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Friendly & Helpful Great Food


THE 1-2-3s OF CBD



Where Convenience Meets Experience C-store operators must think beyond transactions to attract today’s demanding shoppers.


The future of our industry is about innovation, products with the potential to reduce harm and adult consumer choice. Through our companies and strategic partners, we’ve invested in the most compelling portfolio of non-combustible products. We strive to give adult consumers the choices they want today — and invest and develop products for tomorrow.

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

Š2020 Altria Group Distribution Company | For Trade Purposes Only


Stand & Deliver Home delivery, pump-side pickup and cashierless technology can help keep c-stores afloat THE CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) pandemic is affecting every walk of life. As of midMarch, the virus had spread to 110 countries and killed thousands of people. However, it would be wrong to panic. While there have been more than 127,000 cases globally and more than 4,700 deaths as of March 12, more than 68,000 people have also recovered from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

It only seems as if the entire world has shut down. Depending on where you live, movies, Broadway shows, sports events, concerts, political rallies, schools, restaurants and bars may all be closed for the foreseeable future. Convenience stores in the U.S. are mostly open and providing consumers with the food, drinks and other essentials they need to carry on in these stressful times. Most convenience store retailers appear to be taking the proper precautions, prioritizing the health and welfare of their customers and employees, while doing their best to avoid fueling the hysteria that is sweeping the nation. As we have reported, many c-store chains announced that they’ve stepped up their cleaning, personal hygiene and sanitizing procedures; are providing checklists to help store associates follow proper safety procedures to prevent spread of the virus; and are sending physical and digital notices to their customers to inform them of these efforts. Not to minimize the threat of COVID-19, there are some potential bright spots for c-store retailers:

• If you’re not testing home delivery yet, this is the time to start. C-stores have trailed restaurants in this service for several reasons, not the least being the high fees charged by some third-party delivery services. With governments and health organizations recommending social distancing, demand for home delivery is spiking. With a broader product mix than most restaurants can offer, c-stores have a prime opportunity to increase share in the home delivery business. • Retailers like Walmart, Target and Walgreens are promoting their curbside pickup businesses. Some c-stores have already incorporated order-ahead apps into their foodservice business. These apps allow customers to order their meal ahead and pick it up in the store. What about applying this same concept to pump-side pickup? Wouldn’t this be a great way to entice fuel customers to purchase in-store items even after this crisis is over? • If you have a drive-thru, promote it heavily. • This also couldn’t be a better time for cashierless, frictionless technology, which can help reduce in-store personal interactions and achieve social distancing. It is time to embrace all the digital tools available that make shopping easier and less touchy. For comments, please contact Don Longo, Editorial Director, at (201) 855-7606 or dlongo@ensembleiq.com.


EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Brett Atherton Bolla Management

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack Lewis GPM Midwest

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

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

Rick Crawford Green Valley Grocery

Ray Johnson Speedee Mart

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

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

Laura Aufleger OnCue Express

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

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

atics. we’re also supply chain fan sh fanatics, which means We can’t help it—we’re fre s. fanatics. Food safety fanatic lity fanatics. Sustainability qua And s. atic fan tion And innova h ours. g your business along wit And fanatics about growin



Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Inc

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




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34 Where Convenience Meets Experience C-store operators must think beyond transactions to attract today’s demanding shoppers.

4 Stand & Deliver Home delivery, pump-side pickup and cashierless technology can help keep c-stores afloat.

28 Remodeling on a Budget Small operators can afford to have good design sense, too.


10 CSNews Online OUT & ABOUT

22 Ideas to Thrive NATSO Connect 2020 provides travel plaza and truck stop operators with an array of best practices. 24 New Products


64 Deb Hall Lefevre, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. The 2019 TWIC Woman of the Year does her part to cultivate a diverse pipeline of talent. STORE SPOTLIGHT

66 Moving Beyond Tradition Innovative customer experiences are at the core of Irving Oil’s new store concept. INSIDE THE CONSUMER MIND

82 Dollars & Cents C-stores are expanding their offerings, giving shoppers reasons to spend more per visit.

24 6 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m



©2019 SMCI Holding, Inc.

This is




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

Don Longo dlongo@ensembleiq.com

Editor-in-Chief (201) 855-7608

Linda Lisanti llisanti@ensembleiq.com

Senior News Editor (201) 855-7618

INDUSTRY ROUNDUP 14 Convenience Stores Respond to COVID-19 Crisis


Associate Editor (201) 855-7619

Angela Hanson ahanson@ensembleiq.com

Associate Managing Editor (201) 855-7604

Danielle Romano dromano@ensembleiq.com

Contributing Editor (303) 741-3377

Renée M. Covino reneek@aol.com

Contributing Editor (201) 280-2614

Tammy Mastroberte tmastroberte@gmail.com


16 Retailer Tidbits

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

16 Eye on Growth

Rachel McGaffigan rmcgaffigan@ensembleiq.com

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

18 Supplier Tidbits 20 Competitive Watch




42 Deal With Labor Pains Higher minimum wages and increased competition drive convenience store retailers to utilize various employee strategies.

Melissa Kress mkress@ensembleiq.com

47 The Fourth Daypart Three key insights from the Datassential Snacking Keynote Report.

Ron Lowy rlowy@ensembleiq.com

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


48 It’s Not Just a Number Gauging the status and industry impact of the new federal Tobacco 21 law. SNACKS

List Rental (847) 492-1350 ext.318

MeritDirect Elizabeth Jackson

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

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

52 Snacks Are the New Meals Time-starved consumers are reaching for ready-to-eat snacks for convenience, fuel and satiety.

Advertising/Production Manager (773) 992-4418

Ed Ward eward@ensembleiq.com

Art Director (973) 607-1321

Lauren DiMeo ldimeo@ensembleiq.com



55 The 1-2-3s of CBD C-store retailers need to do their homework and plan carefully if they want to make the most of this promising segment.

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




60 Let’s Get Personal C-stores are diving into personalized marketing to engage customers and boost sales.

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

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

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


WE KNOW PIZZA. A program created specifically for the c-store industry with no franchise fees and free marketing. We Know C-stores. We Know Pizza.

Download the Branded Pizza Guide at huntbrotherspizza.com/csn Call 1-800-453-3675

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Shell to Become She’ll for International Women’s Day


7-Eleven to Celebrate Leap Day With $2.29 Whole Pizzas


Sheetz Recognized as Sole C-store Chain Among Fortune’s 2020 Best Companies


How the Coronavirus Is Beginning to Impact the C-store Industry

On March 8, National Women’s Day, Shell Oil Co. temporarily changed its name with the simple addition of an apostrophe to show that small gestures can motivate and deliver big messages. The name change included a logo change at a gas station in San Dimas, Calif., where the executive leadership team is a duo of female entrepreneurs.

On Feb. 29, 7-Eleven Inc. celebrated Leap Day by offering whole pizzas for the special price of $2.29. Customers could take advantage of the deal in stores and through the 7NOW delivery app.

This marks the sixth time in seven years that Sheetz Inc. has appeared on the list. Companies opt into the selection process, which includes an anonymous employee survey and an in-depth questionnaire about company programs and employee practices.

With convenience stores selling roughly 80 percent of gas in the United States, one byproduct of the virus was reflected in prices at the pump. According to AAA, a recent decrease in crude prices was driven by the growing impact of the coronavirus.


Philip Morris USA Announces Third Market for IQOS

Philip Morris USA Inc. plans to bring its heat-not-burn tobacco product, IQOS, to a new market in April. The move into Charlotte, N.C., comes six months after the operating company of Altria Group Inc. began commercializing the alternative tobacco product in the United States.


How 7-Eleven Does Loyalty Right 7-Eleven may be famous for Slurpees, but its loyalty program is just as sweet. The app-based 7Rewards program gives members free Slurpees for repeat purchases, and also lets them score deals on snacks, hot food and household supplies, writes Tom Caporaso, CEO of Clarus Commerce. Since expanding the program two years ago, the world’s largest convenience retailer has experienced an uptick in store visits and loyalty, with 7Rewards membership tripling to 25 million members. In the race for loyalty, these numbers give 7-Eleven a clear lead, with close competitors reporting much lower membership for 2019.

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


PHOTO GALLERY: Inside 7-Eleven’s Evolution Store

In a city known for making rules, 7-Eleven Inc. is redefining the rules of convenience retailing with its new Evolution Store in the nation’s capital. Convenience Store News recently scoped out the innovative concept store, located at 504 K St. in Washington, D.C. This store marked the second Evolution Store opening for 7-Eleven. The first was introduced in Dallas last March. For more exclusive stories, visit the Special Features section of csnews.com.


Red Bull Summer Edition Watermelon

Launching in April, Red Bull Summer Edition Watermelon offers the wings of Red Bull with an iconic summer flavor, according to the company. Building on the success of the Red Bull Summer Edition offerings, Red Bull Summer Edition Watermelon will be available in 8.4-ounce and 12-ounce cans. The limited-edition variety is designed to be the perfect complement to favorite summertime activities. Red Bull Santa Monica, Calif. redbull.com


An infographic from

Seltzer’s rising popularity is driving new revenue for the convenience channel. Its breezy, relaxing appeal brings happy hour into the home.

R U O H Y P P A That Self-Service Vibe H Smaller can sizes and a lighter alcohol content appeal to consumers who create their own happy hour, making Hard Seltzer a perfect fit for c-stores.

• Spiked seltzer drinkers spend $200 more on alcohol compared to average households. 1 • C-stores can expand category saturation by driving trial, awareness and repeat purchases.

In 2019, seltzers accounted for


in convenience accounts.2

Filling Up the Cooler

Hard Seltzer continues to gain on other alcohol products.

Hard Seltzers reached penetration

9.1% in 2019


up over 5 points from the prior year.

• Continued growth could allow the emerging segment to overtake Craft Beer by 2022. 3 • 22% of Hard Seltzer volume gains came from Premium Light Beer and Vodka. 4

The Popular Purchase A younger generation chooses Hard Seltzer, and they’re not afraid to spend.

They tend to be college educated with a

• Millennials make up most of the Hard Seltzer category. 5 • More than 50% are adding spiked seltzers to purchases — they’re not swapping out other beverage buys. 1


household income


Anytime, Anywhere, Always Refreshing Tasting Hard Seltzer is generally defined as:

Sparkling Water


Natural Flavor

Enticing qualities include:


• • • •

Alcohol Base

Supply the Party


High Noon® Sun Sips

Barefoot® Hard Seltzers

Wine-based seltzer in convenient 250 mL cans. • Peach & Nectarine • Strawberry & Guava • Pineapple & Passion • Cherry & Cranberry

Vodka & soda with real fruit juice, sparkling water and natural flavors. • Black Cherry • Grapefruit

• Pineapple • Watermelon

Sources: 1 CNN Business, www.cnn.com, 2-19-2020; 2 IRI_BWS, Conv; L52 w/e 12-29-2019; 3 ©2020 Information Resources Inc. (IRI); 4 IRI Consumer Network Households (NCP); 52 w/e 11-3-2019 vs YS – Total U.S. All Outlets, NBD Adjusted (Vol); 5I RI, Total US MULO, 52 w/e 6-30-2019, Dollar Change CY ©2020 High Noon Spirits Company, Memphis, TN. All rights reserved. Average analysis per 12 fl. oz, any flavor - Calories: 100, Carbohydrates: 4.8G, Protein: 0, Fat: 0.

EJ-Gallo-Hard-Seltzer-Infographic-v20.indd 1

©2020 E. & J. Gallo Winery, Modesto, CA. All rights reserved.

4/2/20 1:13 PM

Get treated l Attention independent store owners You already know that 5-hour ENERGY is one of the most profitable brands in your store. You want to sell more. That’s why you should sign up for the 5-hour ENERGY Retailer Rewards program. You’ll get the advantages enjoyed by the big chains – promotional programs, merchandising programs, and more – all designed to help you sell more 5-hour ENERGY and make you more money. Plus, you’ll get freebies! Who doesn’t love freebies? ®



Here’s what you’ll get: Communication: You’ll receive emails telling you about new flavors, displays, marketing Communication Communication Communication

programs, and promotion programs. That way you’ll know about them at the same time the big chains do, so you can compete on the same level. You’ll also get simple tips to help you sell more bottles of 5-hour ENERGY and make more money. ®

Freebies: Why should the big guys get all the good stuff? As a member of the 5-hour ENERGY


Freebies Freebies Freebies

Retailer Rewards program you’ll have access to freebies year-round. It might be a branded counter mat, or clock, or even something you can sell in your store.

Promotion programs: Periodically, you’ll receive information about money-saving Price Promotions Price Promotions

Price Promotions

promotions you can pass on to your customers. So, when the big chains offer 2 for $6, or buy-2-get-1-free, you can, too.

New Flavors New Flavors

New Flavors

Marketing Promotions Marketing Promotions

Marketing Promotions

Communication Communication

d like the big chains Communication

Freebies Freebies


Price Promotions

Price Promotions Price Promotions

New flavors: When new flavors of 5-hour ENERGY are released, consumers buy them. ®

New Flavors New Flavors

New Flavors

As a member of the Retailer Rewards program you’ll find out about new flavors, release dates and availability at the same time the big chains do.

Marketing promotions: Every year 5-hour ENERGY launches multiple national marketing ®

Marketing Promotions Marketing Promotions

promotions, and we want you to participate! Being a member of the Retailer Rewards program gives you the chance to jump on board right away.

New displays: See the hottest trends in 5-hour ENERGY counter racks, ®

Marketing Promotions

end caps, power wings and floor displays. As soon as it’s available, you’ll know about it!

New Displays

Get your free merchandising kit! New Displays

New Displays

Sign up today at www.5HErewards.com Mailings and promo items are subject to changes. You may opt out of mailings and messaging at anytime. ©2020 SI Online, LLC. All rights reserved. SI Online, LLC is an independent distributor of 5-hour ENERGY® products.


Convenience Stores Respond to COVID-19 Crisis Deemed an essential business, the channel remains open to meet consumers’ needs AT THE END of March, as lawmakers across the country took steps to flatten the curve of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), convenience store retailers assured their customers and employees that they are all in this together, and took proactive steps to safeguard their stores.

Among the many change-of-life impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, convenience stores are seeing an increase in shoppers who typically would go to supermarkets for their grocery needs. Fifteen percent of shoppers said they are more likely to shop at convenience stores for groceries due to the pandemic, according to a study conducted by Convenience Store News’ parent company, EnsembleIQ. Fielded March 13-15, the survey was conducted among 1,001 primary household grocery shoppers in the United States. On March 19, six days after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security designated convenience stores, gas stations and truck stops among “essential businesses,” allowing them to stay open and serve the public.

By that time, c-store operators has already begun implementing enhanced cleaning protocols across their store networks. Among them was Casey’s General Stores Inc. In a letter to its customers on March 12, President and CEO Darren Rebelez wrote that for the past month, Casey’s team members have operated with heightened attention to store cleaning and more frequent handwashing. “This includes being diligent with fundamental actions like increasing the frequency of cleaning food prep equipment, counters, restrooms and fuel pumps, as well as other hightouch surfaces throughout our stores,” he said. “As always, our team members are staying home if they are sick.” Casey’s also temporarily discontinued the use of refillable mugs and cups in its stores, and other c-store chains like 7-Eleven Inc. followed suit. Additionally, convenience store retailers — including Stewart’s Shops, Kwik Trip Inc., Kum & Go LC, Wawa Inc. and 7-Eleven — suspended self-serve food and beverages to help prevent the spread of the virus. At Sheetz Inc., along with implementing a number of preventative measures, the company also established an advisory board of senior leaders and experts in the fields of sanitation and food safety. This group was formed to communicate regularly with the chain’s stores and evaluate the impact of COVID-19 in each community where Sheetz operates. Many retailers also took the “convenience” factor up a notch. For example:

COVID-19 March Milestones MARCH 11, 2020

WHO DECLARES PANDEMIC The rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak is officially labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

MARCH 11, 2020

EUROPE-TO-U.S. TRAVEL BANNED Sweeping travel restrictions are announced by President Trump in a bid to combat the virus spread.

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

MARCH 12, 2020

C-STORE RETAILERS BEGIN TO MOBILIZE Retailers begin disseminating notices outlining the proactive steps they’re taking to protect customers and employees.

MARCH 13, 2020

NATIONAL EMERGENCY DECLARED President Trump declares a national emergency, making $50 billion in federal funds available to combat the virus.

MARCH 16, 2020

PUMP PRICES TUMBLE Gas-price averages in 35 states decreased by double-digits, pushing the national average to $2.25, the cheapest price point of the year.

MARCH 18, 2020

TRUMP SIGNS ECONOMIC RELIEF BILL The measure ensures free COVID-19 testing and bolsters unemployment insurance.


• QuikTrip Corp. launched On-Lot Pickup at 25 stores in the Tulsa, Okla., area; • Kwik Trip and 7-Eleven waived fees for their delivery services; and • Several Terrible Herbst convenience stores added water stations across Clark County, Nevada, amid decreasing supply of bottled water.

Supporting Their Employees To ensure the wellbeing of their workers, several retailers announced pay raises, bonuses and improved paid time off policies for employees. 7-Eleven and Yesway enhanced their employee emergency sick leave and paid time off policies, respectively, while Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores and Wawa increased their hourly wages. Pilot Co. also increased wages for its hourly team members, from March 19 through April 29; offered free meals during every shift for all store team members and Pilot fuel drivers; and expedited manager bonuses for the first quarter of 2020. C-store chains launched hiring sprees, too, to bolster their employee ranks during the crisis. Retailers hiring additional associates included GPM Investments LLC, Kwik Trip, Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, 7-Eleven and Thorntons LLC.

Industry Events Cancelled As the coronavirus has spread across the

MARCH 18, 2020

C-STORES CEASE SELFSERVE C-store retailers begin suspending their self-serve food and beverage offerings in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

U.S., members of the convenience store community have put group gatherings on hold. As of March 26, the following events were canceled: • All Core-Mark International in-person trade shows, March 13 through April 30 • 2020 Conexxus Annual Conference, April 26-30 in Tucson, Ariz. • 2020 National Restaurant Association Show, May 16-19 in Chicago • 2020 Sweets & Snacks Expo, May 18-21 in Chicago In addition, industry association NACS changed its in-person annual State of the Industry Summit to a virtual experience. Originally slated for April 7-9 in Rosemont, Ill., the virtual experience will be available on demand beginning April 14. CSN

MARCH 19, 2020

STATES OF EMERGENCY Nearly all U.S. states have declared a state of emergency, allowing them to activate emergency response plans.

ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES ANNOUNCED The Department of Homeland Security designates c-stores, gas stations and truck stops among “essential businesses,” allowing them to stay open.

MARCH 20, 2020

MARCH 20, 2020

MARCH 24, 2020

HIRING SPREES BEGIN C-store retailers start announcing hiring initiatives to bring on extra staff to meet increased demand for products and services.

SUPPORTING WORKERS C-store retailers begin announcing hourly wage increases, bonuses and improved paid time off policies to support workers.

EMV COMPLIANCE CONCERNS NACS requests that the financial card companies push back the Oct. 1 outdoor EMV compliance deadline, and wait to determine a new date until the COVID-19 crisis has passed.


20 20

Convenience Store News



Retailer Tidbits

Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores updated the Love’s Connect mobile app to provide more deals around its food and beverage offers. Customers can tap the deal they want and then scan the offer barcode at checkout.

Global Partners LP placed for-sale signs on 18 convenience stores in the Northeast. Fifteen of the sites are in Vermont, three are in New Hampshire, and one is in Rhode Island. Family Express Corp. is expanding its bakery distribution center. The multimillion-dollar project will add 25,000 square feet to the existing 10,000-square-foot facility at its Valparaiso, Ind., headquarters. Enmarket was the first retailer to go live with Skip’s mobile checkout integration with Paytronix Systems. The retailer’s mobile checkout now enables customers to have a seamless integration with its Enjoy Rewards program.

Eye on Growth

7-Eleven Inc. is bringing its Evolution Store to more markets throughout the U.S. The lab store concept is an experiential testing ground for the chain’s latest innovations.

7-Eleven plans to roll out the new coffee platform to other stores starting in Virginia, Florida and California.

7-Eleven Inc. customers in Long Island, N.Y., can now be their own barista. A new dispensed beverage platform features touchscreen machines that pour both hot and cold custom beverages to order. Wawa Inc. and 2SP Brewing Co. partnered with Coppertail Brewing Co. to debut the Snowbird Reserve beer in Florida. The craft beer is part of Wawa and 2SP Brewing’s multistate Brew Tour, which kicked off in December. Parkland Fuel Corp., through its Parkland USA subsidiary, is acquiring ConoMart Super Stores’ seven retail sites in Montana. All feature Conoco-branded forecourts.

Hy-Vee Inc. is expanding its new Fast & Fresh Express concept with the acquisition of four QuikTrip Corp. c-stores in the Des Moines, Iowa, area. The new concept is a smaller version of Hy-Vee’s Fast & Fresh format.

Refuel Operating Co. LLC opened its 36th store in the South Carolina market. Coupled with its deal to acquire the Double Quick chain in Mississippi, Refuel’s portfolio will soon total 84 locations. With this sale, PSC exited the convenience store industry.

Twin City Iowa, based in Jacksonville, Fla., purchased eight Hawkeye Convenience Stores from Petroleum Services Co. LLC (PSC). The stores are located in Iowa, specifically the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City metropolitan areas. 16 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

Offen Petroleum is expanding its presence in the Midwest with the acquisition of Bosselman Energy and Bosselman Carriers. The combined entity will operate under the Offen Petroleum name.

FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS, HAPPY HOUR SHOULD BE ANY HOUR. With the smooth sweetness of banana perfectly blended with a splash of rum, this timeless taste will give them a reason to celebrate. Available in a variety of market-driven price points and only for a limited time. Stock up today and enjoy sales worth toasting.

800.874.9720 | swisher.com


Supplier Tidbits

store in Chantilly, Va. The 150kW station was built in partnership with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

PepsiCo has had a distribution agreement with Rockstar in North America since 2009.

PepsiCo Inc. is buying Rockstar Energy Beverages for $3.85 billion. The acquisition will enable PepsiCo to expand into the energy category with such existing brands as Mtn Dew. Altria Group Inc. started production of on! nicotine pouches at its Richmond, Va., manufacturing center. The company expects to have annualized capacity of 50 million cans by mid-year and 75 million cans by the end of the year. EVgo opened its 800th fast charging location for electric vehicles at a Sheetz1

WB25702_INR TRADE_04.2020_CSNews_Bigger Cookie Aisle_HP_v6.pdf

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

J&J Snack Foods Corp.’s wholly owned subsidiary, The ICEE Co., acquired the assets of BAMA ICEE. Based in Birmingham, Ala., BAMA ICEE has annual sales of approximately $3.5 million. PDI acquired SwiftIQ. The addition of SwiftIQ’s analytics cloud with built-in machine learning strengthens PDI’s data and insights capabilities. Westrock Coffee Co. LLC is acquiring S&D Coffee & Tea from Cott Corp. The companies will continue to operate under their respective brand names for the foreseeable future. The Alkaline Water Co. Inc. added Core-Mark International as a c-store industry partner. Starting in April, all Alkaline88 products will be part of CoreMark’s11:40 SmartStock program. 3/13/20 AM


Competitive Watch Target is also on track to complete more than 1,000 store remodels nationwide by the end of 2020.

Target Corp. plans to open an additional three dozen small-format stores. It will also add Drive Up to dozens of its small-format stores across the country that have parking lots. Dollar Tree Inc. will launch Dollar TreePlus! 2.0 this year. It is the second phase of the discount retailer’s multi-price initiative, which was piloted in 2019. Wendy’s entered the breakfast daypart on March 2. The restaurant chain’s breakfast options include a Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit and the Breakfast Baconator.












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

9:13 AM

Amazon Inc. is selling its Just Walk Out technology to other retailers. The licensed version will have customers announce themselves with a credit card. McDonald’s declared March 2 National Egg McMuffin Day. The chain invited fans to celebrate by getting a free Egg McMuffin at participating restaurants across the nation.


Ideas to Thrive NATSO Connect 2020 provides travel plaza and truck stop operators with an array of best practices By Renée M. Covino forge through all kinds of weather, truck stop and travel plaza operators braved three days of snow to convene at the NATSO Connect 2020 conference, held at the Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center, just outside of Denver.


The Feb. 6-9 event featured three keynote presentations, six learning labs, a renewable fuels master class, a Great Ideas Workshop, a retail tour, quick talks from trailblazers, and more than 60 exhibitors — all with the intent of sharing ideas and tools for travel plazas and truck stops to thrive and meet the needs of the traveling public in this age of disruption and increased competition. NATSO Connect 2020 was hosted by NATSO, the national trade association that represents the travel plaza and truck stop industry. More than 1,700 travel plazas and truck stops nationwide, owned by more than 200 corporate entities, make up NATSO’s membership. Among the key takeaways from the event were: Tour other stores to drive ideas at home: Suncor Energy Products Partnership, based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, has a strategy group that is continually working to improve the customer and driver experience. Wholesale Business Manager Peter Pilalas and other company executives regularly tour other truck stops and travel plazas — most recently, in the United States — to get ideas for evolving the company’s legacy sites and new plazas moving forward. They look for “simple things” that can be easily deployed, Pilalas told showgoers. Make merchandising magic: Simple, inexpensive ways to increase the customer experience, sales and margins are easier than you think, according to Sean Momin, vice president of operations for Pats Travel Center, located just outside of Houston.

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

One minor change he made about a year ago involved selling 24-ounce beer cans in a tub, instead of 16-ounce cans. “In Texas, we can break up six-packs and sell beer in a tub, so we were selling 16-ounce cans because that’s the way we’ve always done it. We finally asked ourselves: What if we went to 24-ounce cans and didn’t break up six-packs?” And so, they did and it increased revenue and margins, and also reduced the number of UPCs on-site and reduced the human error of punching one instead of six (sometimes, customers would walk out with a six-pack at the single beer price). “The beauty is it cost us zero to implement. We just changed the UPC in the back-office and the stickers for pricing,” Momin explained. Create a destination/amusement-like location: Oasis Travel Center in Robertsdale, Ala., almost has to be seen to be believed. “I get to work at Disneyland every day,” quipped Dale Elks, general manager. The travel plaza has a VW hippie-themed bus sticking out of its front façade. Customers walk through a psychedelic entrance and land in a shopping extravaganza featuring more than 117 craft beers, a beach and hippie area, high-end western gifts, toys sold in a separate playhouse built inside the store, fresh gourmet popcorn, two quick-service restaurants (Chester’s and Subway), a “space-themed” coffee station, a game room, and a diner. The Derailed Diner appears to be three train cars crashed into the building from the outside. Inside, the diner is an old train car converted. With no real view of the store interior from the outside, Elks put up 8-by-10foot posters on the outside that show what the inside looks like and sales went up 25 percent. “We work hard to make this a destination,” he relayed. Care about your employees’ lives: The employer/ employee relationship has changed, and the truck stop arena needs to catch up. To retain good workers, employers must connect with their people and give them value through continuous praise and recognition of how the business can contribute to their work/life balance, according to Annamarie Mann, workplace and human development consultant for My Future Catcher. It’s no longer about the paycheck being the sole value; it’s much more than that, and it’s not going to go back to the way it was, she said. “Employees are saying, ‘I want you to know me, my life and my goals,’” Mann explained. “Employees want to know: Is this job worth my time? Is it adding to my story? Is it a good experience?” CSN

September 21–24, 2020

Hilton Chicago Chicago, Illinois

The premier business exchange event connecting convenience products distributors with the nation’s top suppliers

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1 2 4


1. SuperPretzel Soft Pretzel Fries

2. Kit Kat Birthday Cake

3. Mtn Dew Amp Game Fuel Zero

4. White Owl Duos Cigarillos

Soft Pretzel Fries are the newest addition to J&J Snack Foods’ SuperPretzel brand in the foodservice segment. Billed as an alternative to French fries, Soft Pretzel Fries are vegan and baked, not fried. They can be offered with various dipping sauces to suit customer tastes.

Kit Kat Birthday Cake combines a delicious birthday cake-flavored white crème with crisp wafers, accented by a colorful assortment of sprinkles. Available nationwide starting in April, Birthday Cake is the third limited-edition Kit Kat variety to be announced in 2020, following Raspberry Crème and Lemon Crisp. It comes in a standard 1.5ounce bar with a suggested retail price of $1.09.

Mtn Dew Amp Game Fuel Zero is a new sugar- and calorie-free beverage made for competitive gamers. The drink comes complete with all of the fan-favorite features of the original, such as a no-slip grip and a unique resealable lid. Also, just like the original, Mtn Dew Amp Game Fuel Zero is crafted with theanine and caffeine. It is available in two varieties: Charged Raspberry Lemonade and Charged Watermelon Shock. Both come in 16-ounce cans.

White Owl Duos cigarillos contain two different flavors that work together to create a uniquely new experience, according to the maker. The launch edition, Berries and Cream, is slated to arrive on store shelves in April. The product will be available in “2 for 99”, “2 for $1.49” and “Save on 2” packages, allowing for retail pricing flexibility. Each White Owl Duos combination will only be available for a limited time.

J&J Snack Foods Corp. Pennsauken, N.J. (800) 486-9533 consumerrelations@ jjsnack.com jjsnack.com

The Hershey Co. Hershey, Pa. (800) 468-1714 thehersheycompany.com

PepsiCo Inc. Purchase, N.Y. pepsico.com

5. Cheetos Popcorn Available in Cheddar and Flamin’ Hot varieties, Cheetos Popcorn is infused with “Cheetle,” the cheesy dust that lingers on someone’s fingertips after they’ve enjoyed a bag of Cheetos. The new product marks the first time popcorn has been infused with “Cheetle” dust. The ready-to-eat snack comes in 7-ounce Cheddar bags and 6.5-ounce Flamin’ Hot bags for a suggested retail price of $3.99, as well as 2-ounce bags for a suggested retail price of $1.89. Frito-Lay North America Plano, Texas (800) 352-4477 cheetos.com

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


Swedish Match Richmond, Va. swedishmatch.com


AMERICA’S #1 NICOTINE POUCH Retailers that feature the full assortment sell 3x more than other stores.*



*MSA 12/29/19 – stores receiving ZYN before 12/31/16 For trade purposes only. ©2020 Swedish Match North America LLC


8 7



6. Krispy Krunchy Chicken Classic Sandwich After 30 years in business, Krispy Krunchy Chicken is elevating its Classic Chicken Sandwich with a new sweet butter bun. It is soft, sweet, buttery and Louisiana made. The bun pairs perfectly with the Cajun seasoning used in Krispy Krunchy’s fried chicken patty, according to the company. The sandwich is topped with dill pickles and a honey butter spread. The new Classic Chicken Sandwich launched March 1 at select locations nationwide.

7. Sprite Ginger Developed in response to the surging popularity of ginger-flavored sparkling drinks, Sprite Ginger is a new, refreshing addition to the brand’s portfolio. The beverage pairs the classic lemon-lime taste of Sprite with a hint of ginger flavor. Sprite Ginger is available in 20-ounce and two-liter PET bottles and 12-packs of 12-ounce cans. Sprite Ginger Zero Sugar is also available in 12-ounce cans. The Coca-Cola Co. Atlanta sprite.com

Krispy Krunchy Chicken New Orleans (318) 483-4343 krispykrunchy.com

8. Sacred Life Kombucha

9. Heinz HoneyRacha Sauce

To celebrate 25 years in business, GT’s Living Foods launched the limited-edition Sacred Life Kombucha, which infuses fresh pressed ginger, young coconut water and alkaline-rich blue spirulina, which naturally gives the liquid a vibrant blue color rarely seen in natural food products, according to the company. The color is meant to be symbolic of the life that flourishes around the planet and its oceans. Sacred Life Kombucha is traditionally handcrafted, raw and never processed or pasteurized. It is USDA certified organic and Non-GMO Project verified.

Available in spring 2020, Heinz HoneyRacha Sauce is a combination of two fan-favorite flavors: sweet honey and spicy Sriracha. HoneyRacha is a permanent addition to the Heinz condiment lineup and follows on the heels of the brand’s Mayochip, Mayomust and Mayocue combination condiments. Heinz debuted HoneyRacha in a commercial aired during Super Bowl LIV.

GT’s Living Foods Los Angeles gtslivingfoods.com

10. Kronos InTouch DX Intelligent Time Clock The next-generation Kronos InTouch DX intelligent time clock combines consumer-grade personalization, enterprise-level intelligence, and the durability of Kronos time clocks to accelerate digital transformation (DX) and empower all workers. The InTouch DX works seamlessly with Workforce Dimensions and features a future-ready foundation for facial recognition and other emerging technologies. Additional features include: Individual Mode, to showcase personalized tiles; My Time feature, combining timecards and weekly schedules; and multiple languages to support a diverse, global workforce. Kronos Inc. Lowell, Mass. kronos.com 26 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m


The Kraft Heinz Co. Pittsburgh & Chicago heinz.com


Remodeling on a Budget Small operators can afford to have good design sense, too By Renée M. Covino

BIG CONVENIENCE STORE chains are making big strides around the in-store experience. It starts with store remodels and ends with the reveal of entirely new brands and store prototypes — many at a very high cost.

With limited budgets, the industry’s small operators are clearly at a disadvantage, but they know they must keep pace. So, how can small operators remodel on a budget, getting the most bang for the least buck? Two retail design experts gave Convenience Store News seven savvy tips:

1. Start by Defining the Problem You Want to Solve Are you dealing with deferred maintenance issues such as aged wall coverings, deteriorated flooring, ineffective lighting, inoperable fixtures, etc.? Or do you want to introduce a new merchandising category, expand a foodservice program, or add a new

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

beverage offering? Or are you just trying to revitalize an aging asset in order to remain relevant and competitive in your local market? “While we are all students of the world and are constantly seeking out and evaluating what other great retailers are doing, small operators must understand that design must serve a purpose. Otherwise, it can turn into a costly exercise with no meaningful return,” cautioned Joseph Bona, president of New York-based Bona Design Lab. “You can’t copy your way to design success. And you shouldn’t start by choosing paint colors, floor tiles or graphics.” Many people look first at the cosmetic needs of a new brand, prototype or remodel, but that is actually the last thing an operator should look at, according to Michael Lawshe, president and CEO of Paragon Solutions, a retail design and investment-maximizing consulting firm based in Fort Worth, Texas.

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“We first look at the underlying programs that can bring new opportunities and new profits,” he said. “Focus first on the functionality and then come back to the cosmetic needs.”

2. Prioritize the Areas That Need the Most Attention It’s OK to begin the process with big ideas, Lawshe assured. “You may not be able to accomplish all the ideas, but it gives you a big picture from which you can prioritize,” he said. “You may even establish a roadmap for a multi-phase approach to your brand or prototype.” The way Bona sees it, small operators must be honest with themselves and narrow down design priorities to necessity, even if they also want to prioritize a wish list. There is no point in installing new graphic elements and painting the walls if the restrooms are not in pristine condition, if the lighting is old and ineffective, if the flooring is permanently soiled and in bad condition, or if you have equipment that isn’t working.

What Small Operators Can Learn From Starbucks Think a small convenience store chain or single-store owner can’t take design lessons from a retail giant like Starbucks? Think again. Starbucks’ store design is a modest one, according to Joe Bona, president of New York-based Bona Design Lab, and this is precisely why he admires it so much. “When one visits any Starbucks in the world, the guest experience is virtually identical, from the mood they create to the ‘engine’ that drives their offer — impulse, order/pay and pickup counter,” Bona told Convenience Store News. “While there is subtle localization of design from region to region, the closer one looks, one sees the stores are not overdesigned. The money is spent on the engine. The counters, back walls, lighting, ceiling and flooring are all functionally appropriate without being overdesigned or costly.” Furthermore, Bona believes it is the consistency of the Starbucks experience that makes the brand so powerful and compelling, which is something c-stores could emulate. “In the end, it’s not about bold or costly design, but rather it’s about design serving a purpose; not design for the sake of design,” he noted.

“To me, these are table stakes for any retailer — customers expect that service and the store environment will meet a basic level of standards where they feel welcome and have confidence in the store,” he explained. Therefore, Bona believes smaller retailers should prioritize their investment in those areas that need the most attention and will have the greatest impact on guest experience.

3. Do a Declutter Decluttering is the most effective and least expensive design exercise any retailer can do, according to Bona. Stores, all too often, fall victim to an overabundance of signage or “sign pollution,” which completely ignores the importance of the sight lines into stores that make customers feel safe, he told CSNews. “Industrywide research, along with our own client research, shows us that when you can’t see into the store, customers — especially women — feel unsafe and are unwilling to go inside,” he said. “Once inside the store, every conceivable vendor shipper, promotional sign, sticker, dangler and any other imaginable piece of communication overwhelms the environment and creates information overload that drives many to just tune out.”

4. Avoid Being Overly Trendy Today’s customers are looking for welcoming, inviting and comfortable places to shop, so elements like lighting, open sightlines, wider aisles and a well-coordinated color

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

palette are proving to be the elements that deliver a good store experience. “Store design is becoming more thoughtful and purposeful, and serves more as the stage than the main actor,” said Bona, noting that he likes the use of natural materials like wood and stone to create a more “authentic experience.” He also believes softer colors create a more relaxed environment. “The time-worn practice of using loud colors on walls and bold graphics in the shape of ice cubes that spell out ‘Chill Zone’ is not effective in meeting today’s demanding customer expectations,” he said. “Good design does not need to be overly thoughtout or costly, but it does need to be relevant.”

5. Consider Relevant Industry Trends Delivery service, drive-thru and pickup windows are gaining traction in the convenience channel. So, it’s imperative that the industry’s small operators consider how they can design for the “paradigm shift” of product delivery and the changing customer demographics, Lawshe advised. This is where it can get expensive, but relevant trends with staying power, such as delivery, should be thought-out as part of a long-term design goal, he said. Ignoring it will not make it go away.




2:06 PM


DUOS 2 F L AV O R S • 1 P O U C H




6. Use Flexibility to Your Advantage The small operator can bring more flexibility, more uniqueness, more of who they are to their store design, according to Lawshe. “That is why, although a challenge, it is vital that the small operator not only recognize what makes them different, but they need to shout it from the mountaintops through excellent design,” he urged. Smaller chains are more nimble. They can react quicker and, in many cases, are much closer to their customers, so their advantage is the speed with which they can adjust and adapt to the changing demands of their customers, Bona added. He believes the contribution of design lies in creating a holistic experience so that whatever is promised on the inside is also communicated on the outside. “All too often, companies make changes to the store interior but leave the outside untouched, so those who drive by every day without stopping in will continue to assume business as usual. You need to make an impact from the street, not just beyond the threshold,” advised Bona. For smaller retailers, design does not need to be bold, but it does need to be relevant. Bona explains that the design should be “an accurate reflection of who you are and how you want your customers to think about you. It’s all about story-telling — telling your own individual story through design.”

7. Play to the Senses The brick-and-mortar retail experience, whether it is that

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

“Small operators must understand that design must serve a purpose. Otherwise, it can turn into a costly exercise with no meaningful return.” — Joseph Bona, Bona Design Lab of a big chain or a single-store owner, should engage consumers in all their senses. Touch, taste and smell represent an in-person exclusive that online retailers cannot offer. “Small retailers should capitalize on that distinction and give customers more sensory experience incorporated into design,” Lawshe maintained. Bona agrees, noting that brick-and-mortar stores have some unique opportunities. “As a consumer, I can smell fresh-baked cookies and I can control customizable options in-store, whereas with online, I really never know what I might get until I receive my order,” he pointed out. “The important role design plays in how the built environment appeals to all the senses will be key in creating unique and memorable experiences. To do that, brick-andmortar stores, including smaller operators, need to be more engaging and must provide richer emotional connections with customers.” CSN

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Where Convenience Meets Experience C-store operators must think beyond transactions to attract today’s demanding shoppers A Convenience Store News Staff Report

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




is a buzzword in the convenience store industry right now, with several major retailers making this a strategic focus for 2020. But what exactly does a positive customer experience mean to c-store shoppers? What’s most important to them?


The 2020 Convenience Store News Realities of the Aisle Study answers these questions, and much more. According to the exclusive 11th annual consumer study, which surveyed more than 1,500 c-store shoppers in the United States, six in 10 say “shopping experience” is important when they’re deciding which stores to shop. Only 3 percent say it is not important at all. Daily c-store shoppers maintain this position more than weekly or monthly shoppers. Sixty-six percent of daily shoppers say the shopping experience is very important or important vs. 59 percent of weekly and monthly shoppers. This underscores the need for a positive shopping experience in order to attract more daily shoppers to your stores. Generational differences affect the priority of shopping experience, too. Older shoppers — defined as millennials (aged 22-37), Generation X (aged 38-53) and

baby boomers (aged 54-72) — rate shopping experience as very important or important. On the other hand, younger shoppers — defined as Generation Z (aged 18-21) — are less focused on the experience. Only 34 percent of this cohort rate shopping experience as very important or important, while nearly a quarter say the experience is just slightly important or not important. When defining what a positive shopping experience is, a myriad of factors come into play. More than half of c-store shoppers (56 percent) put the price of products at the top of the list, followed by variety of products offered (34 percent) and general convenience (32 percent). Other top factors include store cleanliness (cited by 26 percent), employee friendliness (21 percent), quality of prepared food (21 percent), and loyalty/rewards program (20 percent). Interestingly, while technology is a leading way c-store operators are enhancing the shopping experience in their stores, the research shows it is currently a less important factor, cited by only 4 percent of shoppers. Additionally, less than a quarter of survey participants (16 percent) say that the speed of a shopping trip is critical for a positive shopping experience, indicating that quick and fast is not necessarily associated strongly with a positive shopping experience. Once again, on the question of what defines a positive shopping experience, there are differing opinions among the generations. For instance: • Baby boomers are more likely than Gen Z, millennials and Gen X to rank price (cited by 71 percent of boomers), variety of products (44 percent) and store cleanliness (36 percent) as

Factors That Describe a Positive Shopping Experience % of respondents selecting (n=1,509)


Price of products


Variety of products offered


General convenience


Store cleanliness Employee friendliness


Quality of prepared food


Loyalty/rewards program


Employee helpfulness


Organization of store


Speed of shopping trip

16% 15%

Fun to shop


Look and feel of store Embraces cutting-edge technology



20 20

Convenience Store News 35


Factors That Describe a Positive Shopping Experience % selecting by gender (n=1,509)

Price of products General convenience Variety of products offered


Quality of prepared food


26% 30% 23% 22% 21%

Store cleanliness Employee friendliness

14% 18% 17% 18% 23% 17% 13% 17% 18% 16% 11% 12%

Speed of shopping trip Employee helpfulness Loyalty/rewards program Fun to shop Organization of store Look and feel of store Embraces cutting-edge technology

29% 34% 35% 33%



Females Males


Note: Values circled indicate statistically significant differences between groups.

key factors for a positive shopping experience. • Millennials (24 percent) and Gen Xers (20 percent) are more likely to rate the quality of prepared food as a top three factor vs. 13 percent of baby boomers. • Baby boomers are less focused on a convenience retailer’s loyalty/rewards program (12 percent) vs. nearly a quarter of millennials (23 percent) and Gen X (20 percent). • Gen Z (20 percent) and millennials (16 percent) are more cognizant of how fun a store is to shop vs. baby boomers (9 percent).

Are C-stores Measuring Up? Good news for the convenience channel is that shoppers appear to be largely satisfied. In the eyes of many consumers, c-store operators improved their performance over the past year. When survey respondents were asked to rate the c-store at which they shop most often on multiple attributes, the scores improved over 2019 overall. General convenience (at 80 percent) and speed of trip (at 76 percent) received the highest percentages of excellent and very good ratings.

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

There are some areas for improvement, however. Just 58 percent rated their store highly on the fun-to-shop attribute, and just 56 percent gave high ratings to the price of products. Although these scores are an improvement from last year’s study, they are still at the bottom of the satisfaction list, indicating to retailers that more work needs to be done in these areas. Diving deeper into the results, the research reveals that gender makes a difference, as men are more likely than women to give excellent or very good ratings for: store cleanliness (74 percent vs. 67 percent, respectively); employee helpfulness (73 percent vs. 63 percent); variety of products (70 percent vs. 62 percent); quality of prepared food (67 percent vs. 58 percent); fun to shop (64 percent vs. 53 percent); and price of products (61 percent vs. 51 percent). The age of shoppers makes a difference, too. Generational variations include: • More millennials (82 percent), Gen X (81 percent) and baby boomers (76 percent) rate their most frequented convenience store as excellent or very good on general convenience, compared to Gen Z (64 percent). • Millennials are more likely to give high ratings for speed of shopping trip (78 percent) than Gen Z (69 percent), which indicates that younger consumers have higher expectations for convenience and speed.


• Compared to the other generations, baby boomers are significantly less likely to give high ratings for variety of products offered and price of products. • Sixty-two percent of millennials and 63 percent of Gen X give their c-store an excellent or very good rating on the fun-to-shop attribute, compared to 45 percent of Gen Z shoppers and 40 percent of baby boomers. • When it comes to fresh food, 64 percent of millennials and 68 percent of Gen X consider their usual c-store's quality of prepared food to be excellent or very good, compared to 53 percent of baby boomers and 45 percent of Gen Z. Not surprisingly, daily c-store shoppers are more likely than weekly and monthly shoppers to give their most frequented c-store high marks across all attributes measured. The greatest disparities between these two groups are seen in employee helpfulness (a 13 point gap), loyalty/rewards program (12 points), variety of products (12 points), and fun to shop (12 points).

Drawing Customers In

of the shoppers surveyed visit a c-store at least once per week. This puts c-stores ahead of grocery stores and mass/supercenters, as just 70 percent of the same shoppers visit each of those channels at least once a week. Younger consumers are more likely be weekly c-store shoppers, with millennials (77 percent) and Gen X (79 percent) leading the way, compared to baby boomers (66 percent). As for what compels a shopper to visit a specific c-store over another, the research shows that loyalty programs motivate 33 percent of consumers (unchanged from 2019). Digital loyalty tactics are growing in influence, particularly when a price or savings component is involved, including gas price apps (22 percent of respondents were compelled), social media offers (22 percent), and mobile app offers (21 percent). Men, in general, show a higher tendency to be influenced by various factors compared to women. Meanwhile, women are more likely to claim that no factor influenced them in their last visit. Factors such as life stage, the need to watch the budget and comfort with technology also impact the ability of certain tactics to be influential, resulting in generational differences: • Mobile app offer: Millennials (26 percent) and Gen X (21 percent) cite this tactic as influential, more than Gen Z (12 percent) or baby boomers (13 percent).

More good news for the convenience channel is that its customer base makes a habit of visiting regularly: 75 percent

Performance Ratings for Convenience Store Shopped Most Often Excellent/Very Good



(n=1,260-1,509) 80%

General convenience


Speed of shopping trip

Store cleanliness



Employee friendliness






Loyalty/rewards program



Price of products

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

58% 56%

27% 28% 25%

8% 10%





Variety of products

Fun to shop




Quality of prepared food



Store organization

Employee helpfulness



13% 10% 14% 19%


Influencers to Visit a Convenience Store % selecting total & by gender (n= 1,509)

33% 31% 35%

Loyalty program



Word of mouth

27% 29% 25% 22%

Coupon Social media promotion


27% 22% 24% 21% 21% 18% 25%

Gas price app Mobile app offer Radio or TV advertisement

Text message Print circular

28% 15%


20% 14%

None of the above




Mobile ordering



7% 9%

12% 13%

17% 19%


11% 8% 13% 10% 9% 11%

16% Total Females Males

Note: Values circled indicate statistically significant differences between groups.

• Loyalty program: Thirty-six percent each of millennials and Gen X cite this tactic as influential, while just 16 percent of Gen Z responded the same. • Social media offer: Baby boomers are significantly less likely to find this tactic influential (9 percent) compared to Gen Z (18 percent), millennials (27 percent) and Gen X (21 percent). Millennials and Gen X are also more likely than baby boomers to find radio/TV ads, text messages and email to be influential, while millennials and Gen Z are more likely than baby boomers to find coupons influential. Baby boomers appear be less easily influenced in general, as 21 percent selected "none of the above" as an influencing factor, compared to 15 percent of Gen Z, 12 percent of millennials, and 14 percent of Gen X.

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

Word of mouth and gas price apps are the only tactics that show equal and comparable influential power across every generational group surveyed in the study. C-store retailers who want to turn their weekly and monthly shoppers into daily shoppers should examine their savings and promotional offers, which is a key difference between these groups. More than a quarter of daily shoppers (26 percent) say they are influenced by mobile app offers compared to 20 percent of weekly and monthly shoppers. Daily shoppers are also more likely to be swayed by text messages (15 percent vs. 9 percent, respectively) and coupons (33 percent vs. 25 percent). Increasing the frequency of existing customer visits is even more important when you consider that while nearly three in four c-store shoppers overall (74 percent) typically visit the same store each time, daily shoppers are even more likely to be loyal (at 78 percent). CSN

Deal With Labor Pains Higher minimum wages and increased competition drive convenience store retailers to utilize various employee strategies By Melissa Kress

ringing in 2020, convenience store operators were preparing for a higher cost of doing business as the minimum wage increased in more than 26 states across the country.


On the West Coast, California raised its minimum wage rates by $1 on Jan. 1 — bringing them to $12 per hour for employers with 25 employees or less, and $13 per hour for employers with 26 employees or more, according to a report by payroll experts Wolters Kluwer. On the East Coast, the minimum wage went up to $11 an hour for most workers in New Jersey, and to $11.80 for most places in New York State. New York City’s minimum wage is set at $15 per hour for all employers. Minimum wage hikes are something Plaid Pantry CEO Jonathan Polonsky knows all too well. With 108 convenience stores in the Northwest, the Beaverton, Ore.-based chain has faced incremental increases in its market for the past several years — and counting. For instance, the Portland, Ore., metropolitan area saw its minimum wage steadily tick up from $9.75 on July 1, 2016 to $12.50 on July 1, 2019. Furthermore, it is set to rise again at the start of each July over the next three years: $13.25 in 2020, $14 in 2021, and $14.75 in 2022. Seattle, however, is a different story. There, Plaid Pantry stores face a $16.39 minimum wage for large

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employers (501 or more employees). “The wages in Seattle are the highest, but we face more regulatory challenges in our Oregon stores,” Polonsky told Convenience Store News, explaining that Oregon’s predictive scheduling laws went into effect in 2018 and require on-call scheduling to be replaced with more stable schedules for employees. “Predictive scheduling is a challenge for everyone and leads to more required overtime pay,” he said. To meet the different wage regulations, Plaid Pantry has three pay zones: Seattle, where it has one store; Portland metro area, where it has 99 stores; and Salem, Ore., where it has eight stores. New employees start at the required hourly wage for their area. However, Plaid Pantry is “more aggressive about increases than we have been in the past,” Polonsky noted. To cover the rising costs, the c-store chain has had to implement price increases in its stores. “We have always run our stores very efficiently, so there are no real hours to cut. We have to pass the increased cost to our customer. Most businesses in our channel are in the same boat, so it’s not a competitive disadvantage,” the chief executive said. “Based on feedback I have received from other c-store companies, I think we are doing pretty well in the current environment.”

Happy Employees, Happy Customers Considering wages already account for a large share of a retailer’s expenses, any change to the hourly wage can be a tough pill to swallow. But as unemployment remains historically low, higher wages are also becoming a result of increased competition. Speaking at the NACS HR Forum in March, Jayme Gough, an analyst with the convenience and fuel retailing association, shared that wages made up 40 percent of the industry’s direct store operating expenses last year — a 5-percent increase over 2018. That increase, according to Gough, was driven by employers choosing to invest in good employees and use them to generate profit. Calling a higher turnover rate “relative,” Polonsky says Plaid Pantry’s turnover rate differs based on position. The turnover rate at the store manager level and above has been roughly 5 percent over the past several years, compared to an average turnover rate of 92 percent for store associates over the same timeframe. Part of employee retainment is offering an environment that meets their needs and their desire for a work-life balance. This is something that can be challenging in a 24/7 business like the convenience store industry, Polonsky pointed out. “It can be hard to accommodate in a 24/7/365 c-store environment, but we are always looking for opportunities to improve the benefits we offer, and make our stores as pleasant as possible,” he explained. “It’s my goal to have Plaid be as close to a small family business as possible.” Wages aside, Plaid Pantry offers other employee incentives like sick pay, vacation, and education

Part of employee retainment is offering an environment that meets their needs and their desire for a work-life balance. This is something that can be challenging in a 24/7 business like the convenience store industry. — Jonathan Polonsky, Plaid Pantry reimbursement. In addition, the c-store retailer regularly checks in with its new employees. “About a year ago, we implemented a stay interview at the 30and 60-day marks for new associates, and I think it has had a positive impact on our turnover,” Polonsky said. Meanwhile, at Des Moines, Iowa-based convenience store chain Kum & Go LC, providing flexibility when it comes to scheduling has gone a long way in retaining associates. “Our Store Structure Program is a system that attracts high-quality, full-time associates by, in part, providing set schedule patterns based on various full-time roles. This standardization across locations allows an associate the option to change to a schedule or job that best fits their life,” explained Kurt Brannian, operations system analyst at Kum & Go. Kum & Go also fosters work-life balance through personal time off. For instance, a “Celebrate Your Day” is offered to all store associates, along with benefits for all full-time employees and vacation days for general managers.


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“One simple yet important thing that we do to ensure a proper work-life balance is to exhort our associates to turn all that wonderful technology off when not on the job,” Brannian added.

Tapping Into Technology Technology does play a critical role in helping Kum & Go navigate the changing labor landscape. In the past year, the retailer integrated Branch, a shift-sharing application, with Kronos, its scheduling system, to operate under one workforce management system. Kronos provides timekeeping and scheduling, while Branch is used for communications and shift swapping. “Branch allows shift swapping from home, saving our associates trips and/or calls to the store. The process is fast and easy, thereby getting our associates the schedules they want — the schedules that best fit their lives,” Brannian said. “We all know the effect of happy associates on turnover, staffing and training costs, and quality of service. Of course, the bow on top is that this happiness and improved service ultimately benefits our customers. When our associates are happy and our customers are happy, life is pretty good.” Kum & Go’s social media-like communications platform facilitates interaction among associates, too. “The temptation is to use this for all types of messaging, such as compliance reporting, corrective actions and reminders. However, we’ve chosen to limit this to positive communications, thereby making this a safe, inviting space to attract our associates’ attention, which leads to more shifts being picked up,” he added. Implementing Kronos’ technology provides associates with consistent and repeatable schedules, resulting in lower turnover, lower stress and, ultimately, happier spouses and families. “Associates can plan their lives and not be in a constant state of change week to week,” he said.

“Not many c-store chains can compete and retain workers on base hourly wage alone, so it comes down to this: How can you leverage technology to provide the kind of flexibility, accessibility and personal development that all employees wish they could have?” — Amanda Nichols, Kronos “There is a wage war going on in retail today. Not many c-store chains can compete and retain workers on base hourly wage alone, so it comes down to this: How can you leverage technology to provide the kind of flexibility, accessibility and personal development that all employees wish they could have?” Nichols posed “And the answer is quite simple, as almost every one of today’s frontline workers carry around a smartphone in their pocket. “Nowadays, people expect to use their phone for tracking every bit of their lives, including their work,” she continued. “Mobile accessibility to see when you are scheduled and how much you have earned brings a new level of convenience to the employee experience that helps with retention.” Technology is also critical for keeping the lines of communication open between store managers and leadership, between managers and frontline associates, and for talent management.

“When people feel seen, recognized and developed, they’re more likely to stay with their employer and keep giving back to the organization,” Nichols Engaging With Employees Kronos works with convenience stores to attract and pointed out. retain best-fit employees and effectively manage the Whatever combination of best practices a c-store critical business issues in workforce management, according to Amanda Nichols, senior manager, retail retailer chooses — technology, employee incentives, or raising prices to meet increasing costs — dealing hospitality and food service practice, at Kronos. with labor struggles requires them to stay on top “One thing all our c-store customers have in common of regulatory and legislative changes at all levels of government. is knowing that their success depends on having an engaged, well-trained and experienced team of “Our best defense has been to stay involved in state employees who can successfully deliver a quality and local government to encourage a level playing customer experience,” she said. field,” advised Plaid Pantry’s Polonsky. “When successful, it keeps us competitive with others in This may require engaging with employees where our market.” CSN they feel most comfortable: mobile.

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The Fourth Daypart Three key insights from the Datassential Snacking Keynote Report 2. Keep It Fresh

have you had today? One? Three?


This month, we’re diving into the snacking habits of consumers and teasing out three key insights from the Datassential Snacking Keynote Report to get everyone thinking about the future of snacking and how to maximize this all-day opportunity.

1. Snacking Stays a Mainstay Virtually any food can be a snack, and snacking occurs at almost any time — it’s the all-day daypart. Ninety-six percent of consumers had at least one snack in the past day, with most averaging between three and four snack foods throughout the day. So, it’s no surprise to hear that snacking has cemented its hold as the fourth daypart.

When consumers are on the hunt for snacks, they rank freshness as an essential attribute, even beating out flavor. Offering products that are “freshly baked” or “prepared to order” may require investment in marketing and backof-house resources, but they can catch consumers’ eyes, prompting them to take a second look and increasing appeal as a snackable option.

3. Healthy Is Worth It Where freshness is preferred, healthy attributes bring the promise of potential value. Fifty-five percent of consumers are willing to pay more for organic snacks, and 46 percent are willing to pay more for all-natural, vegan and vegetarian offerings. By adding even small moments of organic, all-natural, vegan or vegetarian, operators can maximize their snacking potential. CSN Datassential’s Snacking Keynote Report leverages the suite of Datassential’s tools and consumer and operator studies to provide an exhaustive look at industry topics. For more information, visit Datassential’s website at datassential.com and look under the Food Insights header.

Likelihood to Pay More for Healthful Attributes in Snacks Would pay more for

More likely to buy but not pay more

Organic (n=154)

Makes no difference


All natural (n=342)


Vegan (n=52)


Vegetarian (n=65)


Probiotic (n=67)


Contains antioxidants (n=123)


No GMOs (n=183)


29% 39% 29% 38% 45% 41%

16% 14% 25% 15% 13% 17%



High protein (n=313)




Rich in vitamins/minerals (n=259)




No antibiotics (n=140)


High fiber (n=238)


No MSG (n=141)


Gluten-free (n=74)


47% 42% 52% 41%

17% 22% 12% 24%

Source: Snacking Keynote Report


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Convenience Store News



It’s Not Just a Number Gauging the status and industry impact of the new federal Tobacco 21 law By Renée M. Covino

for months now. Right before Christmas, on Dec. 20, 2019, retailers got the news: Tobacco 21 had reached the federal level. President Trump signed legislation raising the federal legal minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.


While the age change went into effect immediately that day, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was given time to update its regulations — it is required to publish its Implementing Regulation by June 17, 2020. The National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO) quickly went on record with a statement warning retailers in every state to comply immediately and cease selling any kind of tobacco product, including cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco, cigars, smokeless tobacco, electronic cigarettes, nicotine vapor products, pipe tobacco, hookah tobacco and dissolvable nicotine products, to anyone under the age of 21. NATO additionally made it clear that “components” constitute a tobacco product. The association explained that components are defined as that which are “used with or for the human consumption of a tobacco product.” This includes rolling papers, blunt wraps, traditional pipes, cartridges, pods, and bottles of nicotine e-liquids.

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NACS, the association that represents the convenience and fuel retailing industry, also went on record to urge for immediate compliance. “While there are unanswered questions about when FDA plans to enforce this requirement and whether the agency can legally enforce it before updating its regulations, retailers should be aware that FDA views any sale to a person under 21 as a violation of the new law,” the association reported. In addition to the new federal Tobacco 21 law, the FDA issued a separate policy guidance banning the sale of unauthorized flavored cartridge-based and pod-based vapor products. That policy was first announced on Jan. 2 and went into effect Feb. 6. Beyond the selling age restriction, retailers “will be required under the implementing regulation, to be drafted and issued by the FDA, to request governmentissued photo identification for customers under the age of 30 to verify that they are of legal age to purchase tobacco products,” according to NATO. NACS has been in touch with We Card, and the organization is working to order and print new signage. Until those updated signs are available, NACS recommends c-store operators print and post signage in their stores that indicates: “As of Dec. 20, 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has decided that the federal minimum age for purchasing any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, is 21 years old.”

Some FDA Clarification How realistic was it for retailers to fully comply in a day? Not very. So, NACS organized a joint retail association

A Quick Rundown on Tobacco 21 Q. What was the Tobacco 21 landscape prior to the federal legislation? A. More than 540 local jurisdictions and 19 states had passed a Tobacco 21 law. Q. When did federal Tobacco 21 go into effect? A. On Dec. 20, 2019, President Trump signed legislation to amend the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and raise the federal minimum age of sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21. The change went into effect immediately that day — making it illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product, including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes, to anyone under the age of 21. Q. When will the FDA enforce the law? A. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it will begin enforcing the new minimum purchasing age only after it adopts updated regulations. The legislation enables the Secretary of Health and Human Services to promulgate rules to carry out the new law no later than 180 days after the date of enactment of the federal act. The Secretary is required to: publish the final rule to update the regulations to carry out the amendments; to update all references to persons under 18; and to update the relevant age verification requirements to require age verification for individuals under the age of 30. This final rule will take effect no later than 90 days after the date on which the final rule is published. Based on the time allotted in the legislation, the FDA could take up to 270 days before it will enforce the new minimum purchasing age.

letter to the FDA in late December explaining the complexities of the transition for retailers who must retrain employees, update signage, reprogram point-of-sale systems, and inform customers. The Food Marketing Institute, National Grocers Association, NATSO, Petroleum Marketers Association of America, and Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America joined NACS in addressing Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. About a month after the federal legislation changed, the FDA finally offered some enforcement clarification for retailers, stating that it recognized that some retailers, and the FDA itself, would need time to update current practices and educate.

Q. Does the law apply to tribal lands? A. Yes. On federal Indian reservations, federal and tribal laws apply to members of the tribe, unless Congress provides otherwise. Q. Does the federal Tobacco 21 law include a military exemption? A. No. The federal law does not exempt anyone from the age requirement. This applies to active U.S. military personnel under 21 years of age and those who were 18, 19 or 20 as of Dec. 20, 2019. No one is exempted. Q. Will states and cities continue to pass Tobacco 21 laws independently? A. Yes. The federal Tobacco 21 law does not preempt states and localities from adopting their own Tobacco 21 laws. States and localities are, and will continue, passing policies at the local and state levels to make their age restriction laws align with federal law. Local sales regulations may also include requiring a tobacco retail license, mandating a minimum number of compliance checks, and updating their penalty structure to incentivize compliance. The FDA does not check every retailer; it is up to the states and localities to make sure all tobacco product retailers are undergoing compliance checks. Q. Did flavored e-cigarettes become illegal with this new law? A. No. This legislation did not prohibit or restrict the sale of flavored products. However, on Jan. 2, 2020, the FDA issued an enforcement policy guidance banning unauthorized flavored cartridgebased e-cigarettes and pod-based vaping products. That policy went into effect on Feb. 6. Sources: Food and Drug Administration; Tobacco21.org

“During this period of transition, the FDA expects retailers to follow the law and take measures to ensure an individual purchasing a tobacco product is 21 or older, including manually checking IDs when needed,” the agency stated. “However, during this ramp-up period, FDA will continue to only use minors under the age of 18 in its compliance check program.” The FDA is also providing tools to retailers to help them calculate a customer’s age. According to the agency, retailers who use its “This is Our Watch” digital age verification calendar may update the minimum purchase age on the calendar to 21 years old. Instructions on how to update the age on the digital calendar are available on the FDA website. Additionally, retailers who use the FDA’s Age Calculator app should update the age limit to 21 through the app


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Prior to the passage of the federal law, 19 states, as well as the District of Columbia and at least 540 localities in 31 states, raised their minimum age of sale for all tobacco products to 21.

settings. Instructions are provided within the help feature of the app. NACS pointed out that the agency did not define the length of the transition period. Both NACS and NATO continue to advise retailers to take the necessary steps to come into compliance as quickly as possible.

‘Local 21’ Continues Prior to the passage of the federal law, 19 states — Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington — as well as the District of Columbia and at least 540 localities in 31 states raised their minimum age of sale for all tobacco products to 21. “It is important to understand this federal Tobacco 21 law supersedes state law,” said Thomas Briant, executive director of NATO, noting that this applies to any state exemptions for military members or grandfather clauses. And the uptick in state and local Tobacco 21 laws continues, reportedly so states can fully comply and enforce the regulation. Even though the federal law has changed, states and localities see the need to follow through in their legislatures because enforcement takes place at the state and local levels. In this way, Tobacco 21 state and local laws help avoid confusion or ambiguity, and ensure clarity for the public, businesses, state agencies and law enforcement.

Gauging the Impact It’s hard to get a read on exactly how

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much the new federal Tobacco 21 law is impacting the convenience store industry currently, and what likely lies ahead. Some experts do not wish to comment until the FDA officially updates its regulations in June. As of now, one minor change in the shipping world could possibly affect small retailers. In addition to requiring all tobacco shipments to be signed by an individual at least 21 years old, UPS will no longer be accepting cash on delivery (COD) for tobacco shipments to retailers (and consumers). Bigger picture, cigarette industry volumes are expected to take a hit. “Given the recent regulatory and legislative developments in e-vapor and the national move to 21 as the legal age to purchase all tobacco products, we expect cigarette industry volume trends to remain dynamic,” Billy Gifford, vice chairman and CEO for tobacco giant Altria, recently stated, projecting full-year 2020 adjusted industry cigarette volumes to decline by 4 percent to 6 percent. However, an American Journal of Public Health article, which examined the retail impact of raising the tobacco sales age to 21, reported that tobacco retailers would only lose up to 2 percent of total cigarette sales. “Tobacco retailers could then adjust to the changing market conditions and the longer-term effects on smoking prevalence, just as alcohol retailers did when the drinking age was raised to 21,” the article pointed out. The piece also noted that in the four years following Needham, Massachusetts’ Tobacco 21 law, high school smoking rates dropped 47 percent, and no tobacco retailers went out of business as a result of the new law. Needham was the first town in the country to change its tobacco purchasing age to 21; this took place back in 2005. CSN


Snacks Are the New Meals Time-starved consumers are reaching for ready-to-eat snacks for convenience, fuel and satiety By Danielle Romano THE LINE BETWEEN

meals and snacks is

getting muddier. Dining patterns are increasingly shifting away from the three-meals-per-day schedule, as snacking between meals and eating multiple smaller meals per day is on the rise. “As consumers continue to lead busier days, which are fueled by always-on digital connectedness, snack times have become the new mealtimes,” said Marissa Foray, brand manager for Flipz, the maker of chocolate-covered pretzels. “Consumers are snacking three or more times a day. … With less time to prep, cook and eat a meal, consumers are reaching for ready-to-eat snacks that are convenient while they are on the move.” Consumers’ always-on-the-go lifestyles require ease and convenience, and snacking allows them to grab a quick bite virtually anywhere. The explosion of new, portable snacking options — as well as a large uptick in better-for-you snacking options being introduced over the past five to 10 years — has helped create new usage occasions and brought a greater amount of convenience, which ultimately helps enable the active lifestyle.

“Snackers have so many new convenient options to fulfill any snacking/craving need, at any given time,” pointed out Jeff Lilla, vice president, strategic channels for Amplify Snack Brands, whose portfolio includes such brands as Skinny Pop and Krave. “They can drive to a local store and peruse the options available. They don’t have to get out of the car if using a drive-up window service. Or they can place orders via electronic devices and have them delivered to their door and never leave home. The convenience options are amazing.”

Mealtime Placeholders With the surging fluidity and interchangeability of modern mealtimes, Americans are undoubtedly eating differently. So, do mealtimes still hold any ground with consumers? According to market researcher Packaged Facts, debate over the importance of breakfast over lunch and dinner has risen sharply, and the trend of between-meal snacking and multiple smaller daily meals is further affecting mealtime management. The research firm’s recent Eating Trends: Mealtimes and Snacking study found that: • In terms of the three main meals, a significantly higher number of adults consider breakfast to be the most important meal of the day. • Over a 10-year period, the percentage of adults who eat several smaller meals throughout the day experienced a slight uptick. • Between 2008 and 2018, there was a modest but marked trend toward eating meals later in the day, with the percentage of adults eating breakfast before 9 a.m., lunch before 1 p.m. and dinner before 8 p.m. dropping slightly. • Generation Z, aged 18 to 24, are among the most noteworthy diners who tend to eat in the later dayparts. Asian-Americans and millennials aged 25 to 34 are disproportionately more likely to eat later in the evening. When examining the role snacking plays in mealtime management, IRI’s State of the Snack Industry report concluded that afternoon and evening snacking frequency is most prevalent, but morning snacking frequency has increased 8 percentage points in four years.

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Whether seeking a snack or a meal, 60 percent of consumers are still highly motivated by fresh and not processed offerings, so both the snacking and mealtime landscapes continue to evolve to meet these needs, Lilla pointed out. “In my opinion, traditional breakfast and lunch ‘meals’ are the least prioritized meals and are seeing snacks as a replacement,” he said. “Based on the always-connected, always-on-the-go lifestyle that consumers are living, coupled with the immediategratification options that evolve, we definitely see snacking occasions continuing to increase. The easier it is to fulfill a craving/snacking need, the more consumers will take part.”

Maximizing the Trend As eating behaviors continue to morph, snack suppliers have a few key pieces of advice for convenience store retailers to meet need states across all dayparts. For starters, Flipz’s Foray advises operators to recognize that more than demographics, life stage and lifestyle impact consumers’ level of snacking throughout the day. As a general rule of thumb, c-store retailers should seek to accommodate consumer preferences with products that reflect their dietary needs and beliefs, she added. “We will continue to see an evolution in snacking behavior and the approach to snacking,” Foray said. “We are seeing that product benefits, both nutritional and via packaging/sizing, are playing different roles

“Based on the always-connected, always-on-the-go lifestyle that consumers are living, coupled with the immediate-gratification options that evolve, we definitely see snacking occasions continuing to increase.” — Jeff Lilla, Amplify Snack Brands for different consumers in their assessment of snacks. Snacking will continue to become more fragmented and more customized as consumer needs become more specified.” With 65 percent of Americans saying that making it fun and easy to shop is important in their decisions of where to shop, Lilla offers a multi-pronged approach for retailers: • Inside the store, retailers should maximize the overarching consumer needs of convenience, impulse and on-demand. • However, it’s not just about what’s happening at the shelf: “Emerging snacker” shoppers look for new snacks, with heavy interaction at checkout and secondary displays. • Because shopping is changing rapidly in an omnichannel space, retailers should embrace digital tools and services to ensure they aren’t left behind. “The shopper of tomorrow already cares about this today,” said Lilla. CSN

Bite-Sized Criteria When selecting snacks, consumers have a checklist of criteria to tick off. It starts with usage occasion. In support of their active lifestyles, snacks have become a deliberate part of a plan for body fuel, with 76 percent of Americans eating, drinking or taking functional foods to improve their well-being, as results from the 2019 Snackventurer Study by Amplify Snack Brands and Kantar Consulting revealed. Satiety also is an important consideration. According to IRI’s State of the Snack Industry, most consumers are looking for snacks that are filling. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) want snacks that provide sustenance. This figure hops to 80 percent among shoppers aged 18 to 24. Additionally, 66 percent of shoppers snack to fuel their day — up 11 points vs. 2015. This isn’t to say that impulsivity isn’t still a snacking consideration. Snacking on-demand remains important to consumers, with 73 percent saying they don’t plan their snacking; they just grab snacks as they need them. This trend is continuing to grow and seen across all generations, IRI’s research found.


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The 1-2-3s of CBD C-store retailers need to do their homework and plan carefully if they want to make the most of this promising segment By Angela Hanson CONVENIENCE STORE RETAILERS across the nation agree that cannabidiol (CBD) products are going to be a major source of sales growth for the industry. Recent studies show that more than two-thirds of consumers have already tried CBD products or know someone who has.

At the same time, however, an information gap exists — most consumers also admit they don’t feel well informed about CBD’s uses, and retailers are likewise still learning what products to offer and how to educate their customer base. C-store chains such as Sheetz Inc., Kwik Trip Inc. and VERC Enterprises have introduced CBD products at some or all of their stores. More names will inevitably join that list. But how can retailers stay competitive in a segment they’re still learning about themselves? Experts say they should begin with the basics. “Retailers should start with the shopper. Determine where CBD fits with customers’ lifestyles and needs,” said Mike Luce, co-founder of High Yield Insights, a provider

of market research on the cannabis industry. “From there, consider three factors of product assortment: product form, usage drivers, and price point.” The primary CBD product forms are topicals, tinctures, vapes and edibles, with CBD-added beverages also rising in popularity. CBD’s main usage drivers are daily ritual, on-demand and evening relaxation, according to High Times’ consumer insights studies. However, despite the popularity of edible CBD products, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers the introduction of food products with CBD to interstate commerce to be prohibited. Individual states have taken different stances on the legality of edible CBD products, with some explicitly permitting or disallowing their sale. Unless and until federal enforcement of the FDA’s stance begins, retailers should investigate the laws regarding CBD where their stores are located, according to the experts.

Separating the Reputable From the Risky Despite the uncertainty in regulation, many CBD manufacturers are working to ensure their products are held to appropriate standards and aren’t viewed as quasi-legal products that are only able to be sold through gray areas of the law. Eric Smart, CEO of Myaderm, whose CBD products are available at 7-Eleven and other major non-convenience


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store chains, recommends retailers look for manufacturers of topical CBD products that operate FDA-registered facilities that meet or exceed the agency’s standards for cosmetics. “That’s an easy ask and they should be able to provide confirmation,” he told Convenience Store News. The knowledge gap regarding CBD makes it even more important that retailers present potential supplier partners with detailed questions. Luce recommends asking about the CBD’s source, extraction methods, lab tests (including a certificate of analysis), and product ingredients. “The customer-facing component is critical as well. Are packages clear and detailed? Does the supplier make sweeping health claims? That’s deeply problematic if so,” he said. “Can customers access more information easily through the supplier’s website? If a supplier can’t confidently respond to questions on those issues with documentation, that’s a red flag.” Some have compared today’s CBD market to the early days of electronic cigarettes, when business was booming but some suppliers only planned to make as much money as possible in a short amount of time. To build trust with consumers and ongoing success, retailers must do their best to determine which suppliers are in it for the long haul. This means not only gathering information, but also staying alert to potential fraud. Common forms of fraud include products made with less CBD than advertised, or even none. These bad actors swap out CBD for cheaper active ingredients and charge five to ten times more than they otherwise could. Examining documentation and getting information about the production process can reveal misdirection, but retailers should also try the product themselves. “If it’s burning and contains a massive amount of menthol and camphor, it seems like that might be an expensive substitution for IcyHot,” Smart said.

Going All-In Duxbury, Mass.-based VERC Enterprises, which operates more than 30 c-stores in eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire, is one of the first c-store chains to go all-in on CBD.

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VERC Enterprises’ c-stores feature a front-counter CBD display that opens in the back so that the customer can see the items up close, but they must request the product from a store associate.

The retailer announced in January that it would offer CBD products at all its stores through a partnership with Burlington, Vt.-based Ceres Natural Remedies. This move followed initial experiments with a variety of CBD products and brands. “Initially, we went with the brands available through our distributor. Our category manager team further researched additional brands that were of proven quality and value,” explained Project Manager Tyla Vercollone, who oversees the growth and development of CBD for VERC. “Of course, as we see in other categories, some of those brands didn’t hit, while others did great and continue to be big players.” VERC opted to provide its customers with maximum choice by stocking CBD products at all three cannibinoid levels available: isolate CBD products, which only contain the CBD cannibinoid; full-spectrum CBD products, which contain all compounds found in the original hemp plant, including trace; and broad spectrum CBD products, which sit somewhere between the other two types. After gaining more CBD knowledge and experience, VERC chose a particular competitive angle for the segment. “A theme that we are trying to grow in our

stores is the concept of ‘fresh and local,’” Vercollone explained. “We see the trend of healthy, less-ingredient food products on the rise and want to stick to that with our CBD offerings.” This is one of the reasons Ceres was such a natural fit, she noted. Based in New England, Ceres is a sister company to Champlain Valley Dispensary & Southern Vermont Wellness, provider of both CBD products and medical marijuana. Its operations include three CBD stores, four medical dispensaries, and the largest indoor growing facility in the state of Vermont.

“At VERC, we look at our employees as our No. 1 asset. The more we can empower them with knowledge and product education, the more conversational and organic the sale becomes.” — Tyla Vercollone, VERC Enterprises multiple times a day. [CEO Leo Vercollone] has also built staff loyalty, which is evident in his terrific retention rate, so his customers know his staff. It is a trust relationship.”

Ceres hosted all of VERC’s team leads and district managers for training on CBD and a tour of the company itself, including its production and retail facilities.

Education & Marketing Best Practices

“What we have learned in working with VERC is that their stores are really community hubs within their region,” said Ceres Executive Director Shayne Lynn. “They know their customers because most of them are in multiple times a week or even

While not all c-store operators can send the bulk of their workforce for hands-on training, the more knowledge employees have, the better they can advocate for the CBD segment. “Can’t say it enough — education, education, education,” Lynn said. “You need to train your staff so that they

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have confidence in the brand, so much so that they are using it themselves. This is what drives sales.” VERC has given all interested employees free samples of various forms of CBD. “At VERC, we look at our employees as our No. 1 asset. The more we can empower them with knowledge and product education, the more conversational and organic the sale becomes,” Vercollone said. At a minimum, category decision-makers should try every product to understand exactly what they’ll be offering customers, Smart recommends. He also suggests retailers find a single brand that carries products across the most popular categories of consumption, as this makes for less to manage in terms of both inventory and employee training. “People want a balanced choice and once a customer finds a brand they like, they stick with it,” Smart shared. As for physical placement of products in the store, insiders agree that somewhere within the cashier’s line of sight is best. This puts products in the path of consumers who might be curious about CBD but wouldn’t have gone out of their way to find it. It also guards against theft, as the segment tends to have a higher theft rate due to its association with cannabis.

“Retailers should start with the shopper. Determine where CBD fits with customers’ lifestyles and needs. From there, consider three factors of product assortment: product form, usage drivers, and price point.” — Mike Luce, High Yield Insights VERC settled on a merchandising approach that mixes marketing appeal with practicality. “We are still developing our marketing and merchandising plan for the stores, but we decided on a front counter display that opens in the back so that the customer can see the items up close, but they must request the product from the associate,” Vercollone said. “We keep brochures right next to the display, which is a great reference for customers with questions. Display size varies based on what is available in the store layout.”


Whatever a retailer settles on, it has become clear already that the biggest differencemaker is not displays, signage or placement, but rather the people in the store. ORDER BY 6 PM FOR SAME DAY SHIPPING



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“Our best-selling stores are due to an associate or associates who uses and believes in the product,” Vercollone said. “Simply sharing their experience of how the cream soothes their arthritis pain or [how] taking a few gummies at night relieves sleeplessness takes our sales to the next level.” CSN


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C-stores are diving into personalized marketing to engage customers and boost sales By Tammy Mastroberte TODAY’S SHOPPERS ARE increasingly demanding more from retailers, whether it’s online or in a physical store. They want what they want, fast and easy, and for the experience to be as personally relevant and convenient to them as possible.

With Walmart offering free next-day delivery and Amazon now offering two-hour delivery, consumer expectations are on the rise. To meet this demand, retailers in all channels are implementing different forms of personalization, and the convenience channel is no exception. “Personalization is the future,” said Tyler Tanaka, senior director of digital, loyalty and brand marketing at travel center operator Pilot Co., based in Knoxville, Tenn. “It’s about being able to have a good understanding of your guest and help them get what they want, where they want it and when they want it, and it gives you a tremendous opportunity to make their day better, whether it’s saving time or money.” Personalized offers also benefit the retailer, especially the bottom line. A study commissioned by Google and conducted by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), based in Boston, found that when the shopping experience was highly personalized, customers said they were 110 percent more likely to add additional items to their baskets, and 40 percent more likely to spend more than they had planned. The study also showed brand satisfaction increased with personalization, as brands taking the personal approach had net promoter scores 20 percent higher than those with a low level of personalization. Pilot Co. utilizes its app to deliver personalized offers to members of its loyalty program.

And if retailers can focus personalized offers on higher gross margin products, it’s even better. For example, gas might offer a 3 percent gross margin, whereas soda or chips would be higher, and foodservice would be even more. It’s not only about understanding your customers, but also offering personalization for things you want them to have or purchase, said Sastry Penumarthy, co-founder of Punchh, a customer engagement and loyalty solutions provider based in Silicon Valley, Calif., which works with convenience store chain Casey’s General Stores Inc. “A $200 tank of gas could be $6 in gross margin, but a $10 pizza could also be $6 in gross margin,” Penumarthy explained. “Understanding your customers and what behaviors you want them to have can be important to the top line, but even more important to the bottom line.” Surprisingly, however, there is still a low level of investment in personalization among retailers relative to the opportunity it offers them, noted Stefano Fanfarillo, partner and director of personalization and digital marketing at BCG. It’s also important to note that when it comes to personalization, customers desire data privacy, value and convenience, which is why so many retailers are focused on personalized promotional offers and coupons to grab a customer’s attention. With data privacy at the top of the priority list, retailers must make sure they demonstrate privacy and trust with the customer and, for value, offering the right price and the right product, advised Fanfarillo. “The third is convenience, so make it convenient to shop, get my products and achieve my shopping goals, like offering delivery or pickup at the store,” he said.

What’s Working Now In today’s online world, it’s easy for a company to see previous purchases, abandoned carts, and even items of interest viewed on a website. This allows personalized communication to the customer about suggested items of interest, coupons and even special offers based on their behavior. The goal of today’s brick-and-mortar retailers is to translate this personalization to the store. Thanks to technology, it’s not only possible, but it’s happening and working for those who are leveraging their in-house data from the point-of-sale, loyalty programs and apps. Relevant offers and deals are what customers are responding to most. “Our guests love seeing deals relevant to them and that make sense, and our redemption rates have been really strong since launching our rewards program in January 2020,” said Art Sebastian, vice president of digital experiences at Casey’s, based in Ankeny, Iowa, and operating more than 2,000 c-stores in 16 states. “From a business perspective, as they are redeeming deals, they

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Personalization: Where to Start? Everyone is talking about personalization, and how Amazon is the leader in it. But how can a retailer take it to the store level? And how personal does a retailer need to get? It might sound overwhelming if you’re just starting out, but it’s actually a gradual process that might be easier than some might think, according to Brad Van Otterloo, CEO at Koupon Media, a promotion network company that connects CPG brands with c-store retailers.

Offering guests relevant deals is a pillar of the Casey's Rewards program, which launched in January.

are adding other items to their order, so the ticket sales are going up.” While rewards are available on the company’s website, they’re also on Casey’s app, and that is the primary channel customers are using to engage right now, Sebastian pointed out. The chain is leveraging data, and not only looking at past purchases, but also their home store, what method customers want to be communicated with — email, app push, SMS — and what time of day they get offers through those channels. “Time of day and day of the week are important in our open rate, so we are starting to factor that in,” Sebastian explained. “We are also leveraging data to see what products our guests have purchased and send offers for companion products. So, a guest who is an energy drink purchaser might get an offer for a pizza slice and, if they buy coffee three to five days a week in our store, we might send them an offer for a doughnut.” Real-time data is important to achieve so that the offers going out to customers remain relevant and timely. For example, you don’t want to send a customer an offer saying that since they have not been in for a while, here is an offer for $2 off a pizza, and then it turns out they just bought one two hours ago, he noted. While the ultimate goal is to get down to the individual level, knowing and targeting each customer with relevant offers, this level of personalization takes time. As a result, most retailers are starting by segmenting customers by daypart or specific item purchases — like coffee, energy drinks,

“People often think personalization is targeted to an individual and on the surface, that’s great, but when you dive in and analyze the data, you will find segments of people who are similar enough to group together,” he told Convenience Store News. What is working best right now is sending relevant offers and coupons to targeted segments of customers, and basing these segments on data collected either from an app, loyalty program or via email. Those who have a loyalty card and app are the ones who are truly loyal members and may already be interacting with you, but it’s important to also address those customers who might come for gas but never come into the store, he explained. “Investigate the customer journey your loyalty card members have taken,” Van Otterloo urged. “How did someone go from not loyal to loyal, and start building segments such as those who only come in the morning. Then, decide what channels you want to interact with them through, whether it’s an app, email, text or other form of digital media, so you can start getting messages through.” For those who come for gas and don’t ever come into the store, the first step would be to bring them from anonymous to not anonymous. One approach to achieve this could be a pump sign or digital media saying, “Text to get a free coffee, soda or candy bar.” “Now, you just learned something about their habits, and can hit them with another message the next trip for something free. Maybe the first four trips, you offer something free, each with different item choices, and [then] you can say, ‘Download our app for more offers’ or give them a buy one get one free offer,” he said. breakfast sandwiches, etc. — and creating a group of promotions for each segment. “Break your customers down into segments and then send them different offers based on that, and see how it works,” said Penumarthy of Punchh. “Understand which segments are important for your customer, target the offers, and then look at what percentage of customers that received the offer actually came in and made a purchase.” At Pilot Co., operator of 550 travel centers across 44 states, one of the ways the company segments its customers is by region, and the offers are exclusively available through the


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retailer’s loyalty program via a mobile app. All offers are delivered to members on the app, and some of the offers might unlock utilities for the professional driver audience, so it’s more than just products, explained Steven Root, senior manager of loyalty at Pilot Co. “It’s about how do you get to know your guests better and leverage your loyalty program to give them a personalized experience,” he said. Casey’s intends to get down to that personal, one-on-one level, but right now is focused on “recency and frequency,” and segmenting people into slots such as the last time they came into the store, how often they come in, how many channels they shop (fuel only, online only, in-store only), and best guests in terms of dollars spent (online ordering, in-store and gas). With its new rewards program, Casey’s will start drilling deeper into category behavior to see who is buying beer or pizza, and engage them based on that, said Sebastian.

Four Opportunities to Personally Target Customers When thinking about how to offer personalization to convenience store customers, there are four standout opportunities that c-stores should consider in regards to how to get a message to a customer, according to Sastry Penumarthy, co-founder of Punchh, a customer engagement and loyalty solutions provider based in Silicon Valley, Calif. When putting together a program, he recommends keeping the following in mind: 1. On the Road or Highway — If you know a person is near a location, they can be targeted with an offer to stop into a nearby store. 2. At Home in the Morning — When someone is at home and thinking about where to go for their morning coffee, a targeted offer could prompt a visit. 3. On the Way Home from Work — Send a deal for dinner, such as a coupon for a pizza, when you know customers are ending their day. 4. On Location — If you know someone is at the pump, notify them to come in for a bag of chips, a coffee, or a sandwich.

The chain decided to work with Punchh for its loyalty program and customer engagement because the company is known in the restaurant industry and with its pizza program, Casey’s operates more as a restaurant that also sells fuel and grocery. “We built a tech stack that will be unique in the marketplace, and we put the right people in place to think through our strategy,” Sebastian said. “We have a marketing automation team to execute the communication, and a guest loyalty team that is mining through the data and thinking about strategy that we built when I started with the company a year and a half ago.”

Navigating Challenges The first hurdle when getting started with personalization is making the commitment and getting the entire company onboard because data is usually not the issue — many c-stores have a ton of data today. The challenge is taking the time and having dedicated resources to go through the data and mine it to find the relevant trends and segments to target. “It will cost money and take time, so it’s important for companies to understand the value they will be getting from their efforts, including an increase in traffic and getting customers to spend more money at their locations,” said Brad Van Otterloo, CEO of Koupon Media, a promotion network company based in Addison, Texas, that connects CPG brands with c-store retailers.

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Getting the right message to the right customer is important, and this comes down to making sure the data is correct. Sending the wrong message to someone could have a negative impact on their relationship with the retailer; an operator can end up losing a loyal customer. “Sometimes, delivering the wrong messages are just as impactful as delivering the right messages,” said Tanaka at Pilot Co. “Sending personalized communication and offers for something that doesn’t matter to the guest can have a negative impact because guests expect you to know them.” Also, depending on the state, there are regulations around privacy, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act, so retailers need to know and understand these regulations. There are many states with legislation modeled after California now, according to Van Otterloo. “It’s changing the data industry and forcing everyone to be more professional with how they are doing it,” he said. “Customers want to have personalized messages. In fact, 91 percent are more likely to shop with a retailer that provides relevant offers and recommendations. They just want the right to decide who they give their information to, and retailers need to be transparent.” CSN




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

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Deb Hall Lefevre, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. The 2019 TWIC Woman of the Year does her part to cultivate a diverse pipeline of talent By Linda Lisanti seventh year, the Convenience Store News Top Women in Convenience (TWIC) awards program has recognized nearly 300 of the best and brightest women making a positive impact on not only the companies they work for, but also the entire convenience retail channel.


TWIC is the only program that recognizes exceptional female leaders, rising stars and mentors among retailer, supplier and distributor firms in the convenience store industry, from the C-suite to the store level to the independent entrepreneur. In TWIC Talk, our quarterly Q&A series, we interview a past TWIC winner about what it’s like to be a female leader in the convenience store industry today — the opportunities, the challenges — and get their words of wisdom for up-andcomers seeking to blaze their own trail. This month’s TWIC Talk subject is Deb Hall Lefevre, chief technology officer for Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. She was appointed to her current role in spring 2019, having previously held the position of chief information officer since April 2017. In 2019, Lefevre was one of the five women celebrated by TWIC as Women of the Year. CSNews: How would you describe the current state of affairs for gender equality in the convenience store industry? How does this compare to 10 years ago? I have only been in the convenience industry for a little over two years, but in my own company, Couche-Tard/Circle K, I am proud of how we are advancing in gender equality and our commitment to diversity and inclusion. Three years ago, we had no women in the executive leadership ranks. Now, we have three, including myself, and represent more than 20 percent of that leadership. We also recently formed an ACT Women’s Council with the mission of creating winning conditions for women in the company, especially looking at career advancement and how our employees can best represent and serve our diverse customer base. 64 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

CSNews: What is the most positive change you have personally witnessed? At the beginning of the year, our President and CEO Brian Hannasch became one of more than 900 CEOs who have come together to join the CEO ACTION pledge, the growing coalition pledging to advance diversity and inclusion within the workplace. Brian is the first convenience store retailer CEO to join this action for diversity and inclusion — a vital component in strengthening our commitment of growing together. The Women’s Council also has introduced unconscious bias training at the office level, which will expand to store-level employees this summer. All of these initiatives come out of our Board of Directors’ clear mandate for diversity and inclusion, and to take measurable actions promoting a workplace where a broad spectrum of perspectives and experiences are welcomed and respected. CSNews: Along your career path, did you personally experience gender bias or inequality? If so, how did you overcome? I think most women who have been in the workforce for the past 20-plus years have experienced some gender bias. Sometimes, as women, we strive for perfection and are constantly asking ourselves if, as a mother and female leader, can we do it all? And can we do it all well enough? I have asked myself

this question at many stages in my career and moved forward by building great teams at work and support at home. This has allowed me to find balance and success. The most important part of my job is attracting and growing talented people, including talented women, and creating an environment where they can thrive. This is especially important in the male-dominated field of technology. I am so pleased that we have incredible female talent on my team, and know we are valued and valuable to the company. When we bring the right talent together and create a culture that allows teams to thrive, then we win both professionally and personally. CSNews: Do you see any barriers to advancement still existing in the c-store industry? Like other industries, we need to focus on cultivating a diverse pipeline of candidates throughout the ranks of our employees. At Circle K, we have mandated that any leadership position has at least one diverse candidate being considered. This is a start, but those of us in leadership positions must try to ensure women are on the slate when those opportunities open up. We are also addressing, through unconscious bias training in the organization, barriers that may be keeping women from advancing, such as family obligations, or being perceived as too nice or too tough or too bossy. I would also like the industry to do better at providing tools to help women succeed, such as flexible work arrangements, being sponsors and coaches who inspire self-confidence and belief that women CAN be successful leaders in a world where there are not enough role models. Finally, I am a big believer in cultivating communities of female professionals so that when one of us rises, we all rise.

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. Forty-two female managers, executives and directors who work in the convenience store industry were honored in our 2019 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.

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CSNews: What is your advice for other industry women looking to rise to higher ranks? Remember that feedback is a gift. Find various people you trust to give you constructive feedback throughout your career. Build a “Board of Directors” with a mix of mentors and sponsors to ensure you have a diverse set of coaches who can also provide opportunities. Additionally, I’d say it’s very important to be an effective communicator. I like the tagline: Be brief. Be brilliant. Be gone! CSN


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Moving Beyond Tradition Innovative customer experiences are at the core of Irving Oil’s new store concept By Danielle Romano

of creating long-term relationships with customers since 1924, international refining and marketing company Irving Oil recently opened its first store boasting a new format that’s designed specifically to provide innovative customer experiences. Known as The Irving, this new concept moves beyond a traditional convenience store experience.


At a Glance The Irving Location: 92 Washington St., Pembroke, Mass. Size: 3,200 square feet Unique features: A market-style café offering freshly prepared comfort food made from local ingredients; indoor and outdoor seating areas with free Wi-Fi; self-checkout options

“Across our company, we are always looking for ways to enhance our offer and explore growth opportunities in the areas we serve and in new markets,” said Tyler McLaughlin, director of retail operations for Irving Oil. “The opening of The Irving supports our desire to develop innovative strategies for our growing retail network, while leveraging technology and continuing to offer the very best to our customers, including our dealers and distributors.” Spanning 3,200 square feet, The Irving has been designed to provide a warm welcome and enriched visitor experience through its heritage-style exterior and contemporary interior featuring vaulted ceilings, soft colors and plenty of natural light. The new format brings in elements of a market-style café with freshly prepared comfort food offerings, indoor and

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outdoor seating areas with free Wi-Fi, self-checkout options and clean restrooms — all sporting a modern and refreshing aesthetic.

Feel-Good Products Irving Oil’s project team worked with a variety of stakeholders to bring The Irving to life. Construction began last spring and the store opened to the public on Jan. 21, 2020. Located in Pembroke, Mass., the Bay State was chosen to showcase this new concept for several reasons. For starters, Massachusetts is a growth market for Irving Oil, which operates fueling locations and distribution channels throughout New England. Secondly, demographics and property location, among other factors, made Pembroke an ideal location. “As a family-owned company with a strong presence in the northeastern United States, we’re proud of the relationships we have developed with our retail partners and in the communities where we operate. With a growing retail network, we are always looking for ways to innovate while offering seamless customer experiences,” McLaughlin expressed. At the core of The Irving’s distinct offer is freshly prepared, “feel-good food.”

Featuring local ingredients wherever possible, the menu includes sandwiches, salads, soups, flatbread pizzas and gourmet hot dogs, along with all-day breakfast and smoothies. Menu items can be ordered at two selfserve kiosks, in-person at the counter or from the takeout menu. Fresh doughnuts, muffins, cookies, pastries and more are available from the bakery. A hot beverage counter, meanwhile, brews up a variety of coffee roasts from New England’s Baronet Coffee. Also offered are organically sweetened frozen drinks for cooler consumption. “We know that people’s lives are busier than ever and one-stop shopping is important to families and commuters alike. We designed our offer to make our customers’ lives easier by making traditional convenience store products available while also elevating the fresh food offer with both made-to-order and grab-and-go options, all prepared onsite,” McLaughlin explained. Making good on its promise of a seamless customer experience, multiple touchpoints for enhanced convenience are showcased at The Irving. For example, two selfcheckouts enable customers to quickly and easily get in and out. Additionally, Irving Rewards members can pay at the pump with Irving Debit Pay using the mobile app’s Mobile Pay feature. With the Irving Rewards program, customers have a choice to pay via credit, debit or cash. Members can link their rewards card to Irving Debit Pay and save at least 6 cents on every gallon of fuel purchased. They also can earn a 10-centper-gallon reward for every 50 gallons of fuel purchased and a 5-cent-per-gallon reward for every $50 spent in the store.

Focus on Integration On Jan. 20, the company hosted an open house for community members, partners and vendors who supported The Irving’s journey to fruition. The event featured a ribbon-cutting ceremony, as well as fresh food and beverage sampling. When The Irving officially opened to the public on Jan. 21, customers were offered free fresh-brewed coffee for three weeks to commemorate the store’s launch. McLaughlin told Convenience Store News that Irving Oil is currently focused on

The design of The Irving is meant to provide a warm welcome to guests.

integrating The Irving and its new team members into the company’s overall retail network. He said he could not discuss further plans for this new concept. With its U.S. operations based in Portsmouth, N.H., Irving Oil operates more than 900 fueling locations and a network of distribution terminals spanning eastern Canada and New England. The company also operates Canada’s largest refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick, and Ireland’s only refinery, located in the village of Whitegate. CSN AP RIL

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FORWARD Customer behavior is not what it used to be, and that calls for a new direction, a different path, an un-blazed trail. With a restructured event design, new tools to maximize sales, and powerful insights into customer behavior, the revamped Path to Purchase Expo provides an eye-opening experience and gives you untapped retail strategies to immediately drive growth. It’s time to move forward—are you bold enough for the journey?



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Dollars & Cents C-stores are expanding their offerings, giving shoppers reasons to spend more per visit As convenience stores across the country amp up their offerings, shoppers are increasing their spending in the channel. The 2020 Convenience Store News Realities of the Aisle Study found that c-store shoppers estimate they spent $13.77 on their most recent convenience store trip, not including the price of gasoline. This represents an increase of $3.46 over 2019. Other payment-related findings from this year’s exclusive consumer study include:

Males report a higher average spend per convenience store visit compared to females.




VS. $


GEN ZERS aged 18-21


Mobile payment is growing slowly in the convenience channel —



of shoppers used a retailer’s mobile app or mobile payment like Apple Pay during their last c-store visit.

aged 54-72


Not surprisingly, the younger generations — millennials and Gen Z — are more likely to pay with mobile payment, though



GEN XERS aged 38-53

aged 22-37



Looking at shopper frequency, the average c-store trip spend of daily shoppers vs. weekly and monthly shoppers is mere pennies apart.




VS. $

Paper or Plastic? When it comes to paying for their purchases, c-store shoppers overall are most likely to pull out the plastic — debit cards, specifically. 82 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

For their most recent purchase:


of shoppers say they


of shoppers say they


of shoppers say they

paid with a debit card paid with cash paid with a credit card

the numbers are still small at

6% 5% and


The path to purchase has become infinite. We map the journey and give you back control.

Shopper Journey Ascendance™ from EIQ Insights & Innovation shows you how your customers navigate the omnichannel experience and empowers you with a strategic plan to influence behavior. Partner with us to master your view





and elevate your performance. ascendance@ensembleiq.com


WHAT TO SELL? WHAT NOT TO SELL? SO MANY PRODUCTS. SO MANY DECISIONS. SO LITTLE TIME. Make informed decisions fast at McLane’s Center for Category Innovation. Our Center for Category Innovation combines the knowledge of our experienced category managers, merchandising analysts and supplier partners with our extensive data and market insights. This empowers you to determine the best product mix scenarios and key selling opportunities for your stores. And, it allows you to replace low-selling products with top sellers, get a real-time view of the latest and most effective ways to merchandise key categories, create a year’s worth of planograms in one visit and experience category sales increases, in some cases, by double digits. To find out how you can start saving, go to mclaneco.com/cci

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