Convenience Store News

NOV 2016

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72 Convenience Store News | NOVEMBER 2016 | WWW.CSNEWS.COM Fuel-Free Conveniece Stores STORE SPOTLIGHT cutting contracts to add it, and I can't imagine these companies opening stores without gas saying, 'I want to do just a c-store because gas drags me down,'" Strenk told CSNews. Also on the flip side are convenience store chains like QuickChek Corp., based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., and operating more than 140 locations. Already known for fresh food, QuickChek operated for years without gasoline, but is now adding it to stores. "Customers need gasoline and they need it each and every week, so gas is something that will drive them to the store," Whitehead said. "In every scenario, you need to figure out what your strategy is for a particular loca- tion and how to profit there. If that includes gasoline, then great. If not, then that is fine, too. There are myriad of products and services that may or may not be included in a particular site, and gas is just one of them." Strenk agreed, and went a step further by stating that those chains with gasoline already for sale at their sites will not be looking to eliminate the gas sales there because it's a profit center, just like a car wash or offering propane fuel. "I'm led to believe these chains [opening fuel-free stores] are identifying [new store] sites where they can't put gasoline in. But because they have such strong brands, they want to leverage the brand equity they built," he said. CSN brand. There is a different type of customer base and demographic that doesn't go outside of their area, so they may not be familiar with us," he explained. As a result, this QuikTrip store may be an introduc- tion to the brand for many people. The product mix is different than its other stores — focused even more on fresh food, additional roller grill and more kitchen space. QuikTrip plans on testing new items in this prototype location to see how they are received, in hopes of finding menu candidates to bring to some of its other locations as well. High-quality, prepared food seems to be key in driving traffic without gasoline, according to Strenk. "To be successful without gasoline, a store has to offer high-quality, well- differentiated prepared food," he noted. "7-Eleven does well [without selling gas], but they may not be averaging $300,000 a month. Sheetz and QuikTrip have locations that do significantly high sales in the c-store." For QuikTrip, the fuel-free concept is still rela- tively new, but the chain does operate a location in Oklahoma without gasoline that is an in-store, sit-down restaurant concept with a drive-thru. This location previously featured a Wendy's so there was already a drive-thru there, and it became a perfect test- ing location for the chain. "This is still open, and we thought we would try the drive-thru and seating for people to come in and relax to see if this is a possibility for us to grow in the future as well," Thornbrugh said, explaining so far the chain is pleased with the results of both locations. "It has done very well and has been well received. There are no plans to expand the concept right now, but we are very pleased with the results at this point." THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN While some c-store chains are venturing into the terri- tory of stores without gasoline, the fuel business is still a strong profit center and traffic driver. This is true for the c-store industry and other industries like big-box retailers and grocers. "The big-box retailers are still adding gasoline and Sheetz Café stores are in college towns and focus predominantly on fresh food.

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