CSN - Sept 2019

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The Moist Snuff Category reached a distribution of 223.3k Stores.


Premium Cigars have experienced growth within the convenience channel.


Data-driven OTP planogram solutions boost your sales for the whole category.


The Large Cigar Category continues to realize volume increases YOY.


Hemp Rolling Papers continue to drive the rolling paper category.

Certified Category Managers


turning industry insights into winning strategies for you.



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Convenience stores and truck stops are at the forefront in the battle against human trafficking. The industry is beginning to take action, but there is more that can be done.



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14 Hands is one of the most established and trusted wine brands. Our new premium wine cans give consumers a familiar grab & go choice in a fast-growing category. Š2019-14 Hands Winery

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Leadership Day Past, present and future c-store industry leaders to be feted at CSNews events in Chicago MARK YOUR CALENDARS.

The date is Nov. 6, 2019. The place is Chicago. The events on that day comprise what can only be described as Leadership Day in the convenience store industry.

Past, present and future leaders of the convenience store industry will be featured and honored this fall at Convenience Store News’ 33rd annual Hall of Fame dinner and at the second-annual CSNews Future Leaders in Convenience Summit. Leadership Day will begin in the late morning with a workshop and awards program for talented young business people to hone their leadership skills, while also recognizing their achievements as emerging leaders in the c-store industry. The program will feature great discussions and talks around what makes a great leader, and what kinds of challenges aspiring leaders need to overcome. Our guest speakers will include Matt Domingo of RAI Trade Marketing Services, Gus Olympidis of Family Express, Derek Gaskins of Yesway and Karla Ahlert of RaceTrac Petroleum. This year’s class of 15 young executives selected as Future Leaders in Convenience include a diverse selection of up-and-comers, as well as seasoned executives from both large and medium-sized retailers. Their job responsibilities run the gamut, from a company president to category managers, financial managers and fuels, marketing and human resources experts.

The day’s leadership theme will continue in the evening when we induct the newest retailer and supplier members of the CSNews Hall of Fame, and recognize the accomplishments of our 2019 CSNews Retailer Executive of the Year. Last year’s Hall of Fame retailer inductee, Jay Ricker, will induct his longtime friend and colleague Olympidis into the retailer wing of the Hall of Fame, while last year’s supplier honoree Rick Brindle of Mondelez International will welcome Scott Hill of Jack Link’s Protein Snacks into the supplier wing of the Hall of Fame. Brian Hannasch, president and CEO of Alimentation Couche-Tard, will be celebrated as the Retailer Executive of the Year. An extra-special highlight of the evening will be recognition of the 50 Most Influential People in Convenience Store History. CSNews marked its 50th anniversary in July with a special commemorative issue that honored the 50 people who have had the greatest influence on the growth and development of this industry. Many of those individuals will be on hand to help us celebrate a truly noteworthy Leadership Day in the convenience store industry. I hope you plan to be a part of this educational and festive day. For comments, please contact Don Longo, Editorial Director, at (201) 855-7606 or dlongo@ensembleiq.com.


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

Brett Atherton Bolla Management

Jack Lewis GPM Midwest

Rick Crawford Green Valley Grocery

Danielle Mattiussi Maverik Inc.

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

Vito Maurici McLane Co. Inc. Jonathan Polonsky Plaid Pantries Inc. Greg Scriver Kwik Trip Inc. Roy Strasburger Strasburger Retail

Ray Johnson Speedee Mart

2015 American Society of Business Press Editors, National Azbee Awards Silver, Best Profile (long form), February 2014 2015 American Society of Business Press Editors, Midwest Regional Azbee Awards Gold, Best Special Supplement, November 2014 Silver, Best Profile (long form), February 2014 2013 American Society of Business Press Editors, Midwest Regional Azbee Awards Bronze, Best Editorial/Commentary, July 2012

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


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Convenience Store News


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32 98 120 FEATURES





32 On the Front Lines Convenience stores and truck stops are at the forefront in the battle against human trafficking. The industry is beginning to take action, but there is more that can be done.

3 Leadership Day Past, present and future c-store industry leaders to be feted at CSNews events in Chicago.

120 Fulfilling High Expectations High’s embarks on a five-year store optimization project that puts foodservice at the forefront.

10 CSNews Online



50 An International Affair Interest in the U.S. c-store market from other countries is heating up. FEATURE

98 An Experiential Shopping Experience The 2019 Convenience Store News Store Design Contest winners showcase best-inclass layouts, branding and amenities. FEATURE

114 The Future of the Forecourt Payment innovation, mobile marketing technology and more are transforming the filling-up experience.

22 New Products SMALL OPERATOR

150 Decisions of the Stomach Exclusive research highlights where c-stores can gain foodservice share from competitors.

26 Go, Grow or Enhance? As the industry’s largest chains continue to grow, single-store owners and small operators have to weigh their options.


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SIZE M AT TERS FO R M O R E I N FO R M AT I O N CO N TAC T YO U R S W E D I S H M ATC H R E PR ES E N TAT I V E 8 0 0 - 3 6 7- 3 6 7 7 • C U S T O M E R S E R V I C E @ S M N A . C O M © 2 019 S M C I H O L D I N G , I N C .

CO M E V I S I T U S AT T H E N AC S S H OW B O OT H # 1 3 1 9

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

Don Longo dlongo@ensembleiq.com

Editor-in-Chief (201) 855-7608

Linda Lisanti llisanti@ensembleiq.com

Senior News Editor (201) 855-7618

Melissa Kress mkress@ensembleiq.com

Associate Editor (201) 855-7619

Angela Hanson ahanson@ensembleiq.com

Associate Managing Editor (201) 855-7604



14 EG Group & Cumberland Farms Ink Acquisition Agreement 16 Convenience Store News Crowns 2019 Best New Products

66 Grabbing a Bigger Slice of the Pie There’s room to cook up more profits in the pizza segment, but c-store retailers must start smart and then keep innovating. TOBACCO

19 Supplier Tidbits

72 18 & Counting As of July, more than one-third of U.S. states had Tobacco 21 laws on the books.

20 In the Public Eye



76 The Growler Effect Growler stations are growing in prevalence in the convenience channel.

18 Eye on Growth 18 Retailer Tidbits

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

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

Rachel McGaffigan rmcgaffigan@ensembleiq.com

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

Ron Lowy rlowy@ensembleiq.com

Associate Publisher & Midwest Sales Manager Kelly Fischer (773) 992-4464 kfischer@ensembleiq.com Account Executive & Classified Advertising Terry Kanganis (201) 855-7615 tkanganis@ensembleiq.com Classified Production Manager Mary Beth Medley (856) 809-0050 marybeth@marybethmedley.com EVENTS


60 What’s Hot on C-store Menus? Classic summer flavors score with consumers. FOODSERVICE

62 Leading by Example Foodservice Leader of the Year Paul Servais continuously pushes Kwik Trip’s foodservice program forward while never losing sight of the chain’s store-level employees.



80 Uncorking the C-store Wine Potential Profitable, space-efficient and fun, canned wine is making headway in convenience stores. GENERAL MERCHANDISE

86 Getting Your GM Category on Point Don’t let the sixth-largest sales category fly under the radar in your c-stores. HEALTH & BEAUTY CARE

90 The CBD Opportunity in HBC Many consumers are interested in CBD-infused products due to their purported health and wellness benefits. SERVICES

94 Destination: Car Wash How can c-stores cultivate and maintain customer loyalty, becoming the go-to car wash?

Executive Vice President, Events & Conferences Ed Several (860) 830-8321 eseveral@ensembleiq.com AUDIENCE List Rental (847) 492-1350 ext.318

MeritDirect Elizabeth Jackson

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

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

Advertising/Production Manager (773) 992-4418

Ed Ward eward@ensembleiq.com

Art Director (973) 607-1321

Lauren DiMeo ldimeo@ensembleiq.com

CORPORATE OFFICERS Executive Chairman Alan Glass Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Litterick Chief Financial Officer Dan McCarthy Chief Operating Officer Joel Hughes Chief Innovation Officer Tanner Van Dusen Chief Human Resources Officer Ann Jadown Executive Vice President, Events & Conferences Ed Several


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 2019 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.

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Brands. Proteins. Solutions. Tyson. Find them all at NACS Show Booth 7027. Tyson Convenience has exciting new options to keep your offerings fresh and on-trend, along with top-performing classics for a strong foodservice foundation. Stop by our NACS show booth to take advantage of special promotions and learn how Tyson Convenience can help grow your business.

Jimmy Dean® Florentine Frittata Sandwich with Turkey Sausage and Cheese

Tyson Red Label® Breaded Premium Chicken Filets, available with Tyson branded sandwich bags

Bosco® 7” Breadstick Filled with Mozzarella Cheese with branded sleeves in the case New! 36 count case

Visit TysonAtNACS.com for event details. Contact your Tyson Convenience Representative, Broker Specialist, Distributor Sales Representative or visit tysonfoodservice.com for more information.


©2019 Tyson Foods, Inc. Trademarks and registered trademarks are owned by Tyson Foods, Inc. or its subsidiaries, or used under license.

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Marathon Begins Transitioning NOCO Express Stores to Its Speedway Network

Shoppers are beginning to say goodbye to the NOCO Express banner. Three months after Marathon Petroleum Corp. (MPC) inked a definitive agreement to acquire the majority of NOCO Express stores in upstate New York, MPC started reimaging them to its Speedway brand.


Ohio Governor Signs Tobacco 21 Measure Into Law

With the stroke of Gov. Mike DeWine’s pen, Ohio became the latest state to increase the legal minimum age to buy tobacco products. The new law applies to all tobacco products — from cigarettes and cigars to rolling papers, liquids and other accessories involved with smoking or vaping.


7-Eleven’s Parent Company Sees Opportunities for Fresh Food Offer in U.S.

Seven & I Holdings Co. Ltd. is giving two thumbs up to the U.S. branch’s efforts in fresh food. On July 18, the Japanese company announced that 7-Eleven’s U.S. operations reported the highest operating income in its history, and saw a 3.4-percent comparable store sales increase during the first quarter of 2019, with fresh food and 7-Select private brand products driving the results.


Rutter’s Adds Adult Slushies to Beverage Selection

Adult slushies are available in four flavors at 31 Rutter’s stores. Made by freezing malt beverages into a frozen drink, they can be consumed in-store or off-premise with the proper seal.


Judge Sets May 2020 Deadline for E-Cigarette Applications

The countdown is on for electronic cigarettes and vapor companies to file marketing applications with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). On July 12, District Judge Paul Grimm of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland set a May 12, 2020 deadline for companies to submit premarket tobacco applications (PMTA) to the agency. The FDA must approve PMTA bids for e-cigarette and vapor products to stay on the market.

EXPERT VIEWPOINT: Adjusting to Changing Tobacco Trends The tobacco industry is changing at a rapid pace. Cigarette sales are declining year after year, while vape and smokeless products have been on the rise. Now, there are new products out there that fit into the growing “ANDS” (alternative nicotine delivery systems) category, such as nicotine toothpicks, pouches and dip (no tobacco leaf present in any of these). Modernizing categories and planograms will be a necessity for convenience retail chains looking to hold onto revenue, writes Evan Grossman, entrepreneur, industry advocate and founder of Pixotine Products.

VIDEO: Highlights of the 2019 Convenience Store News Convenience Foodservice Exchange The 2019 Convenience Store News Convenience Foodservice Exchange, held June 19-20 in Dallas, addressed the challenges c-store retailers face today as they evolve their operations to take advantage of growth opportunities in foodservice. At the same time, the event looked ahead and helped retailers envision what the future might look like — both from a consumer and operator perspective. The theme for this year’s Convenience Foodservice Exchange was “Today’s Challenges; Tomorrow’s Opportunities.” Subscribe to the Convenience Store News YouTube Channel so that you don’t miss any of our c-store industry video presentations or special features.


Arnie’s Spiked Iced Tea & Spiked Lemonade

Following the successful national launch of Arnold Palmer Spiked in 2018, MillerCoors introduces Arnie’s Spiked Iced Tea and Arnie’s Spiked Lemonade in select regions. With a 5 percent ABV, the beverages are brewed with real squeezed juice or tea, and are designed to target 25- to 34-year-olds. The new drink options inherit the same general build as the original Arnold Palmer Spiked, but with natural lemonade or iced tea flavors. Arnie’s Spiked Iced Tea and Arnie’s Spiked Lemonade are currently available in four U.S. markets: Columbus, Ohio; Las Vegas; Pittsburgh; and Albany, N.Y. The new products are part of MillerCoors’ partnership with Hornell Brewing, a unit of iced-tea maker AriZona Beverages. MillerCoors Chicago millercoors.com

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FRICTIONLESS CHECKOUT CONCEPTS are proliferating thanks to tech advancements and fast-rising consumer expectations. In the race to deliver convenience, c-stores must go the extra mile.

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TO DELIVER A FRICTIONLESS EXPERIENCE, networks must support significantly greater and more time-critical traffic from in-store sensors and back-end analytics. This requires:

41% of shoppers will change their minds about a purchase if there is a long checkout line 1

44% of shoppers define convenience as a quick visit 2

CASHIERLESS STORES 31% of retailers are investing in cashierless checkout in the next 24 months 7

A Robust SD-WAN with Multi-Path Connectivity Retailer leaders are investing in SD-WAN at 65% higher rates 5

ORDERING VIA THE PUMP, VEHICLE OR MOBILE 82% of consumers want to pay for c-store items via a mobile app. 8

Solid Application Assurance via QoS and replication - Path control is only part of a total SD-WAN solution Strong Pump Integration - to support atthe-pump transactions, a certified Managed Network Service Provider (MNSP) is required. SMART


SOURCES: 1 https://csnews.co m/four-frictionless-shopping-tools-c-stores-can-use-boost-bottom-line | 2 https://csnews.com/what-does-convenience-really-mean-todays-c-store-shoppers | 3 https://www.emarketer.com/content/is-scan-and-go-the-future-of-retail | 4 https://www.cisco.com/c/ en/us/solutions/collateral/service-provider/visual-networking-index-vni/white-paper-c11-741490.html | 5 https://www.ihlservices.com/product/ stored-advantage | 6 https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2018/08/01/1545558/0/en/Emerging-Technologies-Continue-to-Transform-the-Network-Role.html | 7 https://risnews.com/16th-annual-store-experience-study-2019-doubling-down-transformation | 8 https://www. pymnts.com/paying-at-the-pump-report | 9 https://risnews.com/retail-2025-shopper-study-future-retail-already-here |

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of US internet users believe scan-and-go technology would ease shopping 3

WITH WELL-BUILT ROADS, c-stores can travel into new frictionless checkout territory that works for their brands:

Sufficient Bandwidth - Global IP traffic is growing at a 26% CAGR 4

Network Security - 61% of organizations are prioritizing network security in their IT budget increases 6


SCAN-AND-GO TECHNOLOGY - 59% of shoppers would use grab-and-go stores with smartphone checkout 9


9/5/19 11:19 AM 19-08-23 15:03

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EG Group & Cumberland Farms Ink Acquisition Agreement EG America’s parent company will expand its U.S. network to nearly 1,700 stores


continues its march across the United States, this time targeting the Northeast.

co-CEO of EG Group. “We look forward to welcoming the talented team at Cumberland Farms into the EG family.”

The U.K.-based parent company of EG America inked a definitive agreement to acquire Cumberland Farms Inc., based in Westborough, Mass. The chain operates approximately 600 convenience stores across seven Northeast states and Florida.

EG Group entered the U.S. convenience channel in April 2018 with its acquisition of The Kroger Co.’s c-store portfolio. Since then, the company also has acquired — or signed agreements to acquire — TravelCenters of America’s Minit Mart chain, Certified Oil’s branded c-stores and gas stations, and Fastrac Markets’ convenience stores and gas stations.

Once completed, this purchase will bring EG Group’s U.S. network to nearly 1,700 c-stores, operating in 30 states and retailing more than 2.5 billion gallons of fuel, with merchandise sales of more than $3 billion on an annualized basis.

“We very much look forward to becoming part of the EG family, as it is clear that both Cumberland Farms and EG Group share a common vision for excellence in convenience retailing and commitment to investment in our people,” said Ari Haseotes, president and CEO of Cumberland Farms.

“Over nearly eight decades, the Haseotes family has built Cumberland Farms into an outstanding portfolio of large, modern facilities run by a team of associates who are connected to the communities they serve. It is rare that an asset of this quality becomes available and we are delighted to have been successful in a highly competitive process,” said Zuber Issa, founder and

Mohsin Issa, founder and co-CEO of EG Group describes the Cumberland Farms acquisition as “a transformative one” for the company’s U.S. business. “It brings us greater scale and a well-established network in locations we do not currently serve that is highly complementary to our existing U.S. store footprint,” he said. “We will be retaining the highly regarded Cumberland Farms brand on all of the acquired stores and are actively considering the addition of Cumberland Farms products in our wider portfolio.”

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Convenience Store News Crowns 2019 Best New Products This year’s 23rd annual contest honors 29 products to hit c-stores in the past year CONSUMERS SELECTED 29 products new to convenience store shelves in the past year for recognition in the 2019 Convenience Store News Best New Products Awards program.

Now in its 23nd year, the CSNews Best New Products Awards program recognizes and honors the marketers that introduced the most innovative, high-quality new products that Alternative Snacks/ Combo Packs: Duke’s Shorty & Cheese; Conagra Brands

meet consumers’ evolving needs. Judging was supervised by Past Times Marketing, a New York-based consumer research and product testing firm. Contest entries were rated and awarded points by consumers based on the criteria of taste, value, convenience, healthfulness, ingredients, preparation requirements, appearance and packaging. Here are the products that indulged the senses, caught the eye and screamed convenience:

Foodservice/ Condiments: Califia Oat Barista Blend; Califia Farms

Alternative Snacks/ Meat Snacks: Tillamook ZERO Sugar Beef Jerky; Tillamook Country Smoker

Foodservice/Lunch: Not Your Nonna’s Stuffed Pizza Wedges; Ruiz Foods

Alternative Snacks/ Mixes: Coconut Snack Mixes; Sahale Snacks

Foodservice/ Packaging: Crisp Food Technologies Containers; Anchor Packaging

Beer: Tecate Titanium; Heineken USA Candy/Chocolate: Reese’s Outrageous Bars; The Hershey Co. Candy/Novelty & Seasonal: Reese’s Chocolate Lovers/ Peanut Butter Lovers; The Hershey Co. Foodservice/Base Ingredients: Tavern Crust; Smart Flour Foodservice/Breakfast: Jimmy Dean Stuffed Hash Browns; Tyson Foodservice

Non-Edible Grocery: Pampers Changing Kit; Convenience Valet Packaged Beverages/ Bottled Water: smartwater alkaline; The Coca-Cola Co. Packaged Beverages/ Carbonated Soft Drinks: Sunkist Strawberry Lemonade; Keurig Dr Pepper

Foodservice/Snacks: Pretzel Fillers Stuffed Soft Pretzels; J&J Snack Foods

Packaged Beverages/ Energy Drinks: AMIN.O Energy + Electrolytes; Glanbia Performance Nutrition

General Merchandise: Scripto Torch Flame Wind Resistant Lighter; Calico Brands

Packaged Beverages/ Juice Drinks: Snapple Watermelon Lemonade; Keurig Dr Pepper

Health & Beauty Care: Tribe Broad Spectrum Hemp CBD Shot; Tribe CBD

Packaged Sweet Snacks: 7 Days Croissants; Epta America LLC/7 Days Croissant

Salty Snacks/Chips: Pringles Wavy; Kellogg’s Salty Snacks/Crackers: Goldfish Epic Crunch; Campbell Soup Co. Salty Snacks/Nuts & Seeds: DAVID Pumpkin Pepitas Sea Salt/Green Chili with Lime; Conagra Brands Tobacco/Cigars: Night Owl Tipped Pipe Tobacco Cigars; Swedish Match North America Tobacco/Other: Nicotac; Lil’ Drug Store Products Wine: Single-Serve Barefoot Wine-to-Go; E&J Gallo Winery Overall Innovation: Rice Krispies Treats Snap Crackle Poppers; Kellogg’s

Healthy Snacks: Pickle Cutz; Van Holten’s

Check out the October issue of CSNews for complete coverage of this year’s winners.

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Eye on Growth


Thorntons cut the ribbon on a new travel center in Memphis, Ind., its first new store opening since it was acquired by a joint venture of Arclight Capital Partners and BP. At 9,160 square feet, this is the largest location in the retailer’s portfolio.

Majors Management LLC completed its acquisition of the assets of Bowden Oil Co. Inc. The 17 Shop “N” Fill convenience stores will be rebranded as Hop-In stores. Riiser Fuels Holdings LLC acquired Jetz Convenience Centers’ four locations in Wisconsin. The transaction brings Riiser Fuels’ portfolio to 58 stores.

VERC Enterprises is on track for record growth after adding three new convenience stores so far in 2019, bringing its total store count to 31 locations. The new stores are located in Pembroke and Westminster, Mass., and Salem, N.H.

The company expects to add one or two more stores before the end of the year.

Murphy USA Inc. opened three new stores since April 1. The company also returned 10 raze-and-rebuilds back into service as 1,400 square-foot convenience stores. Enmarket opened a one-of-a-kind convenience store in downtown Savannah, Ga. The nontraditional design of the 3,522-square-foot store includes a green space, outdoor patio and a bike service area.

Retailer Tidbits

Circle K is partnering with Texas-based Favor to add delivery service to more than 160 stores in the Houston area. The retailer plans to expand delivery later this year across the state to 550-plus Circle K stores.

GPM Investments LLC is offering PayActiv to its employees. The financial wellness platform allows them to access up to 50 percent of their earned pay for a flat fee through the PayActiv website and mobile app. Timewise Food Stores extended its ATM agreement with Cardtronics at its 200-plus locations. Cardtronics also entered into a pact with PNC Bank N.A. to place its brand on all Timewise ATMs. Kwik Trip Inc. unveiled a line of Kitchen Cravings Take Home Meals. The meals are prepared daily at its test kitchens in La Crosse, Wis.

In MDR’s original pilot markets,

Murphy USA’s members are purchasing about eight gallons of fuel more per Murphy Drive month now vs. a year ago. Rewards (MDR) program has fully enrolled 2.2 million members. In addition, one in six fuel transactions are made by members. Casey’s General Stores Inc. launched a new mobile app that lets customers browse their local menu, customize their pizza and place an order. The update includes the time-saving features from Casey’s redesigned website.

Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores’ Connect mobile app now features a “busy times” graph that shows shower traffic based on historic data at each location. The feature was added based on driver feedback.

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Supplier Paytronix Systems Inc. Open Dining, which Tidbits acquired provides ordering and delivery for small to medium-sized restaurants. Open Dining will now be known as Paytronix Order & Delivery.

Atlas Holdings LLC is buying TreeHouse Foods Inc.’s snacks division for $90 million. The division is one of the largest manufacturers and distributors of private-label healthy snacks to retail customers in North America. Groupon partnered with GasBuddy to form a U.S. distribution partnership. Under the terms of the deal, Groupon will provide GasBuddy with local food and drink merchants’ card-linked offers content.

KIND Healthy Snacks unveiled a new call to its community, “be kind to yourself,” which aims to remind people that “kindness starts with you.” The campaign will run on national TV and across digital channels. Mondelez International Inc. will acquire a majority interest in Perfect Snacks, a pioneer in the fast-growing refrigerated nutrition bars segment. Mondelez will operate Perfect Snacks as a separate business. Pizza Inn Express opened its first Louisiana location inside a new Exxon On the Run store. This partnership marks Pizza Inn’s first deal with Fortier Inc.

GoodWest Industries acquired Skinny Mixes LLC. Skinny Mixes offers four beverage collections: Skinny Syrups, Whipped Foam Toppings, Meaningful Daily Wellness Boosts and Skinny Mixes. WEX Inc. completed its acquisition of Go Fuel Card, the fuel card business of EG Group. The Go Fuel Card business is headquartered in Breda, Netherlands, with approximately 200,000 proprietary cards in circulation. ZipLine acquired SmartClixx. The move allows ZipLine to enter the gift card space, complementing its existing consumer payments and loyalty capabilities. American Licorice joined The Ellen MacArthur Foundations’ New Plastic Economy Global Commitment. The company is committed to ensuring that all its plastic packaging is 100 percent recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.

The site in Lafayette, La., is the 10th Pizza Inn Express overall.

Sara Lee Frozen Bakery selected Ultimate Sales to serve as its national c-store broker as of July 1. The company became a standalone bakery in August 2018.


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In the Public Eye

of 2019, reporting adjusted EBITDA of $3.2 billion and generating $2.8 billion in cash from operations. During the quarter, the company captured $270 million in realized synergies from its October 2018 tie-up with San Antonio-based Andeavor. MPC also reported that its Speedway LLC retail network rebranded 237 sites so far in 2019. Second-quarter 2019 EBITDA for MPC’s retail segment was $623 million, an increase of $327 million vs. the first quarter of the year. CrossAmerica Partners LP, Allentown, Pa. CrossAmerica Partners reported $13.9 million in operating income and $6.4 million in net income in the second quarter of 2019. This compares to an operating loss of $1.6 million and a net loss of $6.9 million for the second quarter of 2018. Adjusted EBITDA for the latest quarter was $27.7 million and distributable cash flow was $22.3 million. The company made progress on its rebranding efforts at its acquired Jet-Pep sites in Alabama. More than half of the 90 sites have been hard-branded and reimaged through the Marathon brand.

Global Partners LP, Waltham, Mass. Global Partners reported adjusted EBITDA of $62.8 million in the 2019 second quarter vs. $56.1 million in the same period last year. The company reported net income of $14.5 million vs. net income of $6.4 million a year ago. Combined product margin in the quarter increased $18 million to $188 million, driven by growth in the company’s gasoline distribution and station operations (GDSO) segment, which increased $19.8 million to $145.4 million. The GDSO segment is benefiting from 2018 deals with Champlain Oil Co. and Cheshire Oil Co.

Marathon Petroleum Corp., Findlay, Ohio Marathon Petroleum Corp. (MPC) delivered strong results in the second quarter

TravelCenters of America Corp., Westlake, Ohio TravelCenters of America opened its first franchised TA Express travel center in the 2019 second quarter. The former Coffee Cup Fuel Stop in Steele, N.D., is the first of four Coffee Cup Fuel Stops rebranding to TA Express. Also in the quarter, TA signed five additional franchise agreements, bringing its inked deals for the year to seven. The company expects the six sites not yet operating as part of its network to be added by the end of 2019 or beginning of 2020.

Murphy USA Inc., El Dorado, Ark. Murphy USA delivered $93 million in adjusted EBITDA for the second quarter of 2019 and executed on several initiatives that led to strong underlying fundamentals. Same-store fuel gallons increased 3.7 percent in the quarter. Same-store merchandise sales grew 5.7 percent, with same-store merchandise contribution dollars up 3.8 percent. Tobacco was the strongest category as same-store sales were up 6.5 percent and margin dollars were up 6.6 percent. Looking at the new additions to its portfolio, Murphy USA’s 2018 and 2019 build class are currently delivering fuel volumes about 25 percent higher than the network average, and raze-and-rebuilds are showing a 15 percent lift in fuel volumes, and 30 percent higher merchandise sales.

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1. Better Break Convenience Line The Better Break Convenience Line provides the solution busy consumers on the go have been looking for when it comes to wholesome, flavorful prepared meals, according to the maker. Containing 130 calories or less per serving and packed with 4 grams of protein per serving, Better Break products feature wholesome vegetables, such as cauliflower, broccoli, sweet potato, kale and corn, and a delicious sauce. Both vegetarian and plantbased options are available. Varieties include Spicy Pomodoro, Zesty Green Chile, and Summer Corn. The chef-inspired meals come in heat-and-eat, microwave-safe, BPAfree packaging. Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A. Coral Gables, Fla. freshdelmonte.com

2. Chex Mix MAX’D Chex Mix MAX’D includes all the Chex Mix components that consumers know and love — Chex pieces, rye chips, pretzels and breadsticks — but with a blast of bold and spicy flavor. Two varieties are available: Spicy Dill and Buffalo Ranch. Each 4.25ounce bag has a suggested retail price of $2.89. General Mills Convenience Minneapolis (800) 243-5687 generalmillscf.com

3. JOB Virgin Rolling Papers The new JOB Virgin Rolling Papers line is designed to appeal to consumers’ desire to follow an ecofriendly, environmentally conscious lifestyle. The papers are vegan, GMO free and made from responsibly harvested fibers that retain their native brown hue. Made in France, the papers are ultra-thin and slightly porous for comfortable, smooth rolling and a truer taste to please experienced and novice consumers alike, according to the maker. The product is available in 11/4, 11/2 single wide and slim sizes, packed 40 boxes to a case. A four-box counter display is also available. Republic Tobacco LP Glenview, Ill. (800) 288-8888 therepublicgroup.net

5. VELO Nicotine Pouches

4. Corona Refresca Corona Refresca is the firstever flavored malt beverage released by the Corona brand. The new line of premium alcohol-spiked beverages includes three tropical varieties: Passionfruit Lime, Guava Lime and Coconut Lime. Each beverage has an ABV of 4.5 percent and is 199 calories per 12-ounce serving. Now available nationwide, the Guava Lime and Passionfruit Lime varieties come in sixpacks for a suggested retail price of $9.99. A 12-pack that includes all three flavors is available for a suggested retail price of $16.99. Crown Imports Chicago coronausa.com


R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co. expands its modern oral nicotine portfolio with VELO, a line of tobacco leaf-free and spit-free nicotine pouches. The new product is initially being offered in two flavors, mint and citrus, and two nicotine strengths, 2 milligrams and 4 milligrams. VELO pouches contain no tobacco leaf or other tobacco plant matter apart from the nicotine extracted from the tobacco plant. Made from high-quality ingredients, VELO is meant to address key adult tobacco consumer preferences for choice, convenience and consideration, while providing a flavorful and enjoyable experience, the maker noted. R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co. Winston-Salem, N.C. velo.com 22 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

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6. S&D Coffee & Tea Infused Beverages

7. Jack Link’s Zero Sugar Beef Jerky

8. Crunchmaster Grain-Free Crackers

Inspired by the traditional agua fresca, S&D Coffee & Tea introduces a line of infused beverages that features eight drink varieties made with real fruit juice, real cane sugar and natural flavors. The varieties include Black Cherry Citrus, Blackberry Lemonade, Cucumber Lime, Ginger Pear, Mango Lemonade, Orange Passionfruit (reduced-sugar), Papaya Pineapple, and Strawberry Watermelon. Non-carbonated and caffeine-free, the infused beverages align with the latest consumer demands for lighter refreshment in a variety of fresh and fun flavors, the company noted. S&D Coffee & Tea Concord, N.C. (800) 933-2210 sdcoffeetea.com

Jack Link’s Protein Snacks introduces a zero-sugar beef jerky with all the satisfying flavor that Jack Link’s fans have come to love. Jack Link’s Zero Sugar Beef Jerky is inspired by the original, iconic Link family recipe and made with 100 percent lean-meat beef. It provides more than 30 grams of protein in one bag. The suggested retail price for a 2.3-ounce bag is $5.99, and $7.99 for a 4.7-ounce bag. Link Snacks Inc. Minong, Wis. jacklinks.com

Crunchmaster released a new line of grain-free crackers. The crunchy, baked crackers are made from cassava flour and other grain-free ingredients for a simple, savory taste. The new product is available in three varieties, two of which are vegan: Lightly Salted, Mediterranean Herb, and Romano, Asiago & Cheddar. Being touted as the next big superfood, the primary ingredient in Crunchmaster Grain-Free Crackers is cassava, a root vegetable native to South America. Along with the brand pillars of being gluten-free and made with no artificial flavors and colors, the new line is made with non-GMO ingredients for clean label, on-trend and flavorful snacking. TH Foods Inc. Loves Park, Ill. thfoods.com

10. Hempire Rolling Paper Hempire, a Swisher brand, is the first all-natural, 100-percent hemp rolling paper available in the United States that delivers what customers are looking for in a clean smoking experience, according to the maker. The brand currently offers 11 different quality papers, rolls, tips and packs to satisfy any customer. The products are manufactured with European expertise, using vegan, pesticide-free and leadfree hemp. Hempire also uses innovative packaging with visible brand elements and unique cello wrappers to combat paper staleness and ensure maximum freshness. Swisher International Jacksonville, Fla. (800) 874-9720 swisher.com/product/hempire

9. Jimmy Dean Pancakes & Sausage Bites Jimmy Dean Pancakes & Sausage Bites can help convenience store operators enhance their all-day breakfast offering. The product is fully cooked and easy to prepare in conventional ovens, microwaves, TurboChef ovens or convection ovens, and will hold up to four hours in a warmer. With their fluffy pancake coating, savory sausage center and convenient format, Jimmy Dean Pancakes & Sausage Bites are the perfect onthe-go finger food to help drive traffic at any time of day, according to Tyson Foodservice. Tyson Foodservice Springdale, Ark. tysonfoodservice.com


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Go, Grow or Enhance? As the industry’s largest chains continue to grow, single-store owners and small operators have to weigh their options By Danielle Romano one of the most active years yet in convenience channel merger and acquisition (M&A) activity, with many of the largest chains in the industry getting even bigger.


Just some of the attention-grabbing headlines included Speedway LLC parent Marathon Petroleum Corp. (MPC) merging with Andeavor to create a national powerhouse; 7-Eleven Inc. securing its spot atop the U.S. c-store industry with its acquisition of more than 1,000 Sunoco stores in 17 states; and Circle K parent Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. boosting its already-sizeable portfolio with the acquisition of 500-plus Holiday Stationstores in 10 states. 7-Eleven, Couche-Tard and MPC alone now operate 14 percent of the industry’s total stores collectively, according to the latest Convenience Store News Top 100 ranking. And M&A activity in the convenience channel thus far in 2019 has not slowed down.

While some of the industry’s largest players focus their strategic growth plans on acquiring sizable portfolios, other operators are interested in steadily building up their networks by purchasing single-store owners (SSOs) and smaller operators (those with two to 10 stores). Yesway, the retail arm of Brookwood Financial Partners, is one example. It is looking to grow by way of picking up small, profitable convenience stores — mostly mom-and-pop businesses — in rural and suburban markets where there’s minimal competition, according to Tom Trkla, CEO of Brookwood Financial. The company has an ultimate goal of operating 1,000 stores. In 2015, Yesway entered the convenience channel with its acquisition of the 10-site Country Stores portfolio in western Iowa. It then quickly extended its footprint into Kansas with five Pic Quik locations, followed by a two-store buy in Missouri. In the past year, the retailer acquired 11 Pick-

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A-Dilly locations in Missouri and 13 Chisum Travel Center and Fast Stop stores in Texas. With consolidation continuing at a rapid pace, the c-store industry’s SSOs and small operators are feeling the pressure. It’s getting more difficult for them to compete against the multiple advantages that large chains have. Their options have essentially become to either go, grow, or remodel and enhance their offering to stay in the game.

Taking the Exit The total number of convenience stores operating in the United States declined by 1.1 percent last year, falling from a record 154,958 stores to 153,237 as of Dec. 31, 2018. The drop was fueled by a 2,918-store decline in single-store operations. However, single stores still account for 62.3 percent (95,445) of all U.S. c-stores, according to the 2019 NACS/Nielsen Convenience Industry Store Count. There are several driving forces contributing to SSOs and small operators shutting down their operations and/ or selling. One factor is inexpensive borrowing costs due to low interest rates. Another factor is the quantum-level jump over the past six-plus years in margin dollars in fuels and inside the store, which has led to rising asset valuations. “Accordingly, the industry asset class continues to attract interest in growth and investment. The quest to find more assets continues as companies seek to accrete higher earnings and spread costs among increasingly larger store counts,” explained Ken Shriber, managing director and CEO of Petroleum Equity Group. “Market share growth by the biggest players in a low interest rate environment becomes of paramount importance. It positions them financially with economies of scale, and

allows them to better weather the threat from new competitors (i.e., EG Group) and potential industry disrupters (i.e., Amazon Go).” In the past, if a c-store retailer operated 25 stores, they were considered a sizable player. Nowadays, the industry keeps moving that carrot farther out, noted Terry Monroe, president of American Business Brokers. But not every retailer is cut out to own and operate 30, 40, 50-plus stores, and beyond. In such cases, he said there can be a silver lining for owners in selling their business to one of the industry’s most active acquirers. “I just sold a four-store chain of stores that were doing fantastic. They were acquired by a 50-store chain because it wanted the owners of the four stores to come to work for the company and make the stores great like the operator’s four stores,” Monroe explained. “It was a win-win deal for everyone.”

Holding Your Ground For SSOs and small operators who are not interested in taking the exit, the good news is that they can secure a place in the industry’s future. But to do so, they must possess assets in exclusive markets and have the ability to maintain current levels of profitability. If they possess the financial and operational means and abilities, Shriber believes they should: • Remodel existing sites on a larger footprint of up to 1.5 acres; • Deliver a robust foodservice program; and • Make several small acquisitions of three to five stores at a time over a two-year period.

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“The consolidators will win every time if you are not in touch with your market.” — Terry Monroe, American Business Brokers

“If not, they would be wise to consider exiting the business,” he advised. Shriber cautions SSOs and small operators on the fence not to wait too long to decide their fate. He says a wait-and-see approach is not the right choice given the current market conditions. “We have seen firsthand many of these marketers suffer due to increased competition from larger stores/ chains with modernized facilities and robust foodservice

offerings. And then they wait too long to decide to exit, after their sales have substantially decreased,” he told Convenience Store News. “At that point, their ability to sell at even much lower asking prices/multiples of EBITDA becomes severely compromised.” While the convenience store industry is built on the selling of two key commodities, convenience and service, SSOs and small operators who choose to stay and compete should identify their differentiators and then optimize them to stand apart from the competition, according to Monroe. That is, these retailers should ask themselves: What is my unique selling proposition? “What product or service do you offer that cannot be emulated by your competition?” posed Monroe. “When I sell a chain of stores to a consolidator, most of the time they change the product mix and try to make it like all of their other stores, thereby losing the local touch the original operator had and [they] end up losing business. As a SSO, you should know your market and what your market wants. If you don’t, then shame on you. The consolidators will win every time if you are not in touch with your market.” CSN

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Convenience stores and truck stops are at the forefront in the battle against human trafficking. The industry is beginning to take action, but there is more that can be done A Convenience Store News Staff Report

Adults, teens and children across the country are being exploited daily by human traffickers who force them to perform commercial sex or labor against their will. Nearly 11,000 cases of human trafficking were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline last year, a 25 percent increase from 2017. Overall, the hotline received more than 41,000 contacts via phone calls, texts, webchats, webforms and emails last year. Experts say the actual number of people being trafficked is probably a lot higher. Victims’ stories are heartbreaking. After running away from her home in Missouri, Jasmine was taken to a different truck stop every night by her 19-year-old boyfriend Steven and forced to go door-to-door offering commercial sex. Steven took away her cell phone, her identification, and waited for her in the parking lot, so she couldn’t escape. According to Polaris, which operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline, a trucker who saw Jasmine contacted the hotline, which provided information that law enforcement used to arrest Steven and connect Jasmine to a therapist and other support. Lizi spent three weeks during the summer of her 18th birthday as a prisoner of a sex ring that took her phone and ID, and threatened to kill her family if she tried to run away. Living in a two-bedroom apartment with five other adults and six children, Lizi was physically beaten and forced to prostitute herself and have sex three times a day, with all the money going straight to her captors. After three weeks, she was able to escape and walked into a nearby convenience store where she asked a clerk to call the police. Eventually, her captors were convicted and sent to prison, according to Fox31 in Denver.


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At least Jasmine and Lizi were able to escape their captors. Many more don’t. Human trafficking is the second-largest crime in the world (after drug trafficking) and the fastest-growing, according to Convenience Stores Against Trafficking (CSAT), a program of the nonprofit organization In Our Backyard. The organization engages the convenience store and fuel industries to play a role in the fight against human trafficking. With longer hours of operation, public restrooms and more than 153,000 stores in communities across the country that serve half the U.S. population each day, convenience store operators are in a unique position to disrupt this criminal enterprise and help victims of human trafficking, according to CSAT. Travel centers and truck stops, situated at key points on America’s highway system — and thus likely to encounter human trafficking — are also positioned to make a difference.

The Industry Response C-stores and travel centers are responding. In April, two major Iowabased convenience store chains announced their joint partnership with CSAT to combat trafficking. Des Moines-based Kum & Go LC, which operates nearly 400 stores throughout the Midwest, and Ankeny-based Casey’s General Stores Inc., which has more than 2,100 stores in small and midsize markets in the Midwest and South, agreed to leverage their network of stores — many

of which are open 24 hours a day — to provide a neighborhood watch and safe haven for trafficking victims. Store associates at both chains will participate in CSAT training, and stickers will be placed in bathroom stalls with numbers for victims to call or text to reach the National Human Trafficking Hotline. CSAT is run by In Our Backyard, a national nonprofit known for its anti-trafficking work around the past eight Super Bowls and for the critically acclaimed book by founder and Executive Director Nita Belles: “In Our Backyard: Human Trafficking in America and What We Can Do to Stop It.” “Traffickers and their victims are walking around in plain sight just like anyone else and just like anyone else, they go into c-stores daily,” Belles told Convenience Store News. “The c-store industry has begun to see they have a huge opportunity to safely help those who are being trafficked. C-stores have become heroes in the fight against human trafficking, in many instances by joining CSAT and bringing hope and help to those who need it most.” While the problem exists throughout the year and in communities around the country, the FBI traditionally sees an uptick in online solicitation during large-scale events like the Super Bowl. Some anti-trafficking groups claim that trafficking increases by up to 20 percent during the Super Bowl. At the most recent Super Bowl, held in Atlanta, In Our Backyard partnered with local retailers and the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores (GACS) to tackle the problem. The result: There were 169 arrests for human trafficking in Atlanta during the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, held at Mercedes Stadium.

A heat map from the National Human Trafficking Hotline illustrates that the problem can occur anywhere in the United States.

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“We worked with In Our Backyard and created 400 booklets to distribute to c-stores around Atlanta,” said Haley Bower, director of the Clipper Petroleum Foundation, the charitable arm of the 28-store Clipper Petroleum chain based in Flowery Branch, Ga. The booklets contained the photos of 36 suspected runaways and trafficked boys and girls. According to Bower, at least one clerk exclaimed, “Oh my God! This kid comes in here every day!” when she saw the photo booklet. Overall, 29 of the 36 trafficked youths featured in the book were recovered and provided assistance. “Personally, I got involved six or seven years ago. I was in Atlanta and volunteering for Wellspring Living, an organization that offers services to victims of sexual abuse and exploitation. I learned that 100 girls are sold each night in Atlanta. I asked myself: How is that happening?” Bower recalled. About the same time, Clipper Petroleum founded its own nonprofit foundation to give back to the community. “Last year, we began working with In Our Backyard and Nita Belles, and rolled out an anti-trafficking program to all our 28 stores. This program included employee training to recognize the signs of someone being trafficked, as well as POP [point-ofpurchase] materials for bathrooms, front doors and at the checkout.” Fellow Georgia convenience store chain, Savannah-based Enmarket, was approached in May 2017 by In Our Backyard/ CSAT. At the time, company executives didn’t know just how significant the problem is, particularly in the states where it operates, said Brett Giesick, president of the retailer that

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The Warning Signs to Watch For

C-STORE EMPLOYEES SHOULD NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THAT FEELING THAT SOMETHING JUST ISN’T RIGHT “Human trafficking commonly falls into three forms: sex trafficking, labor and domestic servitude. In the U.S., the two we focus most on are sex trafficking and labor trafficking,” said Mick McKeown, founder of Pennovia. “It is the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain either a commercial sex act or to utilize someone for labor.” McKeown is well versed on the topic. Before launching Pennovia, a Washington, D.C.-based public affairs and issue management firm, he served as executive director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Blue Campaign. In this role, he was a driving force behind the “see something, say something” type of campaign and helped write the department’s resources and tools on human trafficking. When it comes to human trafficking, McKeown believes there is one major misconception: that with trafficking, you actually have to move the person. But that’s not the case. “Unlike drugs or guns, the person can be trafficked and never leave their hometown,” he explained. According to McKeown and other experts interviewed by Convenience Store News, the warning signs that someone is a victim of human trafficking include: • Does the person not have access to identification? Trafficked persons often have their IDs taken from them by their captors. • Does the person have bruises or look malnourished? • Is he or she with an older man, not allowed to talk or pay for anything at the store? • Is he or she withdrawn or reluctant to make eye contact? • Does he or she have tattoos that say “Daddy” or a barcode? Both are signs of ownership. • Do you see young, scantily clad individuals moving from truck to truck in the parking lot? • Do you see RVs or vans with their windows covered by drapes or tape? Such measures ensure trafficking victims cannot be seen from the outside. McKeown’s final piece of advice is a simple but powerful tactic: trust your gut. “Another thing you want to keep an eye out for, and it sounds like a Mr. Rogers or Sesame Street type thing, but sometimes something doesn’t feel right and you have to do a gut check,” he said. Convenience stores have the opportunity to be the front line for this fight, he stressed. “It is great place for traffickers to stop. It’s quick, it’s anonymous, they are in and out, and they are convenient,” he said. “But with the proper amount of training and community partnership, it can also be the front line of defense, bring awareness and alert the correct authorities.” Alerting the correct authorities is key. As he noted, c-store employees are not expected to get involved. “Instead, the approach should be to alert the authorities if you see something,” he said. “Don’t be a hero, but let people know what is going on.” S E P T 2 0 1 9 Convenience Store News 35

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operates 124 stores in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. “One of the biggest motivators for us to get involved was learning that the abductees are brought into convenience stores to use the restroom, for food, general clean-up, etc., as they are transported along interstates and highways,” he told CSNews. “Knowing that we could potentially provide an outlet for help for even one individual was enough for us to get involved.” As a result, Enmarket worked with CSAT to place victim outreach materials in all its restrooms and at registers, providing a phone number for abductees to call if they are in trouble. “On top of that, as new Enmarket employees are onboarded, they are educated about the issue and what they should do if they encounter a child looking for help or seemingly in trouble,” said Giesick, who also noted that a page in the retailer’s monthly marketing bulletin is dedicated to this cause in order to keep awareness heightened throughout the year.

Training Makes a Difference Indeed, employee training is a crucial step in turning awareness into action and making a difference in the fight against human trafficking. Ready Training Online Inc. (RTO), a provider of online employee training programs for the c-store industry, recently partnered with In Our Backyard and pledged its commitment to help end human trafficking. “This partnership gives us the opportunity to offer — at no cost — online human trafficking awareness training that will bring greater understanding to convenience stores across the U.S. that have a vital role in disrupting this epidemic,” said Jack Kahler, president of RTO. Any c-store outlet can go to the RTO e-commerce site and access the training at no cost. Existing clients of RTO’s other training programs, such as Be Our Guest, Rest Room Care, etc., can add the In Our Backyard anti-human trafficking training curriculum at no cost. “The training helps employees spot the signs of human trafficking and encourages them to pick up the phone and make a call to authorities if they have any suspicion that someone is

Traffickers and their victims are walking around in plain sight just like anyone else ... and they go to c-stores daily.” — NITA BELLES, IN OUR BACKYARD

being held against their will,” said RTO Director of Marketing Lisa Wells, who noted the company became involved with In Our Backyard a little over a year ago upon the recommendation of a client, Vintner Distributors, a 25-unit convenience store operator in the San Francisco Bay area. “Approximately 10 percent of our clients have added this training to their network and just short of 200 trainings were distributed through our Marketplace,” Wells reported. “We will continue to work through our partnership with In Our Backyard to provide training, grow awareness and reach all 150,000-plus c-stores across the nation.” Kahler noted that Belles of In Our Backyard will be at RTO’s booth at the upcoming NACS Show in Atlanta to talk to potential clients about the free antitrafficking curriculum. “No young person should ever be subject to this [trafficking] treatment,” he said.

A National Safe Place Another partner for c-stores trying to make a difference in this area is National Safe Place, which provides access to immediate help and supportive resources for youth in need. While not specifically for victims of human trafficking, the organization designates “Safe Place” locations where any youth in crisis can be connected to a social service provider.

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Locations could be schools, fire stations, libraries and retail locations — all displaying a yellow and black “Safe Place” sign. Tulsa, Okla.-based QuikTrip (QT) joined the National Safe Place program in 1983. Today, more than 750 QT stores (all except those in its newest market of Austin, Texas) participate in the program. The retailer is currently looking for a Safe Place partner for Austin, according to Lauren Sherry, QuikTrip’s community relations manager. Sherry explained to CSNews how it works: Any youth in crisis can walk into a QT store and request help. He or she will be taken to a safe place in the store (usually behind the counter or in an office) and a QT employee will call the local Safe Place agency partner, such as Youth Services of Tulsa. A volunteer from the agency will then arrive at the store within 30 minutes to an hour at most, any time of the day or night. The Safe Place partner, after showing proper identification, meets with the youth and will take the appropriate next steps, which could be calling parents, taking him or her to a shelter or hospital, or calling the police. In 2018, QT made 579 calls to Safe Place partners, which resulted in 446 at-risk youths being transported somewhere for help.

More than 750 QuikTrip stores participate in the National Safe Place program.

All new QT employees are trained in National Safe Place procedures when onboarded. In addition, Safe Place partners give talks during the year to current store employees to raise awareness of the program and remind employees what to do.

Success Stories The industry’s efforts are already making a difference. In late July, Channel 13 in Iowa reported that two young women in Ankeny, Iowa, were rescued from an alleged sex trafficking ring due to the quick thinking of a truck driver and a convenience store worker. A newspaper delivery driver noticed a woman in distress. She waved her down and upon talking with her, the driver noticed the woman didn’t have a purse, ID or a cell phone. At that moment, the driver said her gut told her something wasn’t right. She drove the young woman to a Kum & Go store down the road, where the clerk called the police. After questioning the young woman, police were led to a motel across the street, leading to the arrest of a suspect for allegedly running a sex trafficking ring. Local police then handed the case over to federal investigators because some criminal activity possibly occurred in another state. The young woman and another victim were granted no-contact orders against the suspect. And in Georgia, following CSAT’s Super Bowl antitrafficking program, 17 members of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores registered for CSAT by March 1, and 281 stores received training and displayed Freedom Stickers in restroom stalls. Since its official launch at the 2017 Super Bowl in Houston, CSAT has partnered with more than 19,000 convenience stores. Still, despite these efforts by social service organizations, law enforcement, c-stores and travel centers, there’s more that needs to be done — and more partners needed. “As more stores in our industry become involved, the better the chances that traffickers will be identified,” said Giesick of Enmarket. “There’s zero cost to acquire the victim outreach materials and CSAT has put together any training materials necessary to implement an awareness program. It all begins with awareness, and continues with consistent and repeated training to keep the issue top of mind.” Bower of Clipper Petroleum encourages all c-stores to get on board. “This is a huge problem in America,” she emphasized. “We can be a line of hope and salvation for anyone who comes into our stores.”

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On the Lookout Travel centers and truck stops are doing their part to end human trafficking SITUATED AT KEY POINTS on America’s highway system, travel centers and truck stops may be the retailers most likely to encounter human trafficking. This has prompted organizations like Truckers Against Trafficking to enlist professional drivers in the fight against these crimes, but travel center operators and their employees are also uniquely positioned to be able to make a difference — and it’s something they recognize and are taking seriously.

“Human traffickers tend to move their victims from their home base to areas where they have no support system. This applies to both the sex trade and labor trafficking,” said Tom Liutkus, senior vice president of marketing and public relations for TravelCenters of America Inc. (TA), explaining what prompted the Westlake, Ohio-based company, which operates in 43 states and Canada, to get involved. “Here in this country, the quickest way to go undetected from Point A to Point B is to use the interstate highway system. So, our sites might encounter this activity and need to be vigilant.” Keeping an eye out for the warning signs of trafficking is just step one. To be effective, employees need to know three things: what they’re looking for, what to do if they see something suspicious, and what to avoid doing. “At Pilot Flying J, we are committed to the safety and security of all our team members and guests. This is why we require each new team member at our travel centers to complete an e-learning module on human trafficking,” said Stephanie Myers, corporate spokesperson for Knoxville, Tenn.-based Pilot Flying J, which has 750-plus locations in 44 states. “This module emphasizes that team members should look out for individuals — oftentimes young girls — moving from truck to truck in the parking lot as a sign of trafficking.” The module includes a video segment created by Truckers Against Trafficking that features a real-life trafficking story to showcase the severity of the issue.

Truckers Against Trafficking enlists professional drivers to report instances of suspected trafficking.

Pilot Flying J also recently held a staff training on the matter at its headquarters. Led by Knoxvillebased nonprofit The Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking, team members were trained on what trafficking looks like, how to identify red flags, and what to do if they witness a potential trafficking situation. This includes calling the local authorities, as well as the national hotline number for Truckers Against Trafficking. Going through anti-human trafficking training processes can often educate individuals on numerous misconceptions they may hold. “That the victims choose this ‘lifestyle’ is the biggest misconception,” Liutkus said. “Human trafficking is present-day slavery. I was told by members of law enforcement that the average life expectancy of a human trafficking victim is five to seven years. The average age of a kidnapped victim I believe is around 14. They often die at the hands of their pimp, by drug use or suicide. Who chooses that lifestyle?” The battle against human trafficking is ongoing, but travel center operators have shown they can achieve victories. Truckers Against Trafficking honors members of the trucking industry whose direct actions have impacted the lives of those victimized with the Harriet Tubman Awards, named in honor of the famed abolitionist. TA staffers have been recipients. “In 2013, one of our store GMs [general managers] observed two young girls with an older gentleman who was clearly not a relative. Her training kicked in and after some apprehension — What if I’m wrong? — she called the local police,” Liutkus recounted. “Turns out these two young girls were runaways, and they were reunited with their families.”

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In a second incident that took place in 2016, a TA porter in Baltimore noted a passenger vehicle in the truck parking area. He and the GM observed further suspicious behavior and called the police. This led to the arrest of a three-person trafficking gang and the rescue of six young women.

“We are proud of our employees whenever they use their training to react to suspicious activity,” Liutkus said. “Clearly, they have already, and can in the future, positively impact lives that are held in slavery by their actions. We realize our collective ability to save lives.”

A Small Operator Making a Big Impact

Single-store owner Kent Couch shows that independents can join the fight, too KENT COUCH might be best known as

the amateur lawn chair balloonist who flew 193 miles from Bend to Union, Ore., in July 2007. However, the owner of the Stop N Go convenience store in Bend was also one of the convenience store industry’s first retailers to enlist in the fight against human trafficking.

organization that engages the convenience store and fuel industries to play a role in the fight against human trafficking. Belles showed Couch her organization’s Freedom Stickers, which provide human trafficking victims with a hotline phone number to call for help to escape their captor. “I agreed to put one of those stickers in our restrooms at Stop N Go. I told her, ‘I think you might be wrong about the problem here in Bend. We aren’t a big city like Portland. But I’ll give it a try,’” Couch recounted. Instead of affixing the sticker to the bathroom wall because he feared it might encourage graffiti, he mounted it in a glass picture frame and hung it on the wall. A week later, the glass was cracked and the sticker was pulled out of the frame. “My suspicion was that a pimp ripped it out, but I couldn’t be sure. So, I did it again. Rehung the frame and, three weeks later, it was vandalized again. This time, I found the picture frame tossed in the garbage bin and I realized, ‘We have a problem here.’”

Single-store owner Kent Couch hangs framed Freedom Stickers on the restroom walls in his store in Bend, Ore.

“Three or four years ago, I met this woman during a home bible study meeting and she shared a book that she had written called, ‘In Our Backyard: Human Trafficking in America and What We Can Do About It,’” Couch recalled. “I was intrigued by that. At the time, I didn’t even know the term ‘human trafficking’ and certainly didn’t think it was a problem in Bend.” The woman was Nita Belles, founder of In Our Backyard, a nonprofit

Since then, Couch has kept the stickers in his store’s restrooms all the time, replacing them whenever they are damaged. “I know that we have saved at least one person who saw the sticker and called the hotline for help,” he asserted. The single-store owner has gone on to incorporate human trafficking training for all of his team members to help them recognize the signs of when someone is being trafficked. He’s also placed materials in other parts of the store, including at the checkout. Couch now sits on the board of directors of In Our Backyard and is a staunch advocate in the effort to spread the anti-trafficking message across the trucking, motel and c-store industries.

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Leading the Charge Industry associations NACS and NATSO are rallying their members around the cause IN EARLY 2019, Convenience Store News teamed up with NACS and other leading convenience store trade media brands to help combat human trafficking during Human Trafficking Awareness Month, which takes place every January.

With roughly 153,000 stores across the United States, the convenience and fuel retailing industry plays a valuable role in the communities it serves, from contributing more than $1 billion a year to charities, to helping address important community-focused issues. The industry works with groups that are active in serving as neighborhood watch groups, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Blue Campaign, the National Safe Place Network, and In Our Backyard’s Convenience Stores Against Trafficking (CSAT) program. NACS began its work on the human trafficking problem five years ago. It was initially an indirect connection. As part of its reFresh Initiative, the association looked at the perceptions of the industry. Two big negatives stood out: the perception of c-stores and nutrition — or the lack thereof — and anything zoning related. Another issue that came up was c-stores’ 24-hour operations and the perception that nothing good happens after a certain time in the evening, recalled Jeff Lenard, vice president of strategic industry initiatives at NACS. To that point, the association saw the opportunity to tell a story. Convenience stores that are open 24 hours not only offer a place for those who work the third shift — including first responders — to get food and beverages and fuel up, but they also offer a secure place for those in trouble. Taking up the human trafficking fight, NACS first paired with the Louisville, Ky.-based National Safe Place Network, which helps youth in peril find a safe place to go for help. It addresses the issues before human trafficking and how to change the dynamic, so someone isn’t more vulnerable to traffickers, according to Lenard, who sits on the group’s board of directors.

NACS works with many community-focused groups, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign.

Through NACS’ community involvement, it also formed a partnership with the DHS Blue Campaign, an educational campaign that helps identify the signs of trafficking. It was a natural fit for NACS and DHS to share information around human trafficking, he noted. In addition, NACS teamed up with Convenience Stores Against Trafficking/In Our Backyard. The Redmond, Ore.-based group works with about a dozen state associations and has placed Freedom Stickers with a hotline number in more than 13,000 c-stores. “Human trafficking, to most people, implies sex workers, but it’s anytime someone is doing something against their will and they are not able to change the scenario,” Lenard explained. “For example, it can be kids that are selling magazine subscriptions in the summer or selling candy on the sidewalks. … It can also be a variety of other labor trafficking.” A September 2018 NACS survey found that 40 percent of Americans — and 45 percent of women — say human trafficking is a cause they’d like their local retailer to address. “We thought there was a way to help tell a story about human trafficking. It isn’t a message that convenience stores are a site of human trafficking; the message that is really important to say is that convenience stores are in communities, they are open 24 hours in most cases, and they are the eyes and ears of communities,” Lenard said. “They can be a great place to help address a societal problem that is going on everywhere.”

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Because of their locations along America’s highway system, truck stops and travel centers may be the retailers most likely to encounter human trafficking.

The Eyes & Ears of the Road Taking a stand against human trafficking also has been a core priority, along with education and research, of the NATSO Foundation for the past decade when it was asked by the U.S. Department of Transportation to participate in the Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking initiative. The group comprised stakeholders from every transportation sector, including truck stops, trucking, bus, rail, taxis and airlines. From this group came the “Put the Brakes on Human Trafficking” campaign, which can be seen today in many public spaces like airports and bus stations, according to Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman, vice president of public affairs for NATSO, the Washington, D.C.-based national trade association that represents the travel plaza and truck stop industry. “At that point in time, the NATSO Foundation board decided this was something they wanted to be a priority issue for our industry because truck stops and travel plazas serve not only truck drivers but the motoring public,” she explained. “We touch millions of customers on any given day and our locations are at the interstate exits. The board realized our industry was in a prime position

to help identify and report suspected incidents of human trafficking.” From that seed, NATSO grew the program with the goal of providing all of its members — and the trucking and travel plaza industry as a whole — with the education and resources they might need in order to implement a strategy to combat human trafficking. Today, NATSO’s efforts include: • An online learning course, “The Role of Truckstops in Combating Human Trafficking,” for industry members to use in training employees on what human trafficking is, what the warning signs are, and who to call if they think they see it. • A comprehensive toolkit for members that details how they can implement an anti-human trafficking initiative at their locations. • Regional meetings held in conjunction with Truckers Against Trafficking that bring together members of the business community and law enforcement to have an open dialogue about the trends they are seeing and ways to work together. • A partnership with the Department of Homeland Security to distribute human trafficking awareness materials to NATSO members. According to Neuman, several states now have laws requiring certain businesses to display awareness materials. NATSO has compiled all these laws for its members, so they can know where they have to display the materials (which profit centers) to comply.

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Resources to Join the Fight Against Human Trafficking In Our Backyard/Convenience Stores Against Trafficking (CSAT) — The nonprofit posts Freedom Stickers in c-store restrooms that encourage victims to call or text a hotline and arrange a safety plan. CSAT has trained associates in more than 19,000 sites in 40-plus states. inourbackyard.org/csat

“Convenience stores are in communities, they are open 24 hours in most cases, and they are the eyes and ears of communities. They can be a great place to help address a societal problem that is going on everywhere.” — JEFF LENARD, NACS

In addition, the organization works with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the FBI to put out alerts for children who are considered to be at risk for sex trafficking. The response from the industry has been overwhelming, according to Neuman. “What a lot of people don’t realize about the truck stop and travel plaza industry is that they are family-owned businesses and, in many cases, they are multi-generational businesses. When you are a family-owned business and there are multiple generations running the business, that business is like their home,” she explained. “They care so much about their operations. They care so much about their employees and their customers. They don’t want any unwanted activity any more than you or I would want it on our doorstep.” CSN

NACS — The c-store industry’s trade association provides advocacy and information to retailers through partnerships with organizations like In Our Backyard/CSAT and National Safe Place. convenience.org National Human Trafficking Hotline — Connects victims and survivors of sex and labor trafficking with services and support to get help and stay safe. humantraffickinghotline.org National Safe Place — Provides access to immediate help and supportive resources for youths in need. Designates “Safe Place” locations where any youth in crisis can be connected to a social service provider. nationalsafeplace.org NATSO — The industry trade association for truck stops and travel centers offers information from several anti-human trafficking and law enforcement programs, as well as a training module that is specific to the travel plaza industry. natso.com Ready Training Online — Provides human trafficking training at no cost to the c-store industry. readytrainingonline.com/humantrafficking-awareness Truckers Against Trafficking — Provides a national hotline number and a video featuring a real-life trafficking story to showcase the severity of the issue. truckersagainsttrafficking.org U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Blue Campaign — The national public awareness campaign is designed to educate the public, law enforcement and other industry partners to recognize the indicators of human trafficking and how to appropriately respond. dhs.gov/blue-campaign

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An International Affair

Interest in the U.S. c-store market from other countries is heating up By Tammy Mastroberte INTERNATIONAL CONVENIENCE STORE

companies buying locations in the United States is not new, as Alon, GPM and others have held a U.S. presence for years. However, in the last two years, the U.S. convenience channel has seen an increase in new international players competing for store acquisitions — and in many cases, winning them. These new players include Enex, a Chilean company that entered the U.S. late last year with its acquisition of the Road Ranger chain based in Rockford, Ill.; and Applegreen plc, which jumped from five U.S. sites in 2015 to more than 120 at the end of 2018, and just recently announced its purchase of another 46 stores from CrossAmerica Partners LP in the Upper Midwest. However, one of the biggest newcomers is United Kingdom-based EG Group, which entered the U.S. in 2018 and now has more than 1,000 locations across 24 states. And that doesn’t include the company’s recent

agreement to acquire Westborough, Mass.-based Cumberland Farms, which will add another 600 stores to its rapidly expanding U.S. portfolio. “EG Group was a surprise to us all,” Ken Shriber, managing director and CEO of Petroleum Equity Group, based in Chappaqua, N.Y., told Convenience Store News. “But the c-store market is a highly robust industry right now in the U.S. with good real estate to support the investment. While fuel sales nationally are relatively flat, there is significant growth and differentiation in the c-store trade here.” Additionally, real estate in the United States is more valuable than in other countries and is seen as a good investment by foreign operators, according to Dennis Ruben, executive managing director of NRC Realty & Capital Advisors LLC, based in Scottsdale, Ariz. EG Group grew rapidly in Europe, and then saw an opportunity to expand into the U.S. “They are well financed and have been able to do due diligence and close quickly,” Ruben explained. “Kroger was the first, and then Minit Mart and within a relatively short period of time, they also closed Fastrac Markets and

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Building a ConsumerCentric Ecosystem Savvy c-stores are moving beyond app-based payments to a host of integrated, frictionless technologies By Debby Garbato CONVENIENCE STORES are still scratching the surface when it comes to harnessing the power of consumer-facing, frictionless technologies. While more than half of major c-store chains have implemented mobile payment options, most other frictionless endeavors are in their infancy, according to consulting firm Boston Retail Partners. However, these newer technologies are rapidly gaining ground.

Digital food ordering and delivery is a major focus, along with integration of payment apps with loyalty programs and other functions. As retailers update their fuel pumps in preparation for the October 2020 EMV compliance deadline, they are adding capabilities, including customized promotions tied to loyalty initiatives. Age verification is also getting attention, with at least one supplier introducing a product for self-checkout environments next year. The launch of Amazon Go, with its fully frictionless stores, is supercharging retailers’ technology timetables. A pivotal goal among c-store chains is the integration

of app functions to create a seamless shopper journey. While they are stepping in the right direction, frictionless payments alone cannot achieve this. “This is about end-to-end consumer experience, not just one technology,” said Gurmeet Singh, executive vice president, chief digital information and marketing officer for 7-Eleven Inc. “There’s an obvious push by Amazon, which is creating an ecosystem around self-checkout and frictionless engagement, leading to rapidly evolving technology. C-stores must be more convenient. Retailers that start developing and researching this technology and shopping experience early will gain massive knowledge and a head start.” Many new multi-function c-store apps will launch over the next 12 to 24 months, said Scott Langdoc, senior vice president and practice lead at Boston Retail Partners. “We’re starting to see the next iteration of what c-stores’ mobile apps will look like,” he explained. “They want to simplify the experience by combining functions in one app.” 7-Eleven, for example, introduced Mobile Checkout in 14 Dallas locations in November. The proprietary frictionless solution lets customers pay using the 7-Eleven app, which also incorporates its 7Rewards loyalty program and can be combined with backend technologies. In mid-August, 7-Eleven announced an expansion of this program, introducing Mobile Checkout to participating stores in New York City. Last year, 7-Eleven launched Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay. Most of the retailers building digital ecosystems are large players. But there are exceptions. Family Express Corp., which operates 74 Indiana c-stores, is taking frictionless shopping beyond the level of larger competitors. Integrating products from Paytronix and other vendors, its new ecosystem is designed to offer scan-and-go payment and other perks across its fuel, car wash, foodservice and general merchandise businesses through a single app and one loyalty program, F.E. Perks. Across all its business segments, the system collects shopper data, generating a single customer profile and then sending customized offers. New frictionless technology is under development that can perform age verification for age-restrictive products like tobacco and alcohol.


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Except for the car wash loyalty piece, which is slated to debut later this year, all components went live this past spring. But Family Express is not done innovating. “We’re probably ahead of everyone,” said company founder and President Gus Olympidis. “We also have a pipeline of wants scheduled to be delivered.” High’s of Baltimore is also expanding its frictionless capabilities. Launched in May, the Skip payment app is operational in most of its 49 Maryland c-stores. In September, High’s will add a rewards program linked to a pump-friendly mobile payment app, since Skip only functions in stores (some pumps feature Apple Pay), said Noah Sanders, senior analytics and implementation manager. As at Family Express, High’s rewards program involves fuel and merchandise. A new private label debit card is part of the app (also available in traditional plastic). The app version tracks customer behavior and can send special vendor offers. Customers who use it receive cents off on fuel. Skip will be tied into this system, too. “Customers can activate the pump, buy gas and other things in one transaction without going through the register,” said Sanders. “The rewards program should drive pump traffic into [the] stores. The old program emphasized fuel.”

Digitizing Foodservice Foodservice is a growing business for many c-stores. While digital ordering and delivery are integral to some chains’ growth strategies, c-stores have not adopted them as rapidly as quick-service restaurants, creating a competitive disadvantage. A 2018 Statista study stated that online food delivery could grow from nearly $17 billion this year to $24 billion-plus by 2023. “Online ordering is part of a general trend to grow food sales,” Paytronix CEO and co-founder Andrew Robbins said. “C-stores are up against restaurants, fast food and grocery. McDonald’s even does co-branding with Uber Eats. Short term, c-stores must figure out online ordering.” The biggest challenge is integrating the third-party delivery company’s software with the software in a c-store’s kitchen, its inventory system, point-of-sale (POS) and mobile app, said Jerry Sheldon, vice president at IHL Consulting Group. NCR is the only company offering outof-the-box software compatible with that of Uber Eats and DoorDash, he cited. Despite obstacles, retail consultancy King-Casey predicts

7-Eleven’s delivery app recently added 7NOW Pins that expand the service to parks, beaches and other public places.

more than half of c-stores will offer digital ordering and delivery by 2023. Those already doing so include Casey’s General Stores Inc., one of the country’s top pizza sellers, Kum & Go LC, QuikTrip Corp., Family Express, 7-Eleven and Wawa Inc. Early adopters Wawa and 7-Eleven began delivery in 2017. Wawa, which uses Uber Eats, has a store dedicated to online orders, said Robbins. Other orders are filled by its commissary. “They’re focused on mass production of orders and getting them out,” he said. 7-Eleven’s 7NOW delivery app is available in 28 markets and reaches 23 million households. Singh said 3,000-plus

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items can be delivered 24/7, including hot food, snacks, beverages, household items, electronics, beer and wine. This year, the addition of 7NOW Pins technology expanded the delivery service to parks and other public places. To date, 7NOW has processed almost one million orders. “Customers get snacks and drinks in 30 minutes or less,” said Singh. “We continue growing rapidly and aim to offer more products and drive delivery times down further.” In early fall, Family Express will unveil a mobile delivery app — along with its own drivers and delivery vehicles. “We want to control risk factors, including the quality of the food, vehicle and person driving it,” Olympidis said of the company’s decision to keep it in-house. Delivery offerings will include prepared food and 100 other products. Family Express also will be able to confidently deliver beer and tobacco as its drivers can verify customers’ ages.

Pumped Up As c-stores upgrade their pumps to be EMV compliant, they are adding other perks. At c-store chains Sheetz Inc. and Speedway LLC, for example, on-pump screens promote in-store products. Food ordering and other capabilities are also possible at the pump. “EMV is driving upgrades,” said Bill Miller, vice president of sales, North America, for GK Software. “Many pumps will incorporate scanners, making them POS terminals. They can be used for loyalty, ID or ringing up ‘outdoor’ products like wiper fluid or firewood.” NCR’s EMV-compliant, multimedia Optic 5 POS terminals offer various at-pump, on-screen options, according to Dusty Lutz, vice president and general manager of NCR’s Store Transformation Group. Consumers can use multiple payment methods and swipe loyalty cards to access individualized promotions. The Optic terminals can be customized to incorporate other capabilities as well. NCR is also working on Yoti, a frictionless age verification system that uses artificial intelligence. With Yoti, biometrics “look” at a person’s face to determine if they are 30-plus. Individuals who look younger must present ID. The ID is stored on a customer’s smartphone as their digital identity. During subsequent shopping trips, customers scan their driver’s license to confirm that the stored information matches. Yoti could prevent retailers from losing alcohol sales among customers who do not want to wait in line or wait for an associate to override self-checkout age verification prompts, Lutz noted. “Alcohol purchasing is a friction point,” he said. “Yoti enrollment takes just a few minutes. During checkout, it ties facial features to stored profiles. This prevents people from borrowing a friend’s phone. Tests show it can be more accurate than a trained cashier. Many retailers are looking at it and conducting regulatory discussions.”

Frictionless Challenges To date, the cost and complexity of integrating frictionless technologies have been barriers to ecosystem development, particularly for c-stores running disparate technologies for their respective business segments. “Some companies find themselves with a mosaic of platforms, particularly in POS,” said Olympidis. “So, it’s X times the various things you must integrate. One retailer I spoke to had more than 40 platforms.” C-stores, though, must overcome these hurdles and meet consumers’ changing needs to remain competitive with each other and other channels.

New at-the-pump technology enables remote ordering of instore merchandise, such as coffee.

“Our industry has owned convenience,” added Olympidis. “While we may not be ready for the consumer’s emerging interpretation, shoppers expect total connectivity of everything imaginable.” CSN


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5 Key Destinations on the Road to Friction-Free Foodservice Sales or two, the sweet spot for many convenience stores has been foodservice, a high margin business that provides growth, differentiation and destination purchasing.


Foodservice sales now account for 23 percent of sales at convenience stores in the U.S., reflecting 3 percent Kimberly Otocki growth over the last five years, according to NACS’ 2018 State of the Industry report. Among c-store shoppers, 28 percent indicated that their primary purchase during store visits over the last 12 months was foodservice, said Alix Partners’ Convenience Store Study. For millennials, the figure was 37 percent. But in recent years, competing QSRs and fast food restaurants have begun offering mobile/online ordering and delivery and frictionless payments, speeding up the ordering process, helping consumers avoid long lines and putting c-stores at a disadvantage. Restaurants and savvy retailers, including Amazon, are also using data and loyalty programs to target consumers with pinpointed, personalized offers for food and other merchandise. After two decades of working with more than 400 restaurant brands, Paytronix has identified five priorities for convenience chains looking to streamline this all-important area of business. 1. Your Customer’s Hip Pocket: To avoid long checkout

lines, 74 percent of shoppers will visit a competitor. Mobile ordering enables customers to skip the line by making a purchase in advance and picking it up. C-stores’ success with counters filled with prepaid items has already proven that consumers want to “grab and go.” The convenience of mobile ordering lets customers get in and out on their terms.

2. Top of Mind: How has Amazon been able to retain

customers and win their loyalty? The answer is data, which lets brands create a truly customized, frictionless customer experience. One-to-one marketing allows retailers to spend more time on strategic projects and less time testing new strategies. Personalized messages and offers keep brands top of mind and often encourage repeat traffic. Only with a loyalty program can a retailer get to know its customers and deliver a frictionless experience.

3. One Virtual Wallet: With Apple Pay and Google Pay,

one tap of a customer’s device transfers both payment and loyalty ID. Those who are not loyalty members will be prompted to join. This frictionless solution offers the

additional benefit of faster line speeds. Removing cash from the transaction lets customers get back on the road quickly. 4. The One-Stop Shop: Frictionless customer experiences are all about removing barriers between customers and transactions. At each integration point, issues can arise, making the user experience anywhere from frictionless to frightening. Choosing technology partners with exceptional integration track records and consolidating the number of partners used will ensure that guests are able to log in, order and pay with ease. 5. Your Customer’s Couch: Prepared food sales are an

$800 billion industry. Delivery is expected to grow by at least 25 percent. If a c-store’s strategy involves selling more food, it must include food delivery. Options include building a delivery fleet, partnering with a logistics company or working with an established third-party delivery service like DoorDash or Grubhub. Customers will appreciate being able to order and receive goods from the comfort of their couch. CSN

Is your brand ready to arrive at the final destination of friction-free food sales? For more information, contact Paytronix at www.paytronix.com or 617-649-3300, ext. 5. Kimberly Otocki is the C-Store Loyalty Impact Expert at Paytronix Systems Inc., a SaaS company that specializes in helping brands deliver exceptional program impact through frictionless guest experiences — online ordering, gift, mobile payment, apps, messaging and more.

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Certified Oil. They also seem interested in continuing their expansion.” International companies see the U.S. c-store market as a safe investment because of the robust U.S. economy and how the industry has stood the test of time, noted Mark Radosevich, president of PetroActive Real Estate Services LLC, based in Coral Gables, Fla. “It’s a safe and vibrant market in the U.S., and c-stores are known for safety as far as an investment goes. It’s not in danger of being taken over by some new digital offering. People still have to go to brickand-mortar stores for cigarettes, gas and beer,” he said. Some of the international players are looking to acquire real estate and then have mortgages, while others want to

For example, EG Group appointed former president of Kroger’s Tom Thumb and Turkey Hill stores, Jay Erickson, as president of its U.S. c-store portfolio, known as EG America LLC, in October 2018. And while the company has announced plans to rebrand the 225 Minit Mart stores it acquired to a new EG America brand within the next year, the company has said it will retain the Cumberland Farms brand and may even add some of its products to the overall portfolio. “Sometimes, it plays better to keep regional store brands because they are known in the region, like Circle K keeping the Holiday brand,” Terry Monroe, founder and president of American Business Brokers, told CSNews. “That was smart on their part because it has good brand equity in its markets. Also, Enex is keeping the Road Ranger brand.” In some cases, rebranding stores could hurt the business if the new owner removes a recognized local brand, Radosevich pointed out, citing the past example of BP Amoco. When BP took over Amoco, the company

“It’s a safe and vibrant market in the U.S., and c-stores are known for safety as far as an investment goes. It’s not in danger of being taken over by some new digital offering. People still have to go to brick-andmortar stores for cigarettes, gas and beer.” — Mark Radosevich, PetroActive Real Estate Services LLC

buy the business enterprise and flip the real estate, going into leases. Either way, interest rates are low and the dollar goes a long way, Radosevich noted. “Applegreen, for example, is a pure c-store operator. They come in and run the stores, but are not as interested in owning the real estate as much as leasing and running the business,” he said.

What to Expect Now that these international companies have entered the U.S. c-store market, there is speculation on what they will be doing with the stores they acquired. Will they rebrand? Will they bring new concepts into the stores? Will they transfer elements from overseas? While there are some answers to these questions, most experts believe only time will tell.

decided to rebrand all the stores to BP and it didn’t go as planned. “Amoco had tremendous value in the Midwest. People trusted the brand and all of a sudden, the brand went away overnight,” he recalled. “Now, they are bringing the Amoco brand back. You have to be smart about branding, and maintaining brand value should be paramount.” Some of the international companies, such as EG Group, also have a different c-store model in other countries — primarily c-stores with gas and one or more quick-service restaurant concepts in them as foodservice offerings. If this model is something they plan to bring the United States, it may have a competitive impact in the markets where EG operates, noted Shriber. “Hess had a similar strategy with a bigger-box store and multiple branded food options. They implemented that strategy with very limited success,” he noted. In terms of what these international brands may bring to their new U.S. stores, it’s a “wait-and-see” approach, said


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Van Tarver, president of Van Tarver Group and former head of Kroger’s c-store division. While it’s true that the branded foodservice model is working for them in other countries, it’s likely these international players are exploring all of their options based on their business model, goals and strategy, he said.

companies; and those who will find them entering their markets as competitors.

“If you look at Wawa, Sheetz and Parker’s and what they have done with foodservice, you would have to scratch your head and think, ‘Why would I brand anything?’” said Tarver. “On the other hand, some retailers have had excellent results with Subway because it’s a great brand with great standards, and they do a good job at training their people.”

“The big players will only acquire certain things and, in some cases, EG and Applegreen purchased stores they passed on because it didn’t fit their business model,” Monroe stated. “They will only pay so much because that is their business model, and then EG or another

Increased Competition Should U.S.-based companies be worried about international buyers scooping up stores? Monroe believes there are two categories U.S.-based chains currently fall into: those competing to acquire the same stores being purchased by these international

When it comes to buyer competition, he said large chains in the U.S. c-store market, such as 7-Eleven Inc. and Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc./Circle K, are definitely facing more competition for acquisitions but, in some cases, this doesn’t make a difference.

“The c-store market is a highly robust industry right now in the U.S. with good real estate to support the investment.” — Ken Shriber, Petroleum Equity Group

Ireland-based Applegreen plc has grown from five U.S. sites in 2015 to more than 120 at the end of 2018.

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“If they are going to be successful and continue to be successful, it’s important for operators to continue the evolution of meeting changing consumer demand, and that is true no matter what the origin of the country is competing.” — Van Tarver, Van Tarver Group

international buyer will come along and be willing to pay more because they have a different model.” It also depends on the number of stores up for sale, according to Radosevich. With a 50-store chain, there will be more people looking to acquire that than a chain that puts 300 or more stores on the market, he noted, explaining that big companies like 7-Eleven have a very disciplined approach to how they acquire assets, whereas international companies are not as stringent and can write a bigger check. “For Kroger, EG probably came in and were willing to pay more than anybody else because they would have instant critical mass,” Radosevich said. “They took the whole management team, moved to Cincinnati and they now have infrastructure they didn’t have here before that.” As for c-store operators who find themselves in direct competition with these new international operators, Tarver predicts that consolidation will continue throughout the industry, but he said that doesn’t mean small, regional operators should be worried, as some of the best and most profitable U.S.-based chains are within this group. “If they are going to be successful and continue to be successful, it’s important for operators to continue the evolution of meeting changing consumer demand, and that is true no matter what the origin of the country is competing,” he advised.

“There is no secret [move] that someone coming from another country will do that will dramatically increase the income of the store. And if they overpay and don’t divest marginal stores, it’s going to hurt them down the road.” It’s also important for all c-store chains — U.S.-based and foreign — to pay attention and invest in data and analytics, so they understand American consumers, what they want and how to serve them no matter who their competitors might be, said Tarver.

A Seller’s Market For U.S.-based chains looking to sell in the next few years, experts agree that now is the time to do it, as it is truly a seller’s market. Top dollar is being paid by acquirers. “The market is hot if you are going to sell,” said Monroe. “It’s all about timing, and these consolidators who are growing are offering a wonderful opportunity to people thinking about stepping away.” The U.S. c-store market currently has more than 153,000 stores, 60 percent of which are owned by independent operators. It’s these smaller chains that acquiring companies see as opportunities to build and expand their brand, observed Radosevich. “It’s never been a better time to sell for those marketers looking to exit the industry,” he echoed. “The values are up and continue to be up on all classes of c-stores, whether it’s big flagship sites or average sites with $75,000 a month in inside sales.” When new stores are put on the market today, they can have 20 to 30 buyers within several weeks, he pointed out, noting that “if an operator is not investing in their chain, making acquisitions and building stores, then their chain will be worth less next year than it is this year.” CSN

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t grab j go GOODNESS t


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What’s Hot on C-store Menus? Classic summer flavors score with consumers Quintessential summer flavors are still making appearances as we make our way toward the end of the summer months, and these classics continue to be favorites with customers. Popularly flavored limited-time offers (LTOs) may not get the highest scores for uniqueness, but they shine bright on Purchase Intent (PI), providing plenty of broad appeal.

OPERATOR: ampm ITEM TYPE: Limited-Time Offer DATE: June 2019 PRICE: 3 for 99¢

This month’s c-store standout is ampm’s S’mores Cookies, which bring a sense of nostalgia and seasonality to a popular format that customers can’t resist. A near-perfect Branded PI score of 99, and a slightly lower but still impressive Unbranded PI score of 90, means these cookies have some significant appeal with customers. They also have a broad appeal across demographics. The only places where these cookies cool off are with Hispanics (score of 68) and Southern consumers (score of 70).

DESCRIPTION: Treat yourself

to a sweet deal. Head to ampm to get 3 warm and gooey S’mores Cookies for only 99¢. Now that’s a deal we’d like to see s’more of.

shows that uniqueness is not the only important aspect to consider when creating LTOs. Ultimately, it comes down to finding the right balance of uniqueness and high customer appeal by leveraging the feelings and flavors evoked by the seasons.

This Month’s Runner-Up Another strong contender this month also reinforces that uniqueness is not everything. QuickChek’s Garlic Parmesan Fresh Fries scored slightly higher on Uniqueness (score of 58) than the S’mores Cookies, and also proved to have high PI scores in both Unbranded PI (score of 97) and Branded PI (score of 88). Sometimes, the way to the wallet is through ubiquitous flavors providing a bit of nostalgia. CSN


Without kids

Purchase Intent Is Not Always a Matter of Uniqueness Where these cookies seem to stumble is Uniqueness. With a score of 50, they may not be the most unique cookie, but this




definitely or probably would buy

definitely or probably would buy



unbranded PI



norms reflect comparison to all items 100 = max possible score





extremely or very unique

would order the item all the time



would visit somewhere just for this item

excellent or good value for the dollar

branded PI


benchmark norms






versus other c-stores’ items








37% 43

versus other dessert



77% 43




versus other items from ampm

Datassential, a Chicago-based food and beverage industry research and consulting firm, brings clients real-world insights on flavor trends, foodservice and consumer packaged goods, globally.

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Leading by Example Foodservice Leader of the Year Paul Servais continuously pushes Kwik Trip’s foodservice program forward while never losing sight of the chain’s store-level employees By Angela Hanson KWIK TRIP INC.’S FOODSERVICE Director Paul Servais today is a company veteran, having spent an impressive 20 years with the convenience store chain, but his career path wasn't always obvious.

leading it to make plans to more than double the size of its central commissary and add a test kitchen to experiment and develop new offerings. So far in 2019, Kwik Trip has launched Kitchen Cravings, a line of take-home meals, and the retailer began testing delivery at select stores through a partnership with EatStreet.

The Wisconsin native, who grew up on a large dairy farm and attended school at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, spent eight years in big-box retail before joining Kwik Trip. Even then, he didn't expect to get into the food business or become a leader in the category.

Despite the continual evolution, Kwik Trip's overall mandate never changes.

"It just kind of worked out as foodservice," Servais recalled.

"We want to sell more food safely," Servais said. "We said that day one, and we say it today."

When he stepped into the role of foodservice director, after an initial year as a store leader and another eight years as a district leader, Kwik Trip was "very green," still developing its foodservice program to be consistent across all of its locations, according to Servais.

A Hands-On Leader

Eleven years later, its foodservice reputation has skyrocketed under the leadership of Servais, this year’s Convenience Store News Foodservice Leader of the Year honoree. The La Crosse, Wis.-based chain continuously improves its fresh, high-quality foodservice and beverage offerings,

During a typical week, Servais describes himself as "in the middle of everything." He’s heavily involved in product development, marketing, and even the production facilities themselves. His background as a store leader and district leader gives him a better perspective of what it's like for store-level employees and because of that, he presents all developments to his team with the goal of maximizing the ability of the stores to get things done. "When you have a seat at the table, it really helps to sell what you're trying to accomplish," he told CSNews. "I like to be out in stores as much as possible." Servais regularly visits stores for multiple days each

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week, before returning to La Crosse for meetings and, often, new product sampling with the company’s chef. His habit of staying directly involved with all aspects of the foodservice category played a significant part in the recent development of its Fresh Blends smoothie program. After being inspired by a mid-winter trip to Starbucks, during which he observed many customers purchasing smoothies and frappes despite the cold temperatures, Servais took part in the program's entire development process — from the early meetings, to planning the machine details, to helping individual stores with installation, to training and sales. He worked closely with Welbilt Inc., manufacturer of the fully automated, selfserve smoothie machines, and Beverage Innovations Inc., creator of the drink mixes. Thanks to his efforts, Kwik Trip is reaping considerable rewards. "We're having just a boatload of success with this," Servais said. "It's probably one of the best success stories we've had in a long time." Another major work in progress is Kwik Trip's fried chicken program, which is currently being tested in approximately 45 stores and is slated for a companywide rollout in February 2020. In the meantime, Servais and his team continue to refine the offering, working to create the right price, portions and packaging. "That's a lot of fun," he said. "We see the potential for long term."

Building on a Strong Foundation Regardless of the specific initiative, Servais makes sure to always keep in mind the quality, the value provided to customers, and the store-to-store consistency, which he says are the three main factors that make Kwik Trip stand apart from the average c-store food offering.

Servais (center) was honored at the 2019 Convenience Store News Convenience Foodservice Exchange event, held in Dallas.

He also learns important lessons from those times when Kwik Trip’s tries aren’t so successful. "I would say there's failures every day," he said, explaining that this can include new items, programs or ways of doing things. But he believes this, too, is part of the fun because the failures come from taking chances and trying new things. "I'm fortunate that I work in a company where you can do that." In his early big-box retail experience, Servais said employees did what they were told and weren't supposed to question upper management. In contrast, at Kwik Trip, input is welcomed and people "want to be part of something bigger,” he said. As a senior executive, Servais tries to lead by example. "I'm not going to expect anyone to do anything I wouldn't do," he said, acknowledging with a chuckle that some might see this as a cliché. He also believes that "you can never over-communicate." Even as Kwik Trip ventures into new ways of offering food and expands its menu, Servais keeps the company's core values in mind. Clean stores that offer great service and quality products of perceived value might be sticking to the basics, he says, but consistently succeeding at those basics is what takes a c-store foodservice program from good to great. Freshness also remains a priority for Kwik Trip. As the first c-store chain to team up with Partnership for a Healthier America, the retailer will continue to enhance its line of lower-calorie, healthier options, but consumers can expect to enjoy indulgent items as well. "Once you put a fryer in the store, that just opens the doors to so many other options," Servais said. For fellow foodservice operators who really want to step up their game, the Foodservice Leader of the Year advises them to step out of their kitchen for a while. Learning from others and networking with those in similar roles can make a significant difference. "You get so buried in stuff every day, it's hard to take a step back," he said. "Get out in the industry, visit your competitors, visit your non-competitors in your trade area. ... That's helped me get where I am today." CSN

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Grabbing a Bigger Slice of the Pie There's room to cook up more profits in the pizza segment, but c-store retailers must start smart and then keep innovating By Angela Hanson pizza served as a stereotypical example of what consumers didn't like about convenience store food. But no longer is the image of a stale pie that's been sitting on a warming rack all day the first thing that comes to mind; today's customers are busy, hungry and very aware that c-stores are a prime destination for delicious, easy-to-eat food. The pizza market is different now, in large part due to the efforts of convenience store retailers.


Casey's General Stores Inc., based in Ankeny, Iowa, first got into the pizza business around 35 years ago and has emphasized pizza’s importance even more in recent years. The c-store operator, which has more than 2,100 stores in 16 Midwest states, was one of the first to offer pizza delivery. Pizza is also a central focus of Casey's new and improved website, which debuted in May, and its mobile app, which relaunched in July. The new Caseys.com features a refreshed design and enhancements to the chain’s online ordering system, all centered on making it easier than ever for Casey’s customers to order its delicious pizza. Casey’s spent time with customers across all 16 states in its operating footprint to learn what would streamline the online ordering experience.

“The new Caseys.com makes our food the hero of the digital experience, helping to solve the daily meal dilemma,” said Art Sebastian, Casey’s vice president of digital experiences. “We know customers are always looking for ways to save time. Ordering breakfast, lunch or dinner at Caseys.com gives our pizza lovers a few minutes back each day, so they can do the things they really love. Our goal is for customers to shop Caseys.com anytime and anywhere, when it’s most convenient for them.” Casey’s officials have acknowledged the extremely competitive nature of the pizza segment, with other c-stores and standalone pizza retailers all angling for a bigger slice of the pie.

Recipe for Success Finding success in the pizza business starts from the initial decisions retailers make when establishing their programs. Industry experts say numbers must come before food. Before launching a pizza program, they recommend analyzing store traffic, consulting with vendor partners, and looking ahead to determine where the business can be in a few years. Another critical step is deciding whether to go it alone or partner with a third party. Both options have their advantages and drawbacks, but retailers need to be sure they're ready if they opt to start their own program. In today's tight job market, it could prove challenging to build a staff that is sufficient to execute consistent, quality, made-from-scratch pizza.

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Pizza is a central focus of Casey's mobile app, which relaunched in July, and its new and improved website, which debuted in May.

The ability to offer consistent quality in its pizza program was a factor during the development of FriendShip Food Stores’ new FriendShip Kitchen concept, according to Chelsea Cravalho, special projects manager for the Fremont, Ohiobased chain of 26 stores. The variability in store size and kitchen equipment presented an extra challenge, so FriendShip opted to invest in store remodels and upgrades that allowed it to reach its goal.


VANTAGE POINT: Tips from John Albert, Channel Marketing Manager, Schwan’s Food Service What are the top three must-dos for convenience store retailers to develop and maintain a successful and growing pizza program? 1. Don’t sacrifice quality! Just because the average c-store consumer is generally in/out doesn’t mean they don’t expect great-tasting pizza with a clean in-store experience. 2. Make sure to have a personal-sized or slice of pizza option during the day AND a large pizza option in the evening. Studies show that both types of pizzas play an important role in terms of pizza consumption at c-stores, depending on time of day. 3. Single-serve pizzas are a fantastic option for those c-store patrons enjoying some hot and tasty pizza during their commutes. From breakfast pizzas to standard pepperoni, pizza is a great on-the-go option. Are there any hot, emerging trends in the pizza industry that c-store operators should be employing in their programs? Cleaner labels continue to be an important trend. At Schwan’s, we are dedicated to moving forward with the clean label initiative by deploying uncured pepperoni, and many of our fresh dough crusts are made without chemical leavening. We also see a continued need to enable flavor versatility and excitement when it comes to pizza. Our Scratch Ready partially topped pizzas provide operators the convenience of a sauced and lightly cheesed pizza with the opportunity to customize with their own toppings. C-store retailers acknowledge that the pizza segment is an increasingly competitive space. What can they do to stand out in the eyes of consumers and capture their loyalty? Know your audience and delight them where they are. Not every c-store has the space to showcase beautiful “pizza theater.” For those instances, make sure the quick, grab-and-go options are still fresh-tasting and flavorful. However, some c-stores enjoy a bigger opportunity to provide multiple pizza options whether it’s in the freezer, in the warmer or even take-and-bake. We at Schwan’s Food Service pride ourselves in offering a full portfolio of pizza solutions that can meet any operator’s needs, from fully topped to dough balls.

"We used our space and size to our advantage, looking to develop a turnkey oven station and merchandising solution that could fit all size stores," Cravalho said. In terms of the menu, FriendShip ensured it got the recipes right through store testing and feedback. “We launched, tested and evolved the recipes and merchandising before we began rolling the program back to additional stores," she noted. Once a store’s pizza program is firmly established, the retailer needs to consider whether to offer delivery — something that is still rare at c-stores, but starting to grow through partnerships with third-party delivery companies such as Uber Eats and DoorDash.

Managing the Menu "We focus on two audiences with our c-store partners, which vary greatly dependent on the location and other food offerings nearby," said Dee Cleveland, director of marketing at Hunt Brothers Pizza, a third-party partner. "We have our grab-and-go users, who are typically eating on the go and choosing a food option for themselves — they’re likelier to purchase a Hunk A Pizza and Wings Combo. On the other hand, we have our consumers who may be looking to feed their entire family with whole pizzas customized to their preferences — the parents may order a loaded pizza for themselves and a cheese pizza for their kids."

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While experts unanimously agree that a pizza program must deliver consistent product to be successful, retailers can boost sales by changing things up and encouraging customization. "Hunt Brothers Pizza offers a unique value proposition to consumers by providing the option to choose to add any of our 10 toppings at no extra charge — providing over 1,000 topping combinations for consumers to customize their pizza," Cleveland noted. Limited-time offers also work well with pizza, as customers can easily experiment with just a slice or a personal-size pie. By keeping an eye on the latest trends, operators can match creativity with consumer interest. They also may be able to leverage some of their other strengths. "We are building on our ability to use freshly prepared chicken tenders from our FriendShip Famous Chicken Program and use this for items like Pesto Chicken, BBQ Chicken and Garlic Chicken," Cravalho said. "We also recognize the trends in the

Consistent quality is a cornerstone of FriendShip's pizza program.

market and have several other items that we can add to our rotation without complicating the offer." To get the word out, it’s suggested that retailers consider sampling and other promotional efforts that are geared toward getting customers to try the pizza and come back for more. Earlier this year, 7-Eleven Inc. celebrated National Pi Day with significant pizza discounts, and Pilot Flying J turned National Pizza Day into a weeklong celebration with giveaways. "FriendShip also has a program for local store marketing that can deliver not only products, but also items like menus and bounce-back coupons to drive guests to our stores," Cravalho said. "The offers are very enticing to encourage trial." CSN


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18 & Counting As of July, more than one-third of U.S. states had Tobacco 21 laws on the books By Melissa Kress STATE OFFICIALS ACROSS the United States have been busy this year passing a flurry of tobacco legislation. That is nothing new considering states have long relied on tobacco excise taxes to make up for budget shortfalls. However, the top tobacco agenda item in 2019 has nothing to do with taxes, but rather with the legal minimum age to buy tobacco products.

In fact, since the stroke of midnight on Jan. 1, 12 states have approved legislation to raise the legal minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21. Some of those policy changes have already gone into effect, while a few are set to implement by the end of 2019. In addition, Washington State will prohibit the sale of tobacco products to adult consumers under age 21 as of Jan. 1, 2020, and Utah will phase in the change over the next two years — hiking the legal age to 20 on July 1, 2020 and then to 21 one year later. Just recently, mid-July brought a Tobacco 21 double-play when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed their prospective state’s legislation into law on back-to-back days. With the stroke of their pens, the total number of states with T21 laws on the books increased to 18, plus Washington, D.C.

Currently, more than 50 percent of the U.S. population lives in states that have raised the legal age of purchase for all tobacco products to 21, according to Altria Group Inc., whose operating companies include Philip Morris USA, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. and John Middleton. “Now is the time to move to 21, which is by far the best way to stop the rise in underage e-vapor use and is supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans,” Altria Chairman and CEO Howard Willard said in a company release. “Taking this step will reduce underage access to these products. It will also pave the way for e-vapor products to realize their enormous harm reduction potential for millions of adult smokers 21 and older.”

T21 Resources for Retailers All of this change can be a lot to take in. Retailers with multi-state operations may already know what to expect, as more states implement the new legal minimum buying age across all municipalities. But for those who have not had to face the change yet, there is help. We Card Program Inc. has an array of resources for retailers to reference as they navigate the new tobacco rules. The organization’s website features a section dedicated to the Tobacco 21 changes. Displayed prominently on its homepage, the section calls out the states with new policies and when they go into effect through January 2020. The site also helps retailers gauge whether they are ready for the change, or what more needs to be done. The microsite not only lists

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the effective dates, but also includes a six-page synopsis of each state law.

customers,” Anderson said. “One of the reasons this 21-year minimum age exists is to address that.”

“As more state legislatures pass and the governors sign legislation, we will add it to the list,” said We Card President Doug Anderson. “There are some commonalities [between the state laws] and there are some slight differences. Each state has age to ask, but some have a different age that retailers need to ask for ID. FDA standard is under 27 years old — that’s the foundation. Some states have bumped that up to 30. Illinois and Delaware have done so; that’s a nuance that is not shouted as often as the minimum age, but it is an important requirement.”

We Card’s goal is to make retailers aware of the different state signage requirements, too. While not every state has them, the three that upped the age effective in July — Virginia, Illinois and Delaware — all have requirements, which needed to be posted by the effective date.

In addition, some states have subtle differences that We Card is still digesting, Anderson acknowledged, noting that “the ink is still drying on some of the laws.” As of now, the organization’s pattern is to have a full synopsis of each law available at least 30 days before the effective date. We Card also makes updated employee training materials available to retailers at the same time. “Normally, we would switch it at the appropriate minute of the day when the law becomes effective, but retailers have asked for training in advance because they are gearing their employees up to transition their stores to take on the new law,” said Anderson. As if the Tobacco 21 changes aren’t hard enough to keep up with, some states have carved out exemptions for adult consumers in the military, and other states have grandfathered in adult consumers who turned 18 before the date change. “Arkansas, as an example, has an exception for military ID and an additional exception if a customer turns 19 by Dec. 31,” Anderson pointed out. Arkansas brings T21 statewide Sept. 1. “Texas has 18-year-olds grandfathered in,” he added. We Card’s microsite offers a free 10-minute training course, which it refers to as a “booster course.” According to Anderson, this is valuable to retailers in states that have not migrated to 21 as well because it is a booster, if you will, on the minimum age and the age to ask. The course branches out into the various exceptions depending on the locality the retail employee selects. “We also speak to the sort of overreaching why some of these states have decided to raise the age, because often it is mentioned in the legislation that young adults are buying tobacco products on behalf of underage

Another problem retailers will more than likely face — and one We Card wants to help them address — is a tobacco consumer who is 18 or older but under 21. These consumers were able to buy a pack of cigarettes or a cigar one day, but not the next. “We have a training technique, and it could be used for any scenario, to handle politely with customer service but firmly inform a customer,” Anderson said. “Short of a multimillion-dollar state campaign alerting everyone to the new minimum age, the first time a customer hears it may be from a frontline sales associate at the counter.” Raising awareness will be ongoing, he said, adding that the organization intends to boost T21 awareness as part of its We Card Month in September.

Public Support Is Growing With more states joining the T21 movement, public opinion appears to be in their corner. Research commissioned by Altria Client Services in December 2018 found that: • Nearly three-quarters of voters support the increase, with 48 percent strongly in support; and • A majority of both current cigarette consumers (58 percent) and e-vapor consumers (56 percent) support raising the legal purchase age for tobacco products to 21. A poll conducted by Gallup in July showed even stronger support. The survey, fielded July 1-12, found that 73 percent of Americans say the minimum age to buy tobacco products should be raised to 21. Support for the policy change is strongest among adults aged 65 and older, although majorities in the other age groups also support it. Support is slightly lower among those aged 18 to 29; however, even within this demographic, two in three support the increase. In addition, 76 percent of women and 69 percent of men support hiking the minimum age to 21. And nearly three-quarters of nonsmokers support the change in age restriction, while a smaller majority of 64 percent of current smokers agree, the Gallup poll revealed. CSN

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The Growler Affect Growler stations are growing in prevalence in the convenience channel By Renée M. Covino TODAY’S NEW-BUILD AND REMODELED

convenience stores seem to be growling for growlers. That is, growler stations are becoming more prevalent in the convenience channel as c-store operators build new locations or upgrade existing ones. Consider some of these recent growler happenings at c-stores: • 7-Eleven Inc. opened an innovative Lab Store and experiential testing ground in Dallas that pours local craft beers at a growler station.

growler stations, the offering is seen as “a good way for us to give our customers options for beer varieties that are only available on tap,” said Christina Gayman, director of public relations. She also told CSNews that the 15 stores with growler stations (out of its 150 convenience stores in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin) consider them “a complement to the existing craft beer sections,” further providing the wide variety that today’s consumers want.

• Hy-Vee Fast & Fresh, a new c-store concept from Hy-Vee Inc. that also functions as a smaller grocery store, made its debut in Davenport, Iowa, late last year, featuring a growler craft beer station that offers 12 varieties. • Dash In’s new large-format “neighborhood concept store,” unveiled last summer in the Richmond, Va., market, introduced a growler and crowler (cans instead of bottles) program — a first for the retailer. • Blue Goose Market, an independent c-store in Oregon, which won Best Original Design in the 2018 Convenience Store News Store Design Contest, includes a growler filling station that serves microbrews, ciders and hard teas on tap. What is the appeal of growlers for these retailers? In the case of 7-Eleven, new proprietary beverage platforms and services are a prominent part of the tests being conducted at the Lab Store, according to Chris Tanco, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Irving, Texas-based chain. “At this particular location, customers are able to spend a longer amount of time in the store with the sit-down concept in Laredo Taco Company,” Tanco told CSNews. “We wanted to be able to give customers the option to enjoy a local craft beer on draft with their lunch or dinner, as well as take home a larger portion, if needed. We wanted to surprise and delight customers by providing a convenient way to get great local craft brews.” At Hy-Vee, which has 15 stores overall with

As part of Dash In’s growler program, eight taps change frequently and feature beer selections from local and regional craft breweries.

Dash In decided growlers/crowlers were a good fit for its new store format given the prominence of craft brewers in the Richmond market. As part of the program, eight taps change frequently and feature beer selections from local and regional craft breweries. Dash In, which operates more than 50 stores throughout Maryland, Virginia and Delaware, reportedly works with 21 Virginia breweries, 20 local breweries and six microbreweries for its growler/ crowler station. Customers can purchase a 32-ounce canned crowler or a 64-ounce glass growler, or refill their own growler. Blue Goose Market believes in rotating its 10 growler station taps quite frequently to keep it interesting for customers. Almost all of the brews it offers hail from the Pacific Northwest region. This local angle is part of its special “Oregon experience,” according to a company spokesperson. Aside from the local angle, another important element of growler stations for c-stores is that they connote freshness, coupled with a commitment to sustainability, noted Alex Smith, business analyst with Cadent Consulting Group.

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Dash In offers both 32-ounce canned crowlers and 64-ounce glass growlers, or customers can bring their own growler to fill.

“Growlers can create a beer destination for c-stores,” he told CSNews. “Retailers have noticed an overall increase in beer sales, without eroding canned or bottled beer sales, when growlers were added.”

Not Without Challenges As with any new venture, however, growler stations have their challenges. They take up a lot of space, for one, which is why new larger-concept convenience stores are more likely to incorporate them. Their cost must also be factored in. Smith estimates that, in general, a good growler system can carry a price tag in the “low six figures.” There’s regulation to consider, too. Currently, 34 states allow growlers, but Texas and California do not, Smith pointed out. “Some states require separate licenses for growler sales. If sampling is allowed, that’s a huge plus. Certain states and regions don’t allow retailers to offer growlers, which limits the opportunity,” he added.

is customer demand, Gayman shared. What’s more, the retailer expects its growler future to move more toward crowlers — beer on tap that is canned. Hy-Vee is already offering and experimenting with crowlers. At 7-Eleven, while the growler station at its Lab Store has “built great excitement around the beer category,” Tanco said at this time, the chain is still testing and learning. “We will study sales results and customer feedback on this feature to help determine if it will launch in other stores around the country,” he said. Smith of Cadent Consulting envisions future expansion beyond the standard beer growlers. He foresees “unlimited opportunity” around craft cider, kombucha, specialty soft drinks and even CBD (cannabidiol) beverages. Different types of growlers and implementation systems are also on the watch list. This includes wide-mouth containers, metal containers, trendy designs and custom logos.

How will c-store growler stations evolve moving forward? For Hy-Vee, the retailer is definitely planning to expand its number of growler stations. The chain is already adding them in states where it is legal and where there

“C-stores have an opportunity to become total beer destinations and enhance their fresh and sustainable credentials,” Smith said. CSN

Four Must-Dos for a Successful Growler Station 1. Keep It Clean To avoid the growth of bacteria, yeast and mold, which can quickly build up and degrade the quality of the beer, everything needs to be kept super-clean. Cleanliness is the most important practice in a successful growler station. 2. Emphasize the Reusability Factor The “green” aspect of a growler station is a great way to send a message about a c-store’s commitment to the environment and sustainability. This is also an aspect that encourages return customer visits on a regular basis. 3. Leverage the Local Angle Want to really lock in a loyal growler following? Make sure your beer-loving customers have access to hard-to-get, draft-only brews, as well as seasonal and regional rarities at your growler station. 4. Promote, Promote, Promote Don’t overlook the obvious opportunities for promotion. Weekends and key holidays throughout the year are great times to capture sales in this highly expandable consumption category. Source: Alex Smith, business analyst, Cadent Consulting Group

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Uncorking the C-store Wine Potential Profitable, space-efficient and fun, canned wine is making headway in convenience stores By Debby Garbato “WITH FEW EXCEPTIONS, convenience stores have always been the last stop on the train for wine.”

This statement by Andrew Browne, founder and CEO of canned wine supplier Precept Wine, is not surprising given that c-stores generate just 5.6 percent of total offpremise wine sales, according to Nielsen figures. However, recent years have seen c-store operators across the nation working to improve their place in the wine-world hierarchy. Two factors working in tandem could achieve that: 1. Millennials, aged 23 to 38, love wine and are now all of legal drinking age; and 2. Canned wine is gaining serious traction in

c-stores over the last year or two.

Reflecting millennials’ casual beverage preferences, canned wine comes in ready-toconsume small portions and can be stocked and displayed in limited space, making it an ideal fit for the convenience channel. In 2018, canned wine sales totaled $69 billion

across channels, up 69 percent over 2017. In 2012, sales were just $2 million, indicated Nielsen. More millennials (36 percent) consume wine than other age group, such as boomers (at 34 percent), noted the Wine Market Council, a nonprofit industry association dedicated to advancing the U.S. wine market. Total c-store wine sales increased 20 percent in 2018 to $1.7 billion. This growth outperformed other channels. The number of c-stores selling wine grew by 1 percent, according to NACS. Today, wine is carried by about half of the industry’s 153,000-plus U.S. locations and can be found at c-stores in more than 40 states.

Why Canned Wine Works “Cans fit c-stores, fit our customer and what we do,” sad Erick Dowling, adult beverage and lottery category manager for Salt Lake City-based Maverik Inc., which operates more than 300 c-stores in 11 western states. “Millennials see wine as a social occasion. It’s not the serious thing it was. Bottles eat up space. With cans, you can condense a shelf and get more bang for your buck. It’s definitely proven itself.” Maverik has sold wine for 15 years, offering it in more than 80 of its roughly 330 locations. The popularity of craft beer is also helping canned wine’s growth. In the early 2000s, craft beer introduced c-store consumers to higher-priced beverages. In 2015, craft beer

Research shows more millennials consume wine than any other age group.

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THE AMERICAN WINE CONSUMER Source: Wine Market Council, 2018

All American Adults



Drink Wine

Drink Other Do Not Alcohol Drink Alcohol

Wine Drinkers by Gender

26% 44%


was successfully launched in cans. Today, the Brewers Association reports that cans represent about 30 percent of packaged production. “Craft beer proved quality can come in cans with no taste penalty,” said John Truchard, founder and CEO of JaM Cellars, whose Butter Chardonnay and Candy Rose canned wines have become popular in c-stores. “Especially among millennials, this eliminated any stigma against canned wine.” Historically, glass bottles’ space inefficiency made many c-stores avoid wine or limit their assortment. Bottles occupy valuable space in coolers and cannot be stacked like beer. Most bottles are not conducive to the smallerserve, immediate-consumption needs of many c-store shoppers. And most c-stores lack the facilities to store wine properly. “Many [of our] competitors aren’t in the wine business,” said Dowling. “It’s hard to merchandise and has never turned as quickly as other categories, although the dollar ring is there.” Shelf-stable, canned wine stacks well in coolers or floor displays. “It’s a much more efficient process,” said Browne of Precept Wine, whose popular brands include House Wine, Day Drinking by Little Big Town, and Ste Chapelle. “If there’s one cold shelf, I can convert that to two with cans. Cans can deliver 43 percent margins, improving profitability per square foot.” Another advantage of canned wine is that it does not require a corkscrew or a glass. Cans travel well, too, particularly to outdoor venues where glass is undesirable. The cans are lined, so metal does not meet the wine. Often priced at $4 to $6, one 375-milliliter can equals about two servings of wine. Taste and quality are in line with bottled wines in the $10 range. “People don’t think of c-stores for $20, $30 wine,” said Ross Dawkins, winemaker at Stupendous Cellars, whose Right Now brand comes in 250-milliliter cans. “But it’s a different marketing pitch for a can. It’s fun and less serious.”

A C-store Sales Explosion Maverik introduced canned wine into its stores just over a year ago. Sales are up 60 percent, with much trial and

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Wine Drinkers by Frequency

Wine Drinkers by Age/Generation


6% I-Generation (22-23)

High Frequency Drink Wine More Than Once a Week

96% Millennials (24-41) 19% Gen Xers (42-53)


34% Boomers (54-72)

Occasional Drink Wine Less Often

9% Matures (73+)

repeat purchasing, said Dowling. During its spring and fall resets, Maverik expanded canned wine’s shelf space. Sections range from three-foot endcaps to seven-foot sets. In coolers, 23 stores have full wine doors, while 74 stores have one shelf. Prices range from $4.99 to $8.99. At West Des Moines, Iowa-based convenience store chain Yesway, canned wine grew 500 percent in six months, reported Derek Gaskins, senior vice president of merchandising and procurement. “We went from being skeptical to it being a dominant growth vehicle.” Yesway is serious about wine. Out of 150 locations, 65 offer wine. Sections average four to eight feet, except in South Dakota and Wyoming where Yesway has side-byside, interconnected c-stores and liquor stores with 40-foot wine sections. Its canned wine offerings include Gallo brands, Cupcake, and an exclusive Yesway Rose brand. “We’re striving to become a wine destination,” Gaskins said, noting that wine distributors frequently stage in-store samplings, which help drive canned wine sales. Beaverton, Ore.-based Plaid Pantry, with 100-plus stores in Washington and Oregon, is also big in wine, with sections ranging from four to 16 feet. Boxed and Tetra packaging have been driving growth, but “cans will take volume from glass and Tetra,” predicted Tim Jones, Plaid Pantry’s director of marketing. “Boxed wine fits a different purpose.” 7-Eleven Inc., the largest c-store chain in the U.S., is growing its private label wine stock. In December, 7-Eleven unveiled Roamer, a proprietary canned wine in chardonnay and Syrah-based rose varieties. The Roamer name suggests portability. “’Roamer’ reflects how people will enjoy this wine — attending concerts, picnics or at the beach,” said Tim Cogil, senior director of private brands for 7-Eleven. Since 2017, 7-Eleven has unveiled several proprietary bottled wines as well. “7-Eleven was a laggard in wine,” said Precept Wine’s Browne. “They’re now taking a leadership role.” Canned wine’s popularity has even prompted some c-stores to enter the wine category for the first time. “We see retailers that never carried wine offering it and others where it’s added value,” observed Andrew Cristallo,




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Plaid Pantry is big on wine, with its sections ranging from four feet to 16 feet.

Estates. “Its portability opened many use cases.”

Not Your Grandparents’ Wine Canned wine probably would have disappointed previous generations, but millennials grew up with the internet, where choices abound and there’s no pretentions. “Millennials are less swayed by tradition,” said Dawkins of Stupendous Cellars. “In the computer age, they know there’s many options.” As in other product categories, millennials’ knowledge and fondness for choices have paved the way for niche companies and products, said Ryan Harms, owner and founder of Oregon winery Union Wine Co., maker of the Underwood brand of canned wine. “Wine traditions are ripe for disruption. Consumers want brands to be innovative to meet their needs,” Harms told Convenience Store News. These attitudes have expanded wine’s footprint. “Twenty years ago, there were lots of ‘cork dorks,’ but not as many wine consumers,” said Browne. In addition to millennials, older, affluent shoppers often purchase canned wine for casual events where they do not want glass, such as at barbecues, beach houses or on boats. Unlike with bottled wine, Plaid Pantry’s Jones believes brand is less important to canned wine consumers. “Much to the chagrin of some winery folks, canned wine further deemphasizes brand vs. package form, varietal and price, especially in c-stores,” he said. “There isn’t room to carry repetitive brands of the same form/ varietal/price point.” Canned wine labels emphasize simple tastes, flavors and blends — not pedigree or country of origin, said WineSociety co-founder and CEO Angela Wilson. This makes them easy to understand and less intimidating. WineSociety is a monthly subscription service that aims to make quality wine more approachable, convenient and affordable. The brand names of canned wine also are often short and easy to remember. WineSociety chose Tempt, Fate, Chance and Pleasure. These brands’ cans even carry millennialfriendly messages like, “Pairs well with yoga pants.” “Millennials appreciate quality, but care about price and convenience,” Wilson added.

Widely-Known Brands Get Canned And it’s not just niche companies driving the canned wine boom.

Francis Ford Coppola Winery first introduced canned wine in 2003. Some small players followed suit. But most introductions occurred over the past three years, including those from larger suppliers — many of which added cans under existing labels. In May, Ste. Michelle launched its 14 Hands wine brand in cans. Union Wine also offers its products in both cans and bottles, as does Coppola with its Sofia Wines and Diamond Collection. “There’s familiar name recognition,” said Coppola winemaker Tondi Bolkan. E&J Gallo Winery’s decades-old Barefoot Cellars brand comes in cans, boxes, Tetra packaging and bottles. Marketed mainly to millennials, the $667-million brand is the leading off-premise label, IRI data shows. Its c-store market share is double that of most other channels. “We continue to enjoy steady convenience channel growth off a large base,” said Herb Smith, vice president of sales at E&J Gallo. “Millennials enjoy the positioning of Barefoot and flexibility of packaging. Packaging’s convenience and portability is the biggest growth impetus.” Gallo’s Barefoot and Dark Horse labels come in 250-milliliter and 375-milliliter cans, as well as in two- and four-packs. Prices are $5 to $8. Its higher-end Prophecy brand also comes in cans. Trinchero Family Estates, a wine maker in the heart of Napa Valley, added 375-milliliter cans to its Pomelo brand in June in sauvignon blanc and rose varieties, priced at $6. A leader in single-serve packaging, Trinchero successfully introduced 187-milliliter bottles of its Sutter Home brand in the 1980s, which are still sold today. Sutter and Pomelo, along with Trinchero’s Bandit brand, come in Tetra Paks as well. “The 187-milliliter bottles were a stepping stone to consumers embracing cans,” said Brie Wohld, marketing director at Trinchero Family Estates. “But I’m not sure previous generations would have celebrated cans the same way.” The jury is still out as to the staying power of canned wine and to what degree the segment will ultimately help c-stores grow their wine business. Suppliers continue to experiment with various blends and even carbonated wines. Opinions differ as to which size cans and multi-packs perform best. “We’re seeing different products and approaches,” said Ste. Michelle’s Cristallo. “But it’s still a young category.” CSN

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Getting Your GM Category on Point Don’t let the sixth-largest sales category fly under the radar in your c-stores By Renée M. Covino TOBACCO, BEVERAGES, CANDY, SNACKS — these are the most common packaged product purchases driving traffic to convenience stores today. But there is another growing category that many c-store operators may be overlooking.

General merchandise (GM) is the sixth-largest sales category for the convenience channel and it’s an expanding one, with sales rising 4.3 percent per store in 2018, according to the most recent Convenience Store News Industry Report. The general merchandise category encompasses an eclectic mix of segments, including automotive products, batteries, hardware/housewares, sunglasses, toys and apparel.

Sunglasses and other general merchandise items can deliver high margins and incremental basket-building purchases.

At many chains, though, general merchandise could use some more attention.

also drive impulsivity or incremental basket-building purchases, which translates to more sales and profits.

“General merchandise generally flies under the radar in the channel because people don’t typically go to convenience stores specifically for general merchandise items,” reasoned Peter Keaney, senior business analyst at Cadent Consulting Group in Wilton, Conn. “And [the items] are often sequestered in a corner or end of aisle in convenience stores; essentially, they are buried in the back.”

General Pointers

But when given ample attention, general merchandise can be a success story for c-store operators for three primary reasons: 1. It delivers against the promise of the channel — offering convenience for a number of items that would require a trip of greater distance or commitment. 2. Items in the category deliver particularly high margins, up to 50 percent. 3. Items

in the category

There are several opportunities and best practices available to c-store retailers to help these general merchandise subcategories fit into the store layout better. Keaney suggests targeting automotive and travel-related general merchandise by establishing a “travel-to-go section” that stocks what customers need for an automotive travel trip. “This fits in perfectly with many c-store locations,” he said. Another of his suggestions is to leverage the regional/geographic nature of some of the GM subcategories. “Stock more sunglasses in the South, apparel to complement the local climate, and more lighters in high-consumption tobacco areas,” he advises. He also believes general merchandise items shouldn’t be forced to be in their own aisle. Rather, complementary placement is ideal. “Place lighters near tobacco products, and coolers and plastic cups near beer,” Keaney offered as examples. And when it comes to branded products, he said the focus should not be on special sizes or unique products, but the most common size of the leading brands.

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Private-label general merchandise, such as 7-Eleven’s Slurpee towel, is seen as an opportunity to soak up more sales in the category.

“Broad brand assortment and item depth is not necessary,” he said. “The leading brand and best-selling item should be stocked with selective private-label offerings to help expand retailer margins,” he explained.

• Aim for right-sized displays to maximize space. The company’s primary sunglass display is a 14-inch square, making it easy to fit most anywhere in the store.

Made in the Shades

• Get faster turnover with a smaller display. In the case of sunglasses, a 72-piece unit vs. a 144-piece unit can be perfectly positioned between the cold vault and the cash register, Underwood advised.

C-stores should also consider that general merchandise appeals to the rapidly expanding customer base of the convenience channel, according to industry insiders. “C-store customers were commonly thought to be young to middle-aged men, but the gender gap has closed in recent years,” Keaney said. “Women are more of a GM target at c-stores now, and there is a large segment of customers who are simply passing through c-stores, which leads to more impulse purchases and broader general merchandise appeal.” Al Underwood, president of American Style Sunglasses, a supplier to c-stores, says he sees the customer base changing from young people to working-class professionals, many of whom would have passed on c-store sunglasses in the past, but now recognize that they can offer the same protection without the pain of losing an expensive pair. What’s more, sunglasses and other GM items “are often used, abused and lost, and are prime for repurchase/ replacement — repeat sales,” Underwood pointed out. His shades-specific pointers for c-stores include: • Go with one-price marketing to improve impulse sales. “Classic American styles are consistent sellers in the c-store channel because of this,” he said. “Having top sellers at a single low price for impulse sales works best.”

• Make sure any display is kept full. Nothing has less appeal than a mostly empty general merchandise display, he said.

Future Stakes Short-term, the future potential of general merchandise appears to be relatively strong. The category’s 4.3-percent growth rate last year exceeded the channel’s overall in-store sales growth rate of 2.2 percent. Longer term, c-stores may struggle to match other channels like dollar stores, which offer a larger selection of general merchandise and specifically attract customers for this category, Keaney warned. C-stores that don’t make the effort now in general merchandise will be dominated by small-footprint dollar stores, he predicts. The growth of online sales for general merchandise could also have negative consequences. The success of general merchandise in convenience stores relies on incremental merchandising/purchasing, according to Keaney. He believes private-label GM, such as 7-Eleven Inc.’s success with its private-label Slurpee brand poly/cotton blend towel, represents an opportunity for c-stores to increase profits from this already high-margin category, plus protect some of its future stake in the business. CSN

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The CBD Opportunity in HBC Many consumers are interested in CBD-infused products due to their purported health and wellness benefits By Renée M. Covino CANNABIDIOL (CBD)

is all the rage these days, with a great deal of the consumer interest happening in the health and beauty care (HBC) category in the form of CBD topical products, tinctures, beauty items, oils, pills and more.

meaning it pulls out of the soil in which it is grown anything that is dirty, such as pesticides and heavy metals,” he explained. “Limit the CBD products you invest in to those that have third-party purity report lookup available with a QR code scan from each product’s package.”

In a 2019 consumer research study it conducted, Nielsen found that in the health and wellness space, CBD products meet many of the same needs as traditional HBC categories, such as ailment treatment and general health and wellness.

Adam Smith, an advisor at Allied Corp., agrees that “the public has been searching for something that is clean, effective and affordable in order to help with daily ailments.” Based in Canada with operations in Colombia, Allied Corp. is a cannabis medical research company that’s focused on developing therapeutic solutions for those suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and PTSI (Post Traumatic Stress Injury) symptoms.

Not to be confused with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) marijuana products, CBD is a naturally occurring cannabinoid compound found in marijuana and hemp plants. Hempbased CBD products, which do not have any psychoactive effects, are what traditional manufacturers, retailers and consumers are so excited about. The rise in hemp-based CBD products has been, in part, facilitated by the passage of the Farm Bill in December 2018, which removed hemp (and hemp-derived CBD) from the Schedule 1 controlled substances list. This opened the door for retailers to sell non-consumable, hemp-based CBD products with no legal risk. Various industry estimates put domestic CBD sales for 2018 at a little more than $1 billion, with the prediction that it could be a $24 billion industry by 2023. “One of the reasons consumers are so interested in CBD-infused products in health and beauty care items is due to the overall cultural shift underway in the U.S. to reduce one’s chemical exposure, selecting ‘cleaner’ personal care items with all-natural ingredients,” said Andy Rodosevich, CEO and co-founder of Hemp Depot, based in Colorado, which touts the highest-quality hemp CBD items in the United States. “Sephora shows a perfect example of this trend with the launch of the ‘Clean at Sephora’ label last year.”

Smith said there’s been a huge push throughout the U.S. to create a better-informed customer base. Thus, consumers are looking for more natural and organic methods of healing. “The growing opioid epidemic is a major concern for the entire country and consumers are demanding different ways to cure their pain; they want something that works with their bodies and provides relief without all the side effects. CBD has been promoted as something that could be that solution,” he said. The way Barry Hirsch, marketing director for RE Botanicals, an organic CBD brand, sees it, many consumers who deal with chronic stress, anxiety and pain “are thrilled to have a plant-based medicine that treats their causes as an alternative to traditional western medicine to treat their symptoms.” Industry insiders offered up six ideas for how c-stores can take advantage of the CBD opportunity across the HBC category in their locations:

Idea #1: Smaller Packaging Rodosevich believes that the most profitable opportunities for convenience stores can come from grab-and-go, smaller packaging of CBD pills at the checkout counter. Hemp Depot just launched countertargeted CBD pill packs in mid-August, which contain seven pills that wholesale for $3.80 with a suggested retail of $7.99.

The warning to consumers and c-store operators alike is to keep in mind that not all CBD is natural and clean, Rodosevich told Convenience Store News.

“Offering a week supply for a dollar a day makes trying CBD an easier impulse buy for the countless number of customers with growing familiarity and interest in adding CBD to their daily routine,” he said. This is in contrast to the high price points and larger packaging (bottles) currently offered by online and drugstore retailers.

“Hemp is what we call a ‘bio accumulator,’

Along the same lines, Medterra CEO Jay Hartenback says

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the Kentucky-based CBD processor and retailer is seeing “incredible velocity” at c-stores carrying its products due to targeted packaging and displays. “To merchandise it correctly, we have created countertop displays that are designed to hold convenience store offerings — all under $20,” said Hartenback. “These smaller sizes have the same potency, but are offered at a lower price point, which is really resonating with on-the-go shoppers.”

Idea #2: Proprietary Branded Items Smith is already observing major drugstore retailers like CVS and Walgreens contract with CBD companies to develop proprietary branded products for their stores. Forward-thinking c-stores could get in on the privatelabel trend, too. “The fact that retailers are moving so quickly into the space means there’s a growing appetite and demand for these products. Also, the more data that comes out with regards to the efficacy of CBD, the more people will want to get their hands on it,” he said.

Idea #3: Unique Items CBD, as well as the multitude of other cannabinoids found in hemp, can be isolated by processors and infused into any product they want to create, Smith told CSNews. “The primary type of products we are currently seeing are oil-based tinctures,” he said. “However, there are a multitude of other products available because of technology that allows water solubility — like moisturizing lotions, mouth spray and muscle pain relief, to name a few.” Other top CBD/HBC trends are salves for muscle and nerve pain, tinctures for helping with anxiety and sleep, and bath bombs used for relaxation and helping people lessen the after-effects of chemotherapy, according to Luke Dumond, director of sales for Alabama-based Jessie’s Branch, a national CBD wholesaler. Hirsch of RE Botanicals echoes that there are new and unique delivery systems for CBD, although topicals and tinctures remain a large percentage of the category. C-store displays that feature small packs of capsules, rollons, creams and more will be very successful, he predicts.

Idea #4: Demographics Driven The businesses that currently excel in CBD product sales are varied and include chiropractors, pharmacies, smoke shops, salons, spas, holistic stores, and big-box retailers such as Walmart, Walgreens, CVS and Bed, Bath & Beyond, according to Stacy Self, vice president of marketing and business development for Miracle Nutritional Products, based in Florida and touting thirdparty testing for all of its CBD products. C-store operators that scout the demographics of the areas surrounding their stores, as well as the businesses in the area that already sell CBD items, will have the best chance of excelling in the category, she said. “It is imperative to hit the right price point to match up with your consumer,” Self noted.

Seeking Relief Consumer interest in cannabis and cannabis-infused products is not just about recreation, according to Nielsen. The researcher recently reported that among U.S. adults who say they would likely consume cannabis if it were legally available, their top reasons are all tied to ailment treatment or prevention. The reasons include: • • • • • • • •

Treatment of chronic pain (85%) Improvement of mental health (82%) Treatment of minor injuries (81%) To aid sleep (77%) Relaxation (74%) Treatment of non-pain medical condition (63%) Prevention of diseases or ailments (60%) Improvement of physical health (58%)

Additionally, c-stores in trade areas where Whole Foods stores are located should especially target CBD consumers in those areas, added James Savard, executive vice president for Metro Commercial, a Northeast retail brokerage firm. Areas like these tend to be affluent markets with a high percentage of college graduates, and would be very ripe for the latest CBD/ HBC items, he said.

Idea #5: Everyday People CBD consumers are no longer on the fringe; they are everyday people. “They are professionals, athletes and everyday people of all shapes, sizes and capabilities,” said Dr. Sean Callan, senior vice president of innovation and operations at Colorado-based Ellipse Analytics, a lab that analyzes CBD products for accuracy and contaminants. “They are busy, they are running in to grab a few things, they see CBD near the register in a trial pack and perhaps they heard about it on the news or from friends. Perhaps they are headed home from the gym or to a busy meeting and are looking for something to take the edge off.” This is what makes convenience stores the perfect place to introduce consumers to CBD, he believes, as c-stores attract everyday people. And he noted that where CBD products are headed falls right in line with what c-stores sell. “While the current focus is geared toward supplements and beauty, I expect to see greater penetration into functional foods and drinks,” said Callan. “The FDA has some work to do when it comes to regulation, but there is a growing demand for CBD across food and consumer packaged goods.”

Idea #6: Homework & Training Finding manufacturers who are compliant, do an exceptional job of product testing and have easy-tounderstand packaging can help c-stores get started. From there, Veritas Farms’ Vice President of Channel Development Mike Krouskos said stores should offer a wellmerchandised hemp/CBD center with good callouts. Veritas Farms is a vertically integrated agribusiness focused on producing whole plant, full spectrum hemp oils and extracts. “Most importantly, train an educated staff because they are the last line of information for a consumer who may be learning about the category,” Krouskos said. CSN

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Destination: Car Wash How to become the go-to car wash by cultivating and maintaining customer loyalty By Renée M. Covino CUSTOMER LOYALTY is

the lifeblood of any retail business today — and of any service that is part of that business, such as a car wash in the case of convenience stores. However, cultivating and maintaining customer loyalty is no easy task these days. “The ability to attract customers to your establishment is job one. After that, the goal is to build ring and cultivate longer-term loyalty,” said Don Stuart, managing partner of Cadent Consulting Group, based in Wilton, Conn. “The c-store car wash offers the opportunity for an incremental ring that is both convenient and money-saving.” With consolidation in the professional car wash arena making headlines, the time is ripe for convenience stores to position their car washes as the go-to destination. “Chain convenience stores already have clout and leverage to compete in what is generally regarded as a ‘mom-and-pop’ business; this is an inherent advantage,” said Stuart. Creating loyalty is a twofold process. C-stores must first attract car wash customers (typically away from professional car washes) and then maintain them, hopefully for life.

How to Cultivate Car Wash Loyalty Best practices for initially developing a robust car wash clientele include: • Offer a car wash that is both convenient and high-quality. It’s the basic success formula for a reason: it’s what customers want and if they don’t get it, they’ll go elsewhere. “Your car wash must be a good product, which means it must produce clean, dry, shiny cars,” said Kevin Collette, vice president of sales for Sonny’s, a car wash equipment manufacturer. “Secondly, the wash must be convenient, which means it must be fast, because today’s time-deprived consumers will not wait.” • Create linkage at the pump. Every fill-up on the forecourt should offer the customer a discount on an immediate car wash, according to Stuart. • Create linkage at the checkout. Every payment made at the store’s checkout should trigger a daily car wash discount being offered to the customer.

The Spinx Co. has begun to open a series of Ride ‘N Shine car washes that feature high-volume tunnels.

• Create linkage to goods, such as coffee. The opportunity to link goods and fuel to the car wash are options that a professional car wash does not have, Collette noted. “From a c-store perspective, the opportunities are almost endless,” he said. • Offer a car wash loyalty program. C-stores should be emulating professional car washes with loyalty programs that offer a free wash after “X” amount of washes purchased. But c-stores also have the advantage of being able to link a loyalty program to goods and services, such as buy a wash and get a free coffee or fountain drink, according to Luke Schoenbeck, marketing director for Mark VII, a provider of car wash equipment and technology.

How to Maintain Long-Term Car Wash Loyalty Preserving customer loyalty is another ball of (car) wax. For long-term success, industry experts offer up the following best practices for maintaining loyalty: • Have a system in place to continuously maintain your equipment. “You need machines that are always running and delivering a consistent, clean, dry, shiny car,” said Schoenbeck. Some c-stores are hiring dedicated personnel for this. • Make your car wash even more convenient. Video monitors at the entry terminal can be very useful for customers. “Videos can explain about the car wash options and even provide a tutorial on how to pull into the bay,” Schoenbeck said. “Some people get a little nervous about pulling in straight and lining the car up appropriately.” • Offer multiple payment options. Pay in the store, pay at the pump or pay at the car wash terminal, with cash or credit/debit card, should be easy and fast.

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• Upgrade your car wash loyalty program. Monthly unlimited wash programs offering free vacuums, an endless towel program, incredibly effective and “show” chemical applications and, if possible, dedicated entry lanes for members are driving the “Express” car wash boom across North America, according to Collette. The more benefits offered, the more likely customers will stay loyal. “Additionally, c-store operators with multiple locations can offer the loyalty program at many different locations, thereby making the program that much more convenient,” he noted.

Gate Petroleum’s new Gate Express car washes offer free vacuums and monthly unlimited wash memberships.

• Get creative with special days. Marketing your car wash can mean holding a monthly or more frequent Men’s Day, Women’s Day, Seniors Day, etc., Stuart advised. He also suggests hosting a Dirty Day, which means getting an extra “scrub rub” shortly after storms to get the salt out. Additionally, offering a free 24-hour clean guarantee in case it rains or snows will go far with customers.

The Suds of the Future Of course, what resonates today with customers is open to change, as consumers are becoming increasingly discerning — especially as the younger generations come of age. When asked how he envisions the convenience channel further improving car wash service in the near future, Collette said he foresees the c-store operators of the future using sophisticated “pay stations” to sell/market their car wash programs, helping to increase their loyalty base by capitalizing on their volume of sites and variety of products offered. For instance, pay stations and point-of-sale systems are available today that allow an operator to sell washes at any of their stores that can be redeemed at any store.

store that does not have a car wash and redeem it later at a Spinx store that does. The incentive to buy now is tied to the retailer’s fuel/wash loyalty program, according to Collette.

Collette also sees regional and national c-store operators building professional-level “Express Washes” to increase their visibility and boost the bottom line.

Schoenbeck, meanwhile, foresees app-based car wash purchases, similar to what’s happening now in apartment-building laundry rooms. “You link your card to the app, purchase wash credits, then check the app to see if there’s a line at the car wash. The wash bay will have a camera to read license plates or a coded sticker in the windshield to know you’re a part of the app-based loyalty program,” he explained.

“If c-store operators want to improve and compete with professional car washes, they have to create value through performance and convenience,” he said. “They will have to get faster, improve their product through better chemistry and equipment, [and] utilize their affiliated product offerings and market them strategically with loyalty programs.” He points to two regional c-store chains as good examples of this: The Spinx Co., based in Greenville, S.C., and Gate Petroleum, headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla. Spinx has begun to open a series of “Ride ‘N Shine” express washes that feature high-volume tunnels and free vacuums. A customer can buy a wash at a Spinx

Similar to Spinx, Gate Petroleum recently opened several “Gate Express” car washes offering free vacuums and monthly unlimited wash memberships. “Their highvolume sites integrate and complement their c-stores across their marketing area,” said Collette.

Stuart believes the local c-store can become a Saturday morning destination for customers; one go-to place to accomplish all their quick errands — get gas, food, coffee, snacks, a car wash, and perhaps even detailing during special hours. “The convenience store can offer a much friendlier waiting environment than your typical car wash. It can become a new ‘third place’ away from home and work,” he said. CSN

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A to


shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.” But all convenience store operators know that in this industry, in particular, the opposite of that is true. Attractive, eye-catching storefronts and forecourts are advantageous in a seemingly overcrowded marketplace that vies for the time, attention and dollars of shoppers. Whether situated on a college campus, located off the side of the highway or smack-dab in the center of a small town, the winners of the 2019 Convenience Store News Store Design Contest prove that they have figured out the best way to give consumers what they want, when and how they want it, and in an attractive package. Elevating their store designs with dramatic colors, bold textures and materials, and vibrant graphics, these retailers embrace their heritage, geographic footprint and signature features to deliver an experiential shopping experience. Now in its 14th year, the CSNews Store Design Contest honors new and rebuilt c-stores whose designs excel in areas such as interior layout, use and effectiveness of signage and logos, and exterior property and landscaping. Store construction or remodeling must have taken place between January 2018 and May 2019. Judging was based on innovation, creativity and the positive impact of the overall design and/or remodel on the business.

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BEST ORIGINAL DESIGN Winner: Enmarket, Pooler, Ga. Designer: Paragon Solutions with Enmarket’s convenience stores wasn’t their style or offerings, but their age. The convenience store chain was successful, but had outgrown its brand and store design, and its legacy stores had grown tired, according to design firm Paragon Solutions, which partnered with the retailer to create a new concept store.


The goal was to develop a prototype that matched the name Enmarket, the rebranded name that the former Enmark launched in 2015. A unique color palette featuring a signature green shade served as the starting point. From there, contemporary materials including stone, brick, metal and wood were blended to present a warm, inviting architecture with clerestory windows, multiple entrances and a drivethru that serves fresh food and beverages to on-the-go customers — a first for the Savannah, Ga.-based chain. The store’s exterior presents a clean, fresh and modern look. Once customers enter the store, they are greeted with warm textures, bright lighting and smells from The Eatery, Enmarket’s proprietary food brand. Variations on the green, brown and orange color scheme help customers identify the different areas of the store and navigate it at a glance, even during high-traffic dayparts when the store is crowded. Comfortable seating makes the store even more welcoming for dine-in customers. “It is obvious from the moment you drive on the site that there is a new brand in town and that brand is Enmarket,” a Paragon spokesperson commented.

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BEST ORIGINAL DESIGN Honorable Mention: Cruizers, Wendell Falls, N.C. Designer: api(+) for the update of the Wendell Falls Cruizers convenience store was simple: to draw in the nearly 75 percent of customers who don’t venture past the fuel pump, according to recent data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.


Cruizers, a division of Holmes Oil Co., tasked design firm api(+) with branding, architecture, interior design, graphics and signage to create a new brand identity and prototype store design. “With 25 existing locations in the North Carolina market, Cruizers Convenience Marketplace recognized the need for a new brand and prototype design that would elevate their position while still appealing to their core working-class customer,” said a spokesperson for api(+). “The key objective was to be recognized as the premier convenience store in North Carolina, offering consistently fulfilling food choices in a fun, interactive environment.” Cruizers’ foodservice offering is a point of difference for the retailer, and both the layout and material selection of the prototype emphasize it. Additionally, a beverage station was created with architectural surroundings. It is divided into fountain drinks, hot beverages and frozen beverages for ease of customer navigation and selection. The fountain drink section is marketed with playful signage and phrasing to highlight Cruizers’ signature fountain drinks, which are dispensed at 34 degrees, with proprietary chewy ice and a satisfaction guarantee. The store’s bright lighting emphasizes cleanliness and safety, with the lighting design itself integrated into the store design. Linear LED lights and pendant lights are used for feature lighting at key service points. The overall design encompasses simple forms, a neutral materials palette with accents of bold colors, combined with brightly colored graphics to create an energetic and inviting space.

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BEST INTERIOR DESIGN Winner: Union Market, Miami Shores, Fla. Designer: Paragon Solutions TODAY’S MODERN conveniences are breaking barriers to serve customers wherever and whenever with amenities like drive-thru and delivery. Barry University administrators believe students and faculty, who face limitations like location accessibility and time constraints, shouldn’t be exempt from this equation. That’s why they sought to create a new modern convenience store, combining some of the traditional elements of the bookstore and the snack shop.

Debuting Jan. 17, Union Market at Landon Student Union is sure to raise the GPA of the student body, according to the c-store’s nominator. Embracing a “Live Well & Thrive” school of thought throughout the store space, Union Market’s bright, modern atmosphere features minimalistic graphics and pops of bright green throughout. Clean white subway tile and warm wood finishes provide a sleek contrast against gray finishes. Large photo decals in the seating area embrace student life, and signage calling out to “Hydrate” above the packaged beverages cooler and “Live Well” above the fresh grab-and-go cold case reinforce the on-the-move lifestyles of students and faculty.

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BEST INTERIOR DESIGN Honorable Mention: Shop Quik, Manhattan, Kan. Designer: Paragon Solutions SHOP QUIK CONVENIENCE STORES’ latest venture in Manhattan, Kan., weaves together color and textures to offer a pleasurable shopping experience for even the most discerning shopper, the store’s nominator expressed.

Dramatic bursts of color, including shades of blue and green, are cast against popping subway tile, dark reclaimed wood, and sleek stone and metal to call attention to key areas of the store. Overall, Shop Quik’s new store layout provides a bright and uncluttered atmosphere.

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SKY’S THE LIMIT REMODEL Winner: Wawa, Philadelphia Designer: ChangeUp WAWA INC. has been a well-regarded convenience store operator in the Mid-Atlantic states for more than 50 years — and more recently in Florida. But when it wanted to catapult convenience retailing to the next level, it looked closer to home to showcase its vision.

Wawa’s store at Sixth Street and Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, which began welcoming customers in December 2018, launched the brand into its next generation, defined by innovative design, technology and experience. At 11,300 square feet, it is the chain’s largest location to date. The store is located in the historic Public Ledger building next to Independence Hall in Philadelphia’s Old City. In building out the site, the historic details were restored and contemporary touches were added to serve the modern customer. “Given the site’s historical character and proximity to Wawa’s [headquarters], this location was identified as a prime spot for a flagship store,” the retailer explained. “In true nature of a flagship, Wawa increased the typical square footage, added an extra layer of design and included new product offerings.” Wawa also took the design up a notch by including unique elements, such as: custom murals; laser-cut decorative metal panels; inlaid floor details; illuminated columns; lounge seating; and one-off uniform design.

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SKY’S THE LIMIT REMODEL Honorable Mention: Freshies, Orrington, Maine Designer: Paragon Solutions in partnership with designer Paragon Solutions, focused on several key objectives when remodeling its Orrington, Maine, store. These included: playing off the ‘Fresh’ concept; choosing graphics with vibrant colors; and giving a nod to Freshies’ home state of Maine.


According to Fort Worth, Texas-based Paragon Solutions, the first step was to embrace the retailer’s New England/Maine roots and develop an architectural footprint that felt local. Next, bold textures and materials were added to enhance character. Notably, the tomato icon is used playfully in the graphics package and has become a mascot for Freshies. “Finally, the brand was seamlessly intertwined with the store to create a retail experience that is second to none,” the designer said. “Freshies has been reborn and the results are outstanding.” The new prototype store opened its doors on May 1, 2019.

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BEST TRAVEL CENTER DESIGN Winner: Coffee Cup Travel Center, Burbank, S.D. Designer: Paragon Solutions “oasis” that is warm and inviting, Coffee Cup Travel Center in Burbank, S.D., is receiving praise from truckers, travelers and locals alike, with accolades like “Destination travel stop!” “Must see!” and “My favorite stop!”


Operated by Coffee Cup Fuel Stops, Coffee Cup Travel Center taps into amenities, food offers and visuals that make guests feel like they’re at home. The colorful and textural palette begins at the forecourt, where stonework is carried to the exterior fascia of the building and brought inside, casted among pillars and fireplaces. For a rustic, modern feel, both bright and dark wood tones are used elementally in multiple areas, from the floor to merchandisers to signage.

Guests can enjoy the warmth of fireplaces, revive at the lounges, and conduct business at the internet café. They also have multiple food and beverage options to choose from, whether it’s Caribou Coffee, Pizza Hut, Cinnabon, Subway or Coffee Cup’s proprietary items. CSN


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The Future of the Forecourt

Payment innovation, mobile marketing technology and more are transforming the filling-up experience By Tammy Mastroberte

FROM IN-VEHICLE PAYMENT technology and electric vehicle charging, to personalized push-notification offers and at-the-pump ordering, the convenience store forecourt is evolving thanks to emerging technology. Years ago, paying at the pump with a credit card was a novelty but today, customers are using their mobile phones and, in some cases, cars to pay at the pump, and even placing orders from the store while filling up their gas tanks.

Currently, the biggest trends are personalized marketing and frictionless commerce, with mobile payments leading the way, according to Aaron McLean, chief operating officer at Stuzo, a frictionless commerce technology provider. As of the second quarter of 2019, 16 percent of the top 100 U.S. convenience and fuel retail operators offered mobile pay-at-the-pump capabilities, which is up from only 6 percent at the beginning of 2018, McLean cited. Stuzo expects this number to grow to more than 20 percent by the end of 2019.

“We’ve recommended that operators consider experimenting with a mobile express lane, where only mobile payments are accepted,” McLean told Convenience Store News. “The objective here would be to differentiate the mobile experience from the non-mobile experience and make the mobile experience faster and more valuable for the consumer.” Such a move could help drive greater adoption of mobile payments, which would be a win-win for both the customer — seeking faster and easier payment — and the operator, as the value of the mobile consumer is multiple times more than the non-mobile, McLean explained. “Mobile consumers tend toward purchasing higher grades of premium fuel,” he noted.

Mobile Marketing In terms of personalized marketing, c-store chains are experimenting with geofencing to message current customers when they come within a certain distance of a store, or while they are at the pump getting gas outside the store. In some cases, these messages are personalized offers based on that particular customer’s transaction history, designed to entice them to come to the location.

PayByCar, a new in-car payment option, went live in April at an Alltown gas station in Massachusetts.

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BP joined forces with GetUpside, a cash-back app, to provide a differentiated marketing program for its branded marketers.

To increase visits among current customers and attract new customers, BP is using an app called GetUpside. The app knows what customers nearby the store location are not yet customers and attracts them using personalized offers based on transaction history, according to Alex Kinnier, co-founder and CEO of GetUpside, based in Washington, D.C.

program to BP branded marketers, who are receiving an opportunity to earn incremental, profitable gallons from GetUpside users. And the best part is, unlike many traditional loyalty programs, GetUpside’s platform provides measurable results and access to comprehensive reporting,” said Nicola Buck, head of marketing at BP.

“We use machine learning to study every GetUpside user and their previous purchase history at each gas station, and then we personalize their price of gas to get them to visit,” Kinnier explained. “For every consumer, we are working to find the maximum price they are willing to pay that also maximizes the gallons they will buy at that station. For some people, it might be a 10-cent discount to go from one transaction a month to three. For someone else, it might be only 2 cents.”

BP believes this offering is a complement to its BPme program, which allows customers to pay for fuel from their vehicles. Many current GetUpside users are not the traditional BP or Amoco consumer and may not already participate in BP’s programs, according to Buck.

For example, the system knows if a customer visits for gas but doesn’t go into the store, and it can understand what motivates the person to make purchases, according to Kinnier. The system has been proven to bring in incremental profit to participating stores without any extra work on their part, and it runs on a profit-sharing model. GetUpside only makes money if the system brings in more profitable gallons to the store.

GetUpside, which is currently working with 10,000 merchants and has millions of users, is also working on per-item promotions for the c-store, but that aspect of the system is not live yet, according to Kinnier.

“We joined forces with GetUpside to provide a differentiated marketing

GetUpside guaranteed a 15 percent return on investment for every dollar spent on the program.

“We are constantly looking for new opportunities to attract consumers to BP and Amoco stations. At the same time, our marketing strategy is to build offers and programs that support the digitally enabled consumer,” she explained. “The sophistication and innovation of the GetUpside platform to provide personalized offers in real-time supports both these strategic goals.”

In-Vehicle Payment Another emerging technology trend at the forecourt is in-vehicle payment. Many major oil companies have announced partnerships to offer in-vehicle payment solutions to consumers. Shell has partnered with General Motors; Chevron is working with Honda; and Exxon and Mobil-branded gas stations are working with WEX Inc.’s DriverDash payment solution.

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BP, through its BPme app, allows consumers to pay for fuel from their car by entering the pump number and the amount of fuel they want to purchase. BPme is tied to a loyalty program, so users can also earn rewards while enjoying the convenience of in-vehicle payment. “BPme was extensively tested in 2018 and rolled out to consumers during the fourth quarter, with advertising support beginning in the first quarter of 2019,” said Buck. While a lot of the “infotainment app ecosystems” in vehicles are still very new, and the transaction volume from the car is still low, more and more technology suppliers and operators are working with car manufacturers to bring in-car payments to the pump and order-ahead experiences to consumers, said McLean of Stuzo. The question for the future is: Will consumers prefer to engage with brands and make payment from their vehicles or from their mobile phones? Right now, mobile is gaining much more traction, he observed. Another option for in-car payment that recently hit the market is PayByCar. Based in Boston, PayByCar uses E-ZPass toll transponders to allow people to pay for their gas from their vehicle the same way they pay their highway tolls. The technology went live in April at an Alltown gas station in Massachusetts, owned by Global Partners LP. The chain announced it would roll out PayByCar to additional sites during the year. “There are 35 million E-ZPass members and while they have their tolling accounts, they can create a non-tolling account to enroll in our program by giving us their E-ZPass number and a credit card to keep on file,” explained Anand Raman, president and founder of PayByCar. “As soon as they pull into the gas station, we have an RFID reader installed in the canopy that will read their [E-ZPass] tag.” The information is sent to the cloud to identify the reader, and then it sends the consumer a text saying, “Welcome to Alltown gas station. If you want to use PayByCar, just text the pump number.” The response to the text is the second way of identifying the customer, according to Raman. On the back end, the system sends a request to the point-ofsale to turn on the pump, and when the transaction is complete, a text is sent to the customer with a link to their receipt.

Some retailers, like QuikTrip, are enabling customers to place a c-store order while they fuel up at the pump.

The company is working to integrate with existing loyalty programs in the future.

At-the-Pump Ordering These days, fueling at the pump is not the only thing drivers can accomplish on the forecourt. Some retailers are allowing customers to place an order for the c-store while at the pump. Tulsa, Okla.-based QuikTrip Corp., operator of 800 stores across 11 states, is taking it even further with “Carside Delivery.” The chain brought back this option in April after a roughly 10-year absence, and rebranded it from carhop service to carside delivery. “We wanted to see if attitudes have changed from 10 years ago and thought a fresh start with a new name would be interesting,” QuikTrip spokesman Mike Thornbrugh said, noting that the chain is testing the service at six stores — two each in Tulsa; Wichita, Kan.; and Des Moines, Iowa. At these select stores, the carside delivery service is available for all products inside the store, during the hours of 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. There is signage at the pumps with the store phone number. Customers can call while pumping gas and place their order. “We bring their order to their vehicle at the pump, and take credit or debit only,” Thornbrugh said, explaining that it’s too early yet to report on any results. Overall, providing more convenience to consumers and increasing profits is top of mind for today’s operators, and utilizing technology to engage them at the pump is proving effective for those who are testing new options. While revenues across the industry are up, site trips have been trending down, said McLean, which can be a predictor of the future health of an industry. Boosting trips, money spent and engagement with customers is critical. “The time to get started around innovating around the entire store experience is now, before it’s too late,” he urged. CSN

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Fulfilling High Expectations High’s embarks on a five-year store optimization project that puts foodservice at the forefront By Danielle Romano

At a Glance High’s Operator: Carroll Independent Fuel Co. Location: 1328 Defense Hwy., Gambrills, Md. Unique features: Proprietary foodservice offers; expanded beverage area; upgraded technology such as Skip frictionless payment; a new store layout and brand image

EACH AND EVERY LEGACY BRAND within the convenience channel knows that the secret to longevity is revitalization and adaption. And part of that revitalization is fulfilling the niche today’s c-store customers are searching for: convenience and foodservice.

With that in mind, High’s, a division of Carroll Independent Fuel Co., recently embarked on a five-year store optimization project. The first new store designed to showcase the company’s revitalization efforts opened in June in Gambrills, Md. “The High’s brand has been around since 1928 and was very well known in the MidAtlantic region and along the East Coast. However, as with many legacy brands, there were many iterations developed over time, none of which showcased our foodforward focus,” explained Brad Chivington, senior vice president and brand manager. “We wanted this brand to capture the heritage of our dairy origination with milk and ice cream, as well as a forward look toward signature fresh food offerings, amenities, and a unifying image by embracing the cow as a key element in our image and our symbol of fresh and connection to our dairy origins.” The objectives of the brand revitalization encompass all elements of the High’s brand,

from introducing a new, bright image and a new store layout, to expanding beverage offers, installing signature foodservice elements, and integrating several new technology upgrades. “Our goal is to present a fresh, relevant brand and offer across our footprint that ties all of this together for our guests and our associates,” Chivington noted.

Making the Offer Pop As part of the revitalization, High’s aspires for indoor and outdoor aesthetics that are clean, fresh, open and uncluttered. To achieve this, the c-store operator tapped Scott Willy, co-owner and founder of Three Sixty Group, and his team to target a few key areas: • Keep in touch with the High’s heritage; • Create a clean, modern, retro look; • Integrate High’s proprietary foodservice offerings; and • Develop a signature point of difference in the marketplace that would be warm, inviting and deliver a premier experience for guests with a “wow factor.” The end result begins at the street, where the ID sign calls out High’s Kitchen with new colors and imagery that create a food-centric feel. Upon entry to the 4,870-square-foot Gambrills store,

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customers are welcomed with a bright look and definitive ice cream shop feel, while still having all of the traditional convenience store elements available, according to Chivington. “Dallas Wells, our vice president of foodservice, and myself visited many types of retail and food locations for ideas to work with our brand and design team to create this concept,” he shared. “The updated ice cream shop becomes a central focal point upon entry to draw guests in and say that this is much more than a convenience store.” In addition to the new store layout, the revitalized concept boasts High’s new cow weathervane logo, which is prominently showcased in several areas of the store, as well as a new signature red color that’s complemented by cream and white pinstripes. The color palette and design are incorporated into multiple store elements, such as the hot and cold cups, and employee uniforms. The entire store is tied together by LED lights that make the products “pop” on display.

An ice cream-parlor style counter is one of the store’s focal points.

Open 24 hours a day, the new High’s store offers a variety of proprietary foodservice offers in addition to traditional c-store fare. Among the hot food menu items available are handmade pizza, hand-breaded fried chicken, and breakfast and lunch sandwiches. In the cooler case, customers can find fresh sandwiches, salads, parfaits and fruit cups. They can also order hand-dipped ice cream and milkshakes, and enjoy them while seated at the ice cream parlor-style counter that incorporates curved, retro seating. When it comes to beverages, an expanded drink area features several handcrafted beverages, as well as coffee, cappuccino, fountain drinks, and self-serve frozen and cold brew drinks. Other amenities include: technology upgrades, such as

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frictionless payment options through the use of Skip and touchscreen ordering; a surcharge-free ATM for M&T Bank users; 12 fueling positions; air and vacuum services at the forecourt; ice and propane.

Flying Into the Future To commemorate the debut of the first High’s store showcasing the company’s revitalization efforts, a grand-opening celebration was held June 27. The all-day event included a ribbon-cutting ceremony, sampling of High’s menu items and ice cream, vendor partner giveaways, and an ice cream sundae-building contest whereby the local police and fire departments competed against one another to win a donation to the charity or organization of their choice. During the first month of the store’s opening, High’s also ran a variety of grandopening specials focused on its food, ice cream and beverage items. Some of the specials were: • High’s Kitchen Weekday Special: 8-piece

High’s proprietary foodservice offerings, such as handmade pizza and hand-breaded fried chicken, get top billing in the design.

chicken bucket or 10-piece tender for $9.99. • High’s Kitchen Weekend Special: 8-piece chicken bucket or 10-piece tender for $5.99. • Chicken snack sampler for $1.99. • Breakfast sandwich and any-size coffee for $2.99. • A free scoop of ice cream with any hand-dipped ice cream purchase. • Any-size coffee or fountain soda for 99 cents. The Gambrills store is just the beginning. High’s expects to roll out one to two new-to-industry stores each year that will showcase this new concept. The company also plans to go back and update its older locations. Baltimore-based High’s operates 49 stores across Maryland. CSN



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A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats In a culture of equality, everyone rises follow the progress the U.S. women’s national soccer team is making for equal pay, I’m reminded of research findings released last year by Accenture, entitled When She Rises, We All Rise. Based on survey data from more than 22,000 working men and women across 34 countries, the findings define the characteristics in corporate culture that drive equality.


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

Policies and programs that advance women are key to females advancing, to equal pay, to the kind of gender diversity that equals good business. But the Accenture report found that beyond those, a culture that supports equality means everyone rises. In those cultures, women are four times more likely, and men are two times more likely, to rise to senior management positions. What I love about this study is the science. This is not about broad generalizations; there is a formula that works. Out of more than 200 personal and workplace factors studied, such as behaviors and collective employee opinions, Accenture pinpointed 40 that are statistically shown to influence advancement, including 14 that are most likely to make positive change happen. And here’s the link to what the U.S. women’s national soccer team is fighting

for: When companies make these factors the most common ones in their culture, it impacts women’s pay. Women’s salary and wages could increase by 51 percent, or up to an additional $30,000 per woman each year. Globally, that boosts women’s earnings by U.S. $2.9 trillion. Using these findings, businesses have a concrete way to begin adjusting pay gaps in a way sports has yet to do. I read profiles recently on the 30 highestpaid tennis players of all time. No. 1 was male tennis player Novak Djokovic, who clocked in at $131 million. Female player Serena Williams was the fourth highestpaid player, with $88.7 million in winnings. That’s quite a gap considering Williams has won 23 Grand Slam titles (72 overall titles), compared to Djokovic’s 15 Grand Slam titles and 74 overall titles. Businesses can begin to make progress now by creating a culture of equality. The Accenture report findings group the 40 advancement/equality factors into three categories, and here I’ll quote from the report: • Bold Leadership: A diverse leadership team that sets, shares and measures equality targets openly. • Comprehensive Action: Policies and practices that are family-friendly, support both genders, and are bias-free in attracting and retaining people. • An Empowering Environment: One that trusts employees, respects individuals, and offers freedom to be creative and to train and work flexibly. These are areas so familiar to the Network of Executive Women (NEW), which I lead. We see concrete actions in these areas of the business lead to concrete results with our member companies — companies like PepsiCo. In its Frito-Lay business, PepsiCo has paired future women leaders with sponsors at the vice president level or above, in 18-month sprints. In 2018, the program — in its third round — was showing great results. Women in it were being promoted at a 70 percent higher rate than female employees overall.

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Check out NEW’s The Female Leadership Crisis report for more details. The important thing to note is that in addition to this program and others to champion women, PepsiCo is making cultural changes to support an environment in which all can rise. Both are required to exact real change. I mentioned at the beginning, there are 14 cultural drivers most likely to enable positive change. You’ll see that some of them are specific to women (pay-gap goals, a women’s network), but others are targeted at men, like males being encouraged to take parental leave. And some apply to both genders, from remote working opportunities to broader diversity targets.

BOLD LEADERSHIP • Gender diversity is a priority for management.

• A diversity target or goal is shared outside the organization. • The organization clearly states gender pay-gap goals and ambitions.

COMPREHENSIVE ACTION • Progress has been made in attracting, retaining and progressing women. • The company has a women’s network. • The company’s women’s network is open to men. • Men are encouraged to take parental leave.

AN EMPOWERING ENVIRONMENT • Employees have never been asked to change their appearance to conform to company culture. • Employees have the freedom to be creative and innovative. • Virtual/remote working is widely available and is common practice. • The organization provides training to keep its employees’ skills relevant. • Employees can avoid overseas or long-distance travel via virtual meetings. • Employees can work from home on a day when they


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have a personal commitment. • Employees are comfortable reporting sex discrimination/sexual harassment incident(s) to the company. As you can see, “When she rises, we really all do rise.” As you look at your own company, how many of these factors play a prominent role in shaping your culture? Maybe that’s a conversation to start. CSN Sarah Alter is president and CEO of the Network of Executive Women, a learning and leadership community representing 12,400 members in 22 regional groups in the United States and Canada. Learn more at newonline.org.

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 will be 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. 2019 SPONSORS Founding & Presenting Sponsor:

Gold Sponsors:

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Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.

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Coffee Programs



IF YOU HAVE A ADVERTISE IT HERE!! Terry Kanganis: 201-855-7615

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Equipment / Supplies

Equipment / Supplies

Equipment / Supplies

Wholesale Refrigeration

Check Guarantee Services

ADINDEX Altria Group Distribution................................................2 Anchor Packaging............................................................12–13 Anheuser-Busch................................................................77 Ascentium Capital............................................................30 Autofry/MTI, Inc.................................................................61 Bake’n Joy Foods..............................................................105 BIC USA Inc.........................................................................17 Blu E-Cigs.............................................................................35 Bob’s Red Mill.....................................................................59 Boston Beer.........................................................................70 Calico Brands......................................................................122 Cheyenne International...................................................75 Clif Bar & Company..........................................................41 Cookies United...................................................................109 Curaleaf Hemp...................................................................91 DayMark................................................................................89 E-Alternative Solutions...................................................85 E&J Gallo Winery..............................................................79, 81 EPTA America....................................................................21 Ferrero USA.........................................................................151 Follett LLC...........................................................................49 Ford Gum & Machine Co................................................23 Forte Products...................................................................129 Fujitsu America, Inc..........................................................115 Glanbia Performance Nutrition....................................124 GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Health Care..................119 Growth Energy...................................................................45 GT’s Living Foods LLC....................................................65 Horizon Food Group........................................................63 Hughes Network Systems..............................................11 Hunt Brothers Pizza LLC................................................69 ImageWorks Display & Marketing Group.................99 Inline Plastics Corp...........................................................95

ITG Brands...........................................................................8–9 J&J Snack Foods Corp....................................................107 Jack Link’s Beef Jerky.....................................................101 Jelly Belly.............................................................................103 John Middleton Company.............................................27 Krispy Krunchy Chicken.................................................121 Liggett Vector Brands.....................................................83 Living Essentials................................................................47 Mars Chocolate NA/ Wrigley........................................29 McLane Company.............................................................Back Cover Midway Displays................................................................Outsert Miracle Nutritional Products.........................................93 Mondelez International...................................................15 Paragon Solutions.............................................................112 Paytronix Systems............................................................51–54 Premier Manufacturing...................................................19 Private Label Manufacturers Association................123 Promotion In Motion........................................................87 Reynolds American Trade Marketing Serv..............31 Rich Products.....................................................................97 SUBWAY...............................................................................43 Swedish Match North America LLC...........................5, 73, 125 Swisher International.......................................................Cover, 113 The Hershey Company....................................................39 The Procter & Gamble Distributing C LLC..............37 The Schwan Food Company.........................................67 TransAct Technologies Incorporated.........................117 Trion Industries..................................................................111 Tyson Foods........................................................................7, 57 Universal Merchant Services.........................................Outsert Uno Foods...........................................................................71 Voss Water...........................................................................25

8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave, Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60631 Phone 773-992-4450 Fax 773-992-4455 www.ensembleiq.com

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9/9/2019 9:14:43 PM


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?



9/4/19 3:38 8/19/19 PM 11:56 AM


Decisions of the Stomach Exclusive research highlights where c-stores can gain foodservice share from competitors When hunger or thirst strikes, consumers today have a multitude of foodservice establishments to choose from to satisfy their needs. There are unique differences between those shoppers who most opt to visit c-stores to purchase prepared foods and prepared beverages vs. those who opt for grocery foodservice vs. those who opt for fast food. Beth Brickel, senior research director on the Insights and Innovation Team at EnsembleIQ, parent company of Convenience Store News, discussed these differences — garnered from new exclusive consumer research — at the 2019 CSNews Convenience Foodservice Exchange event, held in June. Here are some of the most actionable insights.

C-store, Grocery & Fast Food Foodservice Shopper Personas

Convenience shoppers skew younger, with a higher representation of Generation Z and millennials. C-STORE FOODSERVICE SHOPPER


















Average Income






Average Income



college degree or higher




college degree or higher









Average Income

Age Mean 41.5

38% Millennial 20% Boomer 38% Gen X 5% Gen Z

Age Mean 43.9

36% Millennial 35% Gen X 23% Boomer 3% Gen Z 3% Silent

Age Mean 44.6

33% Millennial 37% Gen X 23% Boomer 3% Gen Z 4% Silent

college degree or higher

Likelihood to consider c-store by occasion


38% 32% 32%





C-store shoppers tend to have more diverse purchases, whereas fast food is dominated by core items.




Mid-Morning Snack

What do you purchase when it comes to prepared foods? C-STORE FOODSERVICE SHOPPER

Afternoon Snack

Food Items Purchased Last Month –

Top 5









Fresh Baked Goods

Fresh Baked Goods

French Fries




Breakfast Sandwich/Wrap



Hot Dog

33% Pizza

44% Mexican




Cold Sandwich/Wrap

Cold Sandwich/Wrap


10% did NOT purchase prepared foods

4% did NOT purchase prepared foods

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Late Night Snack

Top reasons for not purchasing foodservice from c-stores




35% 36%



0% did NOT purchase prepared foods







39% 36%



Source: CFX 2019 Winning Share of Stomach Consumer Study; EnsembleIQ Insights & Innovation Team

9/9/19 3:57 PM


More Favorites, More Fans Ferrero is proud to offer more iconic brands and soon-to-be one of America’s favorite chocolate bars, Kinder Bueno. We continue to fuel the category with Ferrero sales up 18% in the past year. We’re growing our brands to grow your business.


Source: IRI POS Mulo+C latest 52 weeks ending 8-16-19.

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9/5/19 10:03 5:03 PM 9/6/19 AM


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