For your convenience: 7-Eleven, others adding stores

It might seem as if there’s a convenience store on every street corner in the Pikes Peak region. 7-Eleven dominates the market with dozens of stores, while Loaf ‘N Jug and Circle K are among chains with multiple stores.

Even so, more locations are on the way as convenience store chains see continued opportunities for expansion in high-growth areas of the region, and as time-strapped consumers continue to clamor for the quick, in-and-out service that convenience stores offer:

• Dallas-based 7-Eleven, which has roughly 50 area stores, says three to four more are planned this year and another five to six are coming in 2013. Among the new sites: A former Bennigan’s restaurant near Academy Boulevard and North Carefree Circle will be razed to make way for a store, while another location is targeted on Woodmen Road, west of Marksheffel Road.

• Loaf ‘N Jug, an arm of the Kroger grocery chain that owns Kings Soopers, has about 20 stores. Another store is planned southeast of Northgate Boulevard and Voyager Parkway on the Springs’ far north side.

• Circle K, based in suburban Phoenix and with about 20 locations in the area, plans a store on the city’s northeast side, at Tutt Boulevard and North Carefree.

• Midwest-based Kum & Go has aggressively entered Colorado Springs with plans to build 20 to 25 stores over five years. Its first location opened in May at Academy and Vickers Drive. Stores are under construction east of Interstate 25 and InterQuest Parkway, west of Powers Boulevard and Woodmen Road and at Powers and North Carefree, among other locations.

• San Antonio-based Valero, which operates corner stores under the Valero and Diamond Shamrock names, has about 30 area locations. A spokesman said the company plans no additional stores in the area, but occasionally looks to remodel and expand existing locations.

“They sell time,” Jeff Lenard, a National Association of Convenience Stores spokesman in suburban Washington, D.C., said of the popularity of the stores. “When they started back in the 1920s, they sold staple items like milk and bread and eggs after the groceries closed at 5. Over time, what they have sold has changed, but they (continue) to sell time. It’s get them in, get them out, get them on their way, and do it without a hassle.

“We are becoming more time-stressed and time is money,” he added. “And people will give you money if you give them time.”

There are about 150,000 convenience stores nationwide, Lenard said. With a U.S. population of roughly 311 million, that means there’s one store for nearly every 2,100 people.
Using that ratio, the Springs-area’s 2010 population of about 634,000 could accommodate nearly 300 convenience stores — meaning there’s room for growth.

States such as Colorado and cities such as Colorado Springs — with rising populations of young people and outdoor enthusiasts — are prime targets for convenience store chains, Lenard said.

“You’re talking about people that just want an energy bar or a bottle of water or whatever,” he said. “Whether they’re in their car or on their bike, stores are where people are.”

That’s why several new convenience stores are going up in fast-growing parts of the Pikes Peak region that have been relatively under served up to now, said Mark Useman, a retail specialist with Sierra Commercial Real Estate in Colorado Springs who has represented Kum & Go in its local land acquisitions.

“We’ve had decent growth in our city, and there are areas of the city that haven’t seen the expansion or growth of these convenience stores in the last four or five years because of the slowdown of our economy,” Useman said.

Kum & Go evaluated several markets before deciding to enter Colorado Springs, Useman said. The family-owned chain, based in West Des Moines, Iowa, likes secondary cities where it believes it can have an impact, he said.

7-Eleven has sought to expand in markets where it already has large numbers of successful locations, while also acquiring existing stores in markets that are near areas where 7-Eleven operates, said spokeswoman Margaret Chabris.

The chain, a wholly owned subsidiary of a Japanese retail conglomerate, has nearly 48,000 stores worldwide, according to its website; 7-Eleven opened more than 600 stores last year in the U.S. and Canada, and expects to open another 630 this year, Chabris said.

“We’re on one of the biggest accelerated growth strategies I’ve seen in quite some time,” she said. “You will see more 7-Eleven stores. What we have found is that when there are more 7-Eleven stores in a geographic area or our market area, people are more comfortable. They know what you have to offer. They can count on you being open. It increases sales for all the stores because people just know what to expect.”

At 7-Eleven, customers have come to expect familiar products, such as the popular frozen Slurpee drink that has its own website and Facebook page; 24/7 store hours; and promotional campaigns for products that are often tied into movies or television shows.

7-Eleven also prides itself on a sophisticated retail information system that lets store operators track inventory to determine what’s selling and what’s not — allowing them to stock particular items, and their quantity, to fit a particular store and its location, Chabris said.

“In the past decade or two, we have had a real laser-like focus on what the consumer and customer wants,” she said.

Kum & Go is hoping to grab some of those customers. Its Colorado Springs stores are 5,000 square feet each and built on 1.5-acre sites — buildings and parcels that are larger than its stores in other markets and its rivals in the Pikes Peak region. Stores have full kitchens, while fuel pumping areas have more room for motorists, Useman said.

“They cook fresh food,” he said of Kum & Go. “They are coming in with a different prototype and should take some of the pie away from the other stores.”

But even as convenience stores expand, they also face challenges.

Convenience stores fight a perception that their prices are much higher than their rivals. It’s true prices can be more, Lenard said, but convenience stores have high real estate costs to go along with big electricity bills that result from coolers and freezers for cold foods and drinks. Also, because their stores are smaller, they can’t buy products as cheaply as larger groceries, Lenard said.

Still, milk, soda fountain drinks and other items are competitively priced when compared with other retailers, he said. And price isn’t as much of an issue for some customers — even in a slumping economy — if they have a need they want to fill in a hurry.

“You don’t think about your stock portfolio when you’re thirsty, you get something to drink,” he said. “And when you’re hungry, you get something to eat, you don’t worry about the economy. So, it’s more impulse items. A few bucks here to solve a need or to reward yourself doesn’t seem so bad in the scheme of things.”

Meanwhile, convenience store chains aren’t just competing against each other; they’re also fighting larger groceries and, increasingly, Walgreens and other drug stores that sell milk, soda and food items, Lenard said. Even discount dollar stores in some parts of the south are selling cigarettes, he said.

Convenience stores also wrestle with changes in consumer buying habits when it comes to two longtime profit makers: gas and tobacco sales.

Soaring gas prices have driven motorists to seek the cheapest gas they can find, even if it means saving a penny or two. Not only do convenience stores compete with service stations, but with grocery chains whose loyalty programs reward consumers with additional savings on gas. Profits on gas sales are only 3 cents per gallon to begin with, Lenard said.

Meanwhile, tobacco sales are down because fewer people are smoking.

“Your two big traffic drivers are facing a tough road,” Lenard said.

That’s why Springs-area consumers are likely to see more and higher quality food prepared the way they want it, and expanded drink items; food accounts for 23 percent of convenience store sales, while beverages are another 30 percent, Lenard said.

Despite those challenges, the overall state of the convenience store industry has been healthy; three of the last four years have been the most profitable on record for the industry as a whole, Lenard said.

“There are huge challenges when it comes to the future of fuel, the future of tobacco and all of the issues related to credit card fees. And not to forget competition,” he said. “But if you can deliver what the customer wants and solve their needs, and do it fast, you can do very well.”

Contact Rich Laden: 636-0228 Twitter @richladen
Read more:

The small-store owner is too important, nimble and innovative to be bumped off by big-box retailers in India.

Kirana RIP? Not Yet.

The arguments for and against FDI in retail are, at a generic level, valid on both sides. However, since the devil is usually in the detail, the facts about India’s small retailers and suppliers, the conditions stipulated for FDI, and recent experience with the effects of domestic modern retail need to be viewed together before the likely outcome pronounced. The big fight is about whether this new policy will kill small shops, massively destroy livelihoods and take away GenNext’s opportunities. Facts suggest otherwise. Consider the kirana, the one most feared to be at risk. About 5-6 million of the 8 million FMCG-stocking kiranas are in rural India, and are totally safe, as the new ones can only come into the top 53 cities.

R Sriram, founder of Crossword and retail expert, tables two insights. One, in many big cities, kiranas are already not participating in the growth offered by the newer settlements like Gurgaon or Powai, because without their advantage of historically-priced real estate, they are not viable. Two, increasingly, small shopkeepers’ children are getting better educated and want to exit ‘sitting in the shop’ as soon as possible, just as small farmers’ children are exiting farming. Sadly, the country’s retail density has been increasing in recent years, not driven by passion or profit, but because of lack of options — hopefully that will change. It is true that traditional income streams of small shops in the vicinity of a large supermarket plummet; but we have seen that they soon recast their business model, exploiting the inherent advantages they have that the supermarket cannot emulate: free, prompt and no-conditions home delivery, superior and customised customer relationship management, khaata- credit and willingness to stock small quantities of something used by only a few people in their catchment — a classic ‘long-tail’ strategy. Notice two more things: even in upper-class areas in large cities, despite large retail chains in the vicinity, the small vegetable vendor and kirana continue to find a place in the household’s shopping basket. The kirana also continuously morphs, and is already moving to a more specialised and selective portfolio. We will find them variously choosing to become more of a convenience store (7-Eleven-type), or fresh-food store, a home-delivery store, maybe even express-format franchisees of large retail, and so on.

Another reality check: how much consumption capacity do even the top 50 cities have? Seriously, how many more Ikea, Zara, Walmart, Tesco and Best Buy can a Surat, Kanpur or Indore absorb, in addition to more Big Bazaar, Megamart and Croma? Further, foreign specialty retailers targeting the rich consumer will create never-before custom, and not at the expense of existing shops. Two decades ago, we had the same hue and cry that Indian brands would be wiped out; but they got better and bigger than they would have had they been left unchallenged. Now for the suppliers. Large suppliers will lose the pricing power they had with small retailers and nobody on any side of the FDI debate is grieving for them. Small suppliers, even without FDI, are being mercilessly squeezed by middlemen. The hope is that large retail chains, unlike the broker middleman, have more incentive to pay more because they have customer loyalty and a brand to build; in exchange for steady, loyal, consistent quality supply, they will pay more, guarantee offtake, improve product and production efficiency. The FDI norm of at least 30% sourcing from small scale pushes this further. Walmart potentially could kill the small suppliers of anything by importing 70% from China cheaper; but loads of small traders are already doing the same, flooding our markets with Ganesh murtis, chappals, clothes, watches, etc.

The Achilles’ heel for a lot of skilled artisans, specialised producers, grass roots innovators, etc, is market orientation and marketing. Producer collectives have managed to organise themselves on the supply side using government assistance schemes, but they struggle to manage the demand side. That is the missing link that large retailers in vendor development mode can provide, just as the auto industry has done to ancillary suppliers. Both sides agree that customers will gain because large chain retailers can provide better for cheaper, given the discounts they get through buying large quantities and sourcing smartly. Customers will also get a wider range, more innovative products and more comfortable, truthful and informed shopping environment. Poor customers won’t get discriminated against, because the hypermarket is anonymous, transactional, classless and nonjudgemental. They may not get better service because the small Indian retailer is the champion of good service, from atta to electrical, the likes of which we haven’t yet seen any big retailer match, anywhere in the world. That’s another reason why he will always survive.

Before we fight further, consider this. This network of commercially-savvy supplychain linked small retailers is an invaluable asset: as one report said, they are not ‘unorganised’ by any stretch of imagination; we agree and have refrained from using this phrase in this article! It is unlikely that Indian jugaad will let this network disintegrate. Perhaps in rural India, where they would have been more hard hit had the big-box retailers been allowed, they would have been garnered by banks as new extension counters for financial inclusion. RAMA BIJAPURKAR INDEPENDENT MARKET STRATEGY CONSULTANT

Circle K adds 7 W.Pa. convenience stores

The Circle K convenience store chain is growing in Western Pennsylvania with the acquisition of seven stores to add to 22 it operates from Erie south to Washington.

The seven stores — including outlets in North Fayette and in Dunbar, Fayette County — were among 26 in three states that Circle K acquired from Chico Enterprises Inc. of Morgantown, W.Va., said Bill Bartolomeo, vice president for Circle K’s Great Lakes Division.

Circle K’s parent is Canadian convenience store giant Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., which has 5,741 stores operated by 13 business units. Nine of those business units are in the United States, operating in 43 states and the District of Columbia. In Canada, it uses the name Mac’s at its convenience stores.

Alimentation Couche-Tard has expanded its convenience stores rapidly, said Jeff Lenard, spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores.

“There are some extraordinary retailers in the Pittsburgh area now,” Lenard said, mentioning Sheetz and Giant Eagle’s GetGo stores. So a new competitor would have to set itself apart, he said.

There are 73 GetGos in Western Pennsylvania, said Dick Roberts, a Giant Eagle spokesman, who declined to comment on the new competition.

Other convenience store chains in the region include 50 Sunoco A Plus stores, said spokesman Joe McGinn. Handee Mart operates 21 7-11 stores, according to its website, while Sheetz list 68 stores, from Erie to New Stanton and east into Indiana County.

The largest is CoGo’s, headquartered in Carrick, which operates more than 78 stores in Western Pennsylvania.

Convenience stores are a unique category in the market, said C. Britt Beemer, of America’s Research Group in Charleston, S.C.

“It all depends on location. If the site is good, then the store has a good chance to succeed,” he said.

Beemer said newer stores with a positive appearance have increased success because they attract women who feel safer frequenting them.

In the Pittsburgh region, Circle K locations include stores on Brighton Road on the North Side, Butler Street in Lawrenceville and in Sharpsburg, Ambridge, Aliquippa and Center.

In 2005, a dozen Dairy Mart stores in the area were converted to the Circle K name as Alimentation Couche-Tard, which had acquired Ohio-based Dairy Mart three years ago, moved to create one national brand.

The recently acquired North Fayette store sold for just less than $1.5 million, while the Fayette County store sold for $1.71 million. The North Fayette store on Market Place Drive operated under the All Star Express name. Bartolomeo wouldn’t give the locations of the others or discuss plans for the stores or other possible sites.

Alimentation Couche-Tard has been making recent acquisitions.

In August, the company signed a deal through subsidiary Circle K Stores Inc. to acquire 33 stores in southern Louisiana from ExxonMobil. The deal for the On the Run-branded stores is expected to close in December. Also in August, the company through its RDK joint venture agreed to buy 27 stores in the Chicago area, 14 of which it plans to run as corporate stores, plus two land parcels. Independent operators are to run the other stores. Also Dead River Co. in Maine is selling 19 stores to Circle K, with the transaction to be complete in December.

The company made a $139.5 million profit in its first quarter ended July, up 9.9 percent from the previous year, on total sales of $5.18 billion. During the quarter, the company acquired 13 stores and opened or expanded 16, but it closed 83 stores.

By Sam Spatter and Kim Leonard

Sam Spatter and Kim Leonard can be reached at or 412-320-7843.


New Stop & Shop concept store opens in Chelmsford

New Stop & Shop concept store opens in Chelmsford with following convenience options:

An on-site nutritionist: The company has hired a professional nutritionist who will be available for consultations. The cost, according to Robinson, will be $25 an hour, but the customer will get that $25 back in the form of a gift card.

Day care services: Stop & Shop is introducing “The Tree House” – a room where supervised day care is provided for up to 90 minutes for free, for children ages 3 through 9.

Curbside pickup: Customers will be able to order groceries on a computer and pick them up at the store without leaving their cars. They can pull up to a designated curbside pickup area where a Stop & Shop employee will process the payment and load the shopper’s car.

Spartan’s Glen’s Banner Bows Concept Store.

Spartan Stores’ Glen’s Markets banner has opened a new 38,000-square-foot concept store at the southeast corner of US-31 and 12th Street in Filer Township, Mich. The store will serve as the prototype for future Glen’s locations. The store is the first ground-up Glen’s location in seven years, according to Spartan

Featuring even more products and services, the new supermarket offers a full-service pharmacy with a convenient drive-up window, and a new Quick Stop fuel and convenience center featuring the latest technology to enable customers to redeem promotional offers right at the pump.

Boasting an expanded meat department offering select cuts of meat with preparation and cooking tips daily; fresh seafood; more than 600 produce items; and a full-service deli offering a complete selection of salads, premium deli meats, a wide variety of domestic and imported cheeses, and a wide to-go assortment of quick and easy hot lunches and dinners. The store also packs a full selection of Spartan brand products; a fresh floral department offering fresh-cut flower bouquets, potted plants and balloons; and energy-efficient lighting and heating equipment, among other eco-friendly features.

Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Spartan Stores’ Glen’s Markets has 34 locations throughout northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, including locations in Munising, Sault Ste. Marie, Traverse City, Petoskey, Cadillac, Cheboygan, West Branch, Gaylord, Midland and Houghton Lake.


Wal-Mart Opens Convenience Stores In Shenzhen

According to reports in local media, the U.S.-based retailer Wal-Mart has started to tap China’s convenience store market
with a new brand “Huixuan”.

With a store area of 300 square meters each, the three convenience stores are a part of a pilot program launched by Wal-Mart to explore China’s fast growing retail markets.

Wal-Mart’s convenience stores aim to provide quality and low-price products to consumers from local communities. The product structures of these stores will be decided by the needs of different target consumers and can be flexibly adjusted to meet customer demand.

A representative from Wal-Mart revealed that the new convenience store model is still under a trial and the company has not
decided a specific number of new stores. If these convenience stores perform well in their trial operation, Wal-Mart may expand this new business model to other Chinese cities.

Watch out Big Retail, paan shops serve FMCGs better.

ROADSIDE paan shops, which are slowly transforming themselves into mini general stores, are emerging as an increasingly prominent retail sales channel for FMCG companies. Industry officials say small paan shops are posting smart growth rates and currently contribute 18-20% of the total sales across various categories, including beverages, chips, biscuits, chocolate and confectionery, noodles, shampoos and soaps, batteries and even diapers. Modern retail formats, the subject of much media hype, contribute only about 6% of India’s retail sales.

 In a challenging economic scenario, companies are taking notice of the contribution of this often ignored sales channel. According to FMCG industry estimates, these outlets have mushroomed significantly in recent years to contribute about 20% of retail sales from 10-12% a couple of years ago.

Continue reading

Waitrose unveils convenience store in Nottingham

Waitrose’s convenience store offers fresh fish and meat

Waitrose opened its first convenience store yesterday, in Nottingham. The 5,815 sq ft (540 sq m) shop, in the city’s Trinity Square, is located opposite the John Lewis department store and is the first of a four-branch convenience store trial.

The shop has fresh fish and meat counters, a bakery and a self-service food bar where shoppers can select from smoothies, granola and yoghurts in the morning and sandwiches and salads for lunch and evening meals.

Waitrose managing director Mark Price said: “We believe you shouldn’t have to compromise on the standard of your shopping experience just because a store is smaller and designed for convenience. We want to revive the traditional service typical of convenience shops, which customers value, but within a fresh and contemporary setting.”

Waitrose plans to open a second convenience store in Bristol in the spring.

* Published: 12 December 2008 12:47

Japanese Bread Manufacturer To Set Up Joint Venture In China

Pasco, a Japanese bread manufacturer, has jointly announced with Itochu Corporation that the two companies will cooperate with China’s Ting Hsin International Group to explore China’s bread market.

Pasco, Itochu Corporation, and Wei Chuan Corp., a subsidiary of Ting Hsin International Group, will jointly invest JPY1.1 billion to establish a joint venture in September 2008. Of the total investment, Wei Chuan, Pasco, and Itochu will contribute 60%, 24%, and 16%, respectively.
The factory of the joint venture, which is expected to be put into production in February 2010, is planned to be in Shanghai. The factory will manufacture Wei Chuan-Pasco bread brands, including sliced bread and Pasco bread snacks. These products will be sold in convenience stores and supermarkets.

A representative from Pasco said that the Chinese bread market has a great potential and the company is pleased to offer safe and high-quality bread products. This cooperation between Chinese and Japanese companies will form one of the biggest bread manufacturers in China and the goal of the joint venture is to become the leader in China’s bread industry.

Formalized Services in Retail Stores

Retail stores have always given away advice along with selling products. Now some stores are turning helpful services into a profit center. Medical services are leading this move into retail stores. Medical clinics are popping up in pharmacies across the nation, and thousands of new clinics are planned to open in stores over the next couple years. No appointment is necessary to get quick, cheap fixed-price treatment for minor illnesses. This is a wonderful development in a nation with runaway health care costs and where fewer and fewer people even have a family doctor. The convenience will obviously draw lots of customers into the stores. Wal-Mart is even testing clinics in some stores.

Are there other services that might be popular in a fixed-price convenient retail setting?

How about “instant handy-man” services at the hardware store? The handy-man could have a small workshop for repairing or assembling stuff that people bring in. Or the handy-man could follow you home to install a ceiling fan or wire a new outlet “while you wait”. Garden centers could offer the same for tree-planting. Computer repair clinics would be great too, but computers are designed to be disposable these days and a small part is often too expensive to justify repair. Apple could set itself apart by designing its computers for ease of repair and then offer the services while-you-wait in the Apple brand stores.

Similar services have always been a part of other businesses. Jewelry stores offer repairs and ear-piercing. Photo development kiosks were a big deal before the coming of digital cameras (it’s interesting that they were located in drug stores and discount retailers, just like the new clinics). Home centers offer kitchen planning and installation services.

Repair and design services could be added to many retail businesses. You might offer the services already — to make it a bigger part of your business you’ll have to increase awareness. Set aside an area of your store for the service and give it prominent signage. Then include it in your advertising and watch your traffic grow.

%d bloggers like this: