What will the future hold for c-stores?
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of an article from Convenience Store Decisions magazine.
Twenty-five years ago, the upscale, large format c-stores offering fresh prepared foods and grab-and-go lunches weren’t even a twinkle in the eye of most c-store owners and operators.
Marking its silver anniversary, Convenience Store Decisions recently celebrated the major transformation the c-store industry has undergone in all facets of operation over those years. That includes polishing its unsophisticated and in many cases inhospitable image to where the channel is competing with Walgreens, McDonald’s, Panera Bread and other prominent retail chains.
But retail experts agree that changes are sure to be even more rapid and extreme going forward, as technology, especially, matures at a fast pace.
Chet Cadieux, president and CEO of Tulsa-based QuikTrip, strongly believes the industry needs to prepare itself for a marketplace will demand 30 percent fewer gallons of gas per day than it does today. He adds, "Those are a lot of margin dollars to replace. The customer isn’t going to go away, so we are all going to have to figure out what we are going to sell to them to replace those motor fuel margin dollars."
Even more mobile technology dependency is expected through expanding communications, applications and payments.
"Cash may not even be used as we’ll make digital payments for products and services with our electronic devices, whether that means phones, watches, glasses or maybe an improbable-to-lose chip in your finger," said Sonja Hubbard, CEO at Arkansas’ E-Z Mart Stores. "Specific products will come and go in popularity, but I would anticipate the staples remain relatively constant, just as they have for some time."
Also widely predicted is a further blurring of channels — possibly even drug stores selling fuel and c-stores featuring pharmacies.
"A c-store could become a large drug store with a dollar store section that sells food," said Fran Duskiewicz, SVP of Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes, in upstate New York. "Shopper research is indicating people want a number of things right where they stop, and as long as everyone is listening to what the shopper is saying, we’re all going to wind up doing the same thing."
Said Bill Weigel, chairman and CEO of Weigel’s in Powell, TN, "In 25 years, I would say, we will be serving dinner."
Which channel — club, dollar, drug store, grocery, mass discount, QSR — represents biggest threat to c-store market share? How do c-stores need to further evolve to address market challenges in the years ahead?