By George Anderson
Harry McHugh, senior vice president of operations for Wawa, says that innovation and a commitment to values will determine which companies thrive and those that fail to survive in the retailing business in years to come.
In an interview with Grocery Headquarters magazine, Mr. McHugh said both traditional grocers and convenience stores find themselves being barraged from competitors on all fronts.
On where convenience stores are headed, he said, "A lot of former gas retailers are crushing toward the middle, meaning they're trying to offer beverages or hot beverages, increasing foodservice and trying to, if you will, make up for the lost GP at the pump. Implications for our business are to improve or get out. The old standbys no longer suffice. Customers are increasingly fickle and have many, many choices, and they are ever more demanding."
While many things have changed in retailing, location is still a critical factor because it addresses the need for convenience.
"Location, location, location still applies," he said. "People are time-starved, even more so today. So one needs to offer the most convenience in terms of location, easy access, easy parking, quick service, ready-to-eat foods - kind of one-stop shopping for convenience. To do all of that, you really have to have a dominant piece of real estate. And the question is, can you afford not to?"
Ultimately, a company's performance comes down to its people.
"We've always striven to be the best, not the biggest. Our focus has always been on getting, retaining, developing, awarding and challenging the best people. If you do an outstanding job on people, they in turn will delight customers. To that end, we have developed a powerful culture that is a people-centric, value-centric culture."
Getting employee buy-in is made easier when the same workers also own a piece of the company, said Mr. McHugh.
"About a third of our company is owned by our associates, so there's a sense of ownership and engagement. Our store managers are the best paid in the industry, as are our area managers. We're very proud of that, because money is important. People will only go so far for love. At the end of the day, they have to be rewarded by more than love and recognition and celebration. They have to be able to satisfy their own aspirations, achieve their own financial ends, take care of their family and continue to invest in themselves. It gives them a sort of balance in their lives."
Moderator's Comment: What lessons does Wawa have for others in the retailing arena? - George Anderson - Moderator
Is Wawa's company culture the reason the chain is so successful?