7-Eleven products in the store too, which carry a higher gross profit margin.”
Convenience Store News
Moving Beyond Cash or Credit How consumers want to pay for their purchases has changed dramatically By Melissa Kress TEN YEARS AGO, Google gave the world a sneak peek at its newest feature, Google Wallet. When unveiling the innovation in May 2011, the company explained that the app would transform a phone into a wallet and would present merchants with an opportunity to strengthen customer relationships by offering a faster, easier shopping experience.
At the time, many wondered if the convenience channel would embrace mobile wallets. And even more importantly, some wondered whether consumers would embrace them. Considering the uncertainty of a decade ago, it’s amazing to see where payment options are now. How consumers can pay — and want to pay — for their purchases has changed dramatically, partially driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and partially driven by consumers' quick adoption of new technologies. Retailers are eager to meet today’s high expectations. Take Amazon, for example. The traditional e-commerce retailer entered the brick-andmortar space and debuted its ”just walk in and
68 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
walk out” technology at its first Amazon Go store in early 2018. The Amazon Go concept relies on cameras and sensors to track what shoppers remove from shelves and what they put back. Customers are billed after leaving the store using credit cards on file. C-store retailers initially were nervous about Amazon Go, but then began rolling out similar frictionless checkout options at their stores. However now, just as the convenience channel catches up on frictionless systems, Amazon is at it again. This spring, the company began rolling out Amazon One to select Whole Foods Market stores. This new contactless technology allows customers to shop and pay using just their palm.
Talk to the Hand Can we expect the convenience channel to follow suit? The answer is: maybe. “I think it is our duty as retailers, particularly as convenience retailers, to bring our customers what they want. That means giving the customer what they want in payment options, product mix, and in removing friction and ensuring their transaction experience with us is as convenient
as possible,” said Jeremie Myhren, chief information officer at Road Ranger LLC, a Schaumburg, Ill.-based chain of travel centers, truck stops and convenience stores primarily in the Midwest. When considering which payment options to offer, he believes c-store operators must stop and remind themselves of this ethos, and ask questions such as: Is this what the customer wants? Will this give the customer a more convenient experience? While some in the industry may be concerned about what Amazon is going to offer next, Mike Wilson, chief operating officer at Omaha, Neb.-based Cubby's, is not one of them. “I really never got nervous about Amazon, like many other retailers. In this business, someone is always going to come up with new gadgets or technology. You have to focus on what you do well, and make it as easy on both your customers and employees,” he said. Wilson thinks palm payment may pop up somewhere in the convenience channel.
“The need for change and a move toward a more frictionless forecourt experience is driven by the clear changes we see in consumer behavior. — Deb Hall Lefevre, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.
“I am sure someone out there may try it, but currently I believe this is going too far. I think you have half of the population who would never use this type of technology,” he noted. ”Just consider the current environment now; there are people out there who believe that the vaccines can track you. Imagine attempting to get those folks to utilize palm payment.” That being said, Wilson acknowledges that environments change and maybe one day, it would be accepted. But it is not something currently on Cubby’s radar. The key priority for c-stores, according to Nick East, CEO and co-founder of Zynstra, an NCR company, is to deliver a better customer experience at a lower cost.
Convenience Store News 69
NOVEMBER 11, 2021
DES MOINES, IOWA
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 inﬂuential retailers and suppliers in the c-store industry in attendance, honoring some of the industry’s most admired retailer and supplier executives.
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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.
RETAILER HALL OF FAME
Founder and CEO Krause Group (Kum & Go)
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Kevin Smartt CEO TXB (formerly Kwik Chek)
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.
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For more sponsorship information please contact
Paula Lashinsky, VP/Publisher, firstname.lastname@example.org
“While biometric checkout helps to replace forgettable passwords and makes payments potentially faster and more convenient, c-stores have to have the right infrastructure to deliver this type of offering quickly, and payments are only part of the value chain,” East explained. “We are seeing significant adoption of self-serve and assisted checkout technologies coupled with a variety of payment methods, such as digital wallets and c-stores’ own mobile app payments, for rapid checkout,” he continued. ”Although device-based, these forms of payment have been very successful and have accelerated rapidly in c-stores since the pandemic.”
In the Driver's Seat There is more to payment innovation than biometric technology. In April, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. introduced Pay by Plate in Sweden and plans to expand it across its Circle K network. The international retailer piloted the technology at select Circle K stores in Norway before bringing it to Sweden this spring. Pay by Plate enables Circle K customers to pay for fuel using sign recognition and a mobile app. It marks a key step in Circle K's journey toward enhancing its forecourt offering and ensuring it meets the future needs of customers, according to the company. “At Circle K, we know the forecourt of today is not the forecourt of tomorrow and we are committed to evolving the forecourt experience for our customers through innovation,” Deb Hall Lefevre, chief information officer for Laval, Quebec-based Couche-Tard, said in a statement. ”The need for change and a move toward a more frictionless forecourt experience is driven by the clear changes we see in consumer behavior. “As market leaders, we feel it is our responsibility to continue pushing forward the development of the forecourt and convenience retail space, and ensure we are adapting today to meet the future needs of our customers,” she added. Similarly, Alltown, part of the Waltham, Mass.-based Global Partners LP family of brands, teamed up with PayByCar Inc. to roll out an in-car, touchless payment service across its 30 gas-station locations
in Massachusetts earlier this year. Alltown began testing the PayByCar technology in mid-2019. Drivers with E-ZPass transponders can register for PayByCar online and then use their transponders to pay for gas and other goods at Alltown locations without having to touch the gas station keypad or take out cash, a credit card or mobile app. Vehicles without E-ZPass transponders can enroll and pay with PayByCar's own non-toll sticker.
Variety Is Best As East noted, the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of new self-checkout and touchless checkout options available to consumers. He pointed to mobile app payment; buy online, pick up curbside; buy online, pick up in-store; self-checkout; and assisted checkout as options that are proving very successful already. “The absolute key is not to alienate sections of your existing customer base. All new checkout technologies currently have to co-exist alongside traditional pointof-sale; thus, a variety of checkout options is best,” he advised. Retailers must know their customer base, and recognize that geographic location can make a big difference in technology adoption rates. Cubby's operates 36 convenience stores in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota — mostly in rural areas where customers will likely not be so willing to adopt out-of-the-box contactless experiences like pay-by-palm technology, according to Wilson. “If implemented throughout the country, it will probably have a better usage rate in large urban cities, but it will be extremely difficult to implement in many suburbs and rural areas,” he said. “Most of our stores are in rural areas and the customer base would revolt.” Road Ranger’s Myhren is a proponent of striking a balance. “While I tend to agree with some of the criticism lobbed on our industry as being slow to innovate in the past, I think we need to strike a balance between the upside of innovative curiosity and the downside of jeopardizing our core customer value proposition and promise: convenience,” he said. The ideal place for a c-store retailer to be, Myhren maintains, is having a culture and platform in place that enables the operator to be a fast follower. “Our customer doesn't look to us to show them the future, so long as we keep convenience at the center of our offer and we don't lag too far behind,” the technology veteran said. “So, with all that in mind, let Amazon test the market appetite for biometric payment and identification, and let's watch very closely. If it becomes apparent this is indeed what the customer wants, I think we need to honor that and get to work on it.” CSN
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DEI: It Starts With You Efforts may start small, but they have an outsized impact on your employees
By Sarah Alter President & CEO Network of Executive Women
ANY RIGHT-THINKING PERSON can
Changing the Game
acknowledge that individuals deserve equity in all parts of life, including in our workplaces. Employees deserve to feel they can bring their full selves to work, and no one should be discriminated against or experience bias in the workplace.
Accountability breeds confidence and ensures everyone is onboard with making strides toward equity. Then, it’s time to change the game. Acknowledging privilege is a great place to start.
Acknowledging that truth, though, is just the first step.
Big or Small, It Starts at the Top Whether your organization has employees around the globe or just a few in your hometown, a commitment to DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) matters to the people who work for you. At NEW, we strive daily to provide solutions for our corporate partners that help them build a workplace where everyone gets a fair shake. That can’t happen without complete buy-in and confidence from those at the top of the leadership ladder. You must walk the walk for DEI efforts to reach their full potential. Stated DEI goals and transparent reporting are a great way to hold everyone accountable to workplace progress. While it can be hard at first, being honest about where you are earns the trust of your employees — and customers. Be transparent about where you are now to show you’re doing the hard work.
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For example, we know that women, particularly women of color, are underrepresented in corporate leadership positions. Removing names and identifying information from resumes corrects for the possibility that unconscious bias — and the tendency for human beings to identify with those who most resemble themselves — is creating a homogenous workforce that isn’t inclusive. That’s one small change that could make all the difference! Educating yourself is another powerful step. Dozens of articles have been written listing the resources those with privilege can leverage to educate themselves. Take a look at a few and set yourself a reading list. It’s not the responsibility of marginalized groups to educate others. It’s the responsibility of those who want to do right by others to educate themselves.
No Tolerance for Intolerance One of the strongest steps you can take is something every employee, from the most junior to a CEO, can put into practice: speaking up. There is no more
powerful show of support than backing up a colleague when you witness bias and intolerance. Show your employees by example that they work in an environment where all are welcome. Embrace awkward conversations. While it’s important to speak up, be willing to listen to others when something you yourself have said is brought to your attention. React with openness to criticism and a willingness to listen, and you will continue to set a model of trust and safety for those around you.
Any organization can make DEI a key tenet of their business and reap the rewards that come with it.
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. Seventy-four female managers, executives and directors who work in the convenience store industry are being honored in our 2021 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. 2021 SPONSORS Founding & Presenting Sponsor:
A Better Future DEI efforts may start small, but they have an outsized impact on your employees. When you build equity into your business model, you’ll be rewarded with a happier workplace, improved retention, and the trust and confidence of your employees and customers.
At NEW, Advancing All Women is what we do every day. But any organization can make DEI a key tenet of their business and reap the rewards that come with it. CSN Sarah Alter is president and CEO of the Network of Executive Women, a nonprofit learning, leadership and gender equality advocacy organization of 13,500 members (representing nearly 900 organizations), 300-plus national and regional corporate partners, and 22 regional groups in the United States and Canada. NEW advances gender equality and diversity in the retail, consumer goods, financial services and technology industries.
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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Racing Into a New Channel RaceTrac is expanding its products and services to the professional trucking community By Danielle Romano
At a Glance
RaceTrac Petroleum Inc. Size: 8,100 square feet Location: 45119 U.S. Hwy 27, Davenport, Fla. Unique features: The convenience retailer’s third travel center boasting more square footage to accommodate expanded products and amenities; merchandise specifically catered to professional drivers; 36 truck parking spaces; 16 front-canopy fueling stations; seven lanes for highflow diesel with DEF; a wide selection of fresh, on-the-go food and beverage options
SINCE 1934, RaceTrac Petroleum Inc. has been bringing its “Whatever Gets You Going” style of convenience to guests, operating under the mission of making consumers’ lives simpler and more enjoyable. It is with this approach to business that the Atlanta-based convenience store retailer is broadening its values to include the professional trucking community.
RaceTrac is focused on growing its number of travel centers and recently cut the ribbon on its third travel center location. Situated on U.S. Highway 27 in Davenport, Fla., the 8,100-square-foot travel center is part of an exciting new brand in RaceTrac’s portfolio of stores, Executive Director of Engineering and Special Projects Cory Hopkins told Convenience Store News. “Extending [our] values to the professional truck-driving population is a logical next step for us. These individuals offer so incredibly much to our communities by virtue of what they do day in and day out, and RaceTrac wants to be a part of serving their needs,” he said.
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Being new to the travel center channel poses challenges as well as opportunities, which is why RaceTrac has assembled an internal team of stakeholders that is focused heavily on developing travel centers that “wow” guests from every angle. “In the short term, we will learn the expectations of the industry in pursuit of designing a facility that resonates with our guests and drives the value they need — from having the right product and service mix to maximizing speed of service to get them back to work as quickly as possible,” Hopkins explained.
Superior Location & Superior Offers RaceTrac is abiding by the old adage, “location, location, location,” when it comes to strategically expanding its travel center network. “Though the professional driver might be willing to make an extra turn or two to get to a superior operator, it is critical to be along their route,” Hopkins noted. “There are plenty of top-notch travel center operators out there, so finding a really
good site in an underserved sub-market is important.” RaceTrac’s travel center prototype is roughly 2,500 square feet larger than its standard c-store, providing ample room for “impactful offer expansion,” including hot food, trucker merchandise, larger pack sizes, indoor seating, expanded restrooms, truck scales, truck parking, and high-flow diesel. Its newest travel center in Davenport offers: indoor seating and 600 square feet of patio space with covered and uncovered seating; 36 truck parking spaces; 16 frontcanopy fueling stations; an extended canopy with seven lanes for high-flow diesel with bulk diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) for professional drivers; merchandise specifically catered to the professional driver such as tools, hardware, apparel and electronics; and free Wi-Fi. Inside its travel centers, RaceTrac also offers professional drivers a wide selection of fresh, on-the-go food and beverage options. Among them are: • Grab-and-go pizza and sandwiches made in-house with hand-selected, high-quality ingredients; • Fried chicken tenders and chicken sandwiches; • Whole and cut fruit and salads, all made daily and delivered fresh; • Six blends of freshly ground, freshly brewed “Crazy Good Coffee” accompanied by popular creamers, sweeteners and toppings; • A Swirl World frozen treat station with a variety of ice creams, yogurts and sorbets, plus up to 28 toppings that include a variety of chocolates, candies and fruits; and • Classic fare that RaceTrac guests know and love, including Nathan’s Famous 100-percent premium all beef hot dogs, tamales with traditional corn husk wraps and stuffed with seasoned pork, and taquitos featuring battered and fried tortillas filled with meats, cheeses and delicious spices.
“We have seen steady growth in both inside and fuel sales since opening our travel centers, suggesting that our offer resonates with this new guest type.” — Cory Hopkins, RaceTrac Petroleum Inc.
According to Hopkins, RaceTrac’s travel center teams include more associates to better serve the size of the offer and to ensure the facility remains safe, clean and well-stocked. “We have seen steady growth in both inside and fuel sales since opening our travel centers, suggesting that our offer resonates with this new guest type,” he said. “Fortunately, the professional driving community offers a great amount of feedback, letting us know what works for them and what does not. We take this feedback to heart and incorporate these learnings as we continue to innovate. Guests have emphasized the high level of store team engagement, our truck parking, cleanliness of the facility, and our delicious food offer.”
Future Growth Plans RaceTrac plans to lean heavily into the travel center channel and has ambitious goals to build new sites across the Southeast and beyond, Hopkins told CSNews. As part of the retailer’s ramped-up growth effort, five more travel centers are slated to open this year. “Refining our offer to appeal to professional drivers as we grow is a top priority,” he said. “We at RaceTrac see the opportunity to leverage a lot of our organization’s
RaceTrac’s travel center prototype is roughly 2,500 square feet larger than its standard c-store, providing ample room for “impactful offer expansion.”
existing infrastructure to support new growth into the high-flow diesel channel, even as we continue to expand our presence in the traditional c-store marketplace. Our network will continue to expand long-term and deliver a consistent guest experience throughout the Southeast and beyond.” RaceTrac’s first-ever travel center debuted in Lithia Springs, Ga., and its second is in Forest Park, Ga. The chain also currently operates more than 560 traditional convenience stores in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Tennessee. CSN
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Krispy Krunchy Chicken........... 47
Altria Group Distribution......... 2
Lancer Corp................................. 55
BIC USA Inc................................. 9
Liggett Vector Brands.............. 41
Calico Brands.............................. 16
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CB Distributors Inc.................... 17
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Chevron Corporation................ 21
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CoreMark International............. 49
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Swisher International Inc......... 35, 43
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INSIDE THE CONSUMER MIND
Shedding the Pandemic Pounds Nearly two-thirds of convenience store shoppers say they are health-conscious The COVID-19 pandemic has left many lasting changes in consumers’ lives, including expanded waistlines. Spending more time at home, Americans had easy access to their pantries, and many turned to comfort food and indulgent treats to cope with the stress and anxiety of the health crisis. Today, nearly two-thirds of convenience store shoppers consider themselves to be “health-conscious,” according to the findings of the 2021 Convenience Store News Realities of the Aisle Study, which surveyed 1,500-plus consumers who shop a c-store at least once a month. Other health-related findings from the study include:
Among those c-store shoppers who say they’re health-conscious, 66% see room for improvement in the current selection of healthy foods offered at convenience stores.
of shoppers agree with the statement, “I am health-conscious.”
Convenience channel shoppers in the Northeast are the MOST SATISFIED with the better-for-you product selection at their c-store of choice. Midwest shoppers are the LEAST SATISFIED.
What aspects of better-for-you foods and beverages are you most concerned about or interested in? By a significant margin, fresh leads the list of concerns for health-conscious shoppers. Fresh
Ingredients I can understand and pronounce
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AT LEAST A QUARTER OF HEALTH-CONSCIOUS SHOPPERS are also concerned about sugar, calories and protein, as well as the products they consume being all-natural. MALE C-STORE SHOPPERS ARE MORE CONCERNED than females about sugar, sodium and protein. FEMALE C-STORE SHOPPERS ARE MORE CONCERNED than males about caffeine.
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