Farm Stores goes big with tiny eco-friendly drive-thrus

Discussion
Photo: Farm Stores
Apr 25, 2019
Matthew Stern

A regional Florida convenience store called Farm Stores has a big East Coast expansion on the way. The chain is unique not only because of how customers visit the store, but also because of the materials used to make some of the stores themselves.

Farm Stores is a drive-thru convenience store chain that first opened in 1957 and became a franchise in 2015, according to CNN. Many of its locations are now made of repurposed shipping containers, a strategy that the chain is continuing as a franchisee opens the latest new location in Louisiana. Farm Stores are already under construction in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, with plans for 600 to open within the next seven years — most of them constructed from shipping containers as local building codes permit. The chain currently has 65 locations in Florida.

As a small, drive-thru only convenience store that sells fresh baked goods, farm-fresh dairy and vegetables as well as household staples, the expansion of Farm Stores could be coming at just the right time to meet a couple of different trends.

Farm Stores’ recycled, eco-friendly artifices may appeal to Millennials and Gen Z shoppers who want to see businesses they patronize demonstrate a commitment to sustainability.

The method of construction does, however, also benefit the business. The strategy makes opening new stores 40 percent cheaper than building them from the ground up, according to CNN.

Farm Stores goes big with tiny eco-friendly drive-thrus
Farm Stores franchise under construction in Lafayette, Louisiana – Photo: Farm Stores

The focus on convenient and fresh groceries also promises to play well with Millennial and Gen Z shopping cohorts.

In the farther-off future, were fully autonomous vehicles to replace human-piloted automobiles on the roads, conveniently-placed drive-thru convenience stores could play a significant role for commuters. This could be especially true were vehicles to become integrated with smart home technology and receive messages about products running low in a smart refrigerator.

While Farm Stores may be unique in being a drive-thru chain, others in the convenience store space have been working on small concepts that get healthy food to customers with less friction.

Wawa, for instance, is testing a small concept in Philadelphia with a walk-up window for app-based ordering.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How likely is it that Farm Stores will  become a major player in the convenience store/green grocery space in the next five years? Will the sustainable/recycled building materials have much impact on the chain’s appeal, and how might Farm Stores leverage that with an environmentally aware customer base?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"I love the idea of limited assortment drive-thru and have worked on several concepts and prototypes with clients over the years."
"It will take more than using sustainable/recycled building materials to win over consumers along the Eastern Seaboard where companies like Wawa are firmly entrenched."
"What I especially like about the concept is the potential flexibility that could be applied ... you could literally relocate the entire footprint with ease if necessary!"

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9 Comments on "Farm Stores goes big with tiny eco-friendly drive-thrus"


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Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

I love Farm Stores, but there are a lot fewer of them than there used to be … and the notion that I could get anything “fresh” there, beyond milk (my recollection is that they don’t even carry half-and-half) is kind of silly.

I sort of wonder what would happen to a recycled shipping container in a hurricane. Actually, I don’t wonder — I know. Think about what happens to trailer parks.

In any case, it’s a great idea, but I am unconvinced that the stores will get the volume they need the support “fresh” anything.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

If you grew up in the Southeast, the “milk store” or “dairy store” was the original convenience store concept — and most were drive-thru only. I love the idea of limited assortment drive-thru and have worked on several concepts and prototypes with clients over the years. One perceptual negative the concept always battles in boardrooms is that the most common current incarnation of the milk store has become the drive-thru beer store — not a good association.

I note Paula’s comment about delivering on the “fresh” concept and she has a point. The solution to date has been to keep item inventories very low. Typically limited to a day’s volume at most and usually relying on local sourcing. Of course limited inventory is a double-edged sword, limiting volume and risking customer alienation with frequent out-of-stocks. This has made the current manifestation of the concept more suited to smaller population areas with lower store traffic. Not most retailers’ idea of a successful strategy — but the dollar store explosion could have some operators rethinking that.

Mel Kleiman
BrainTrust

I like the look and like the idea. I would say that it all boils down to two things. 1.) The quality of the product (example: the fresh baked goods) and 2.) Even more importantly: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.

Matt Henderson
Guest

This concept has potential as it represents the convergence of several hot trends. First, c-store chains are almost all in growth mode as they enhance their experience through better design and food offerings in attempt to capture the increasing spend of eating out. Second is the growing popularity of fresh, organic and farm-to-table concepts as we become more conscious about the quality of our food and where it comes from. Third, the concept also fits with the expanding utilization of pop-up shops, which allow retailers to test and build new markets with less financial risk.

The success or failure of Farm Stores will come down to the three most important considerations for all retailers — location, location, location.

Brent Biddulph
BrainTrust

Focused on addressing the growing customer demand for “fresh and fast” – this could could take-off. What I especially like about the concept is the potential flexibility that could be applied – localized assortment to meet local neighborhood needs and the fact that you could literally relocate the entire footprint with ease if necessary!

The franchising model could really ignite growth, bring in a whole new crop of retail entrepreneurs, and perhaps even help address urban food deserts with fresh and affordable foods.

Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

Using recycled shipping containers is a great idea for Farm Stores. Lowered costs, smaller footprint, and higher efficiencies are major tenets of success when establishing growth in the convenience store channel. Location of these will be critical, as will be establishing the right balance between drive-thru/walk-through in a single location. Farm Stores does risk becoming nothing more than a gas station-sized convenience store, without the draw of getting gas to pull customers in. How Farm Stores attracts customers and keeps them coming back will be a key question for the success of Farm Stores.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

It will take more than using sustainable/recycled building materials to win over consumers along the Eastern Seaboard where companies like Wawa are firmly entrenched.

David Naumann
BrainTrust
David Naumann
Vice President, Retail Marketing, enVista
5 months 28 days ago

Farm Stores is a clever concept that fill a unique niche of the convenience market. They make picking up convenience items fun. They will likely generate a cult-like following of Millennials and Gen Z consumers. While I don’t see this concept being a major player in this category, there is still room for expansion. Great idea and I hope they open one near me.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

It must be a challenge mixing so many novel concepts together: fresh (aka “good for you”) products AND the seeming contradiction embedded in the term “eco friendly drive-thru” AND trendy construction (I’m dubious about the claim of “40%” cheaper, but whatever the truth, a space that isn’t purpose-built always involves complications). Beyond that, of course, is the fact that the convenience field is fiercely competitive and doesn’t lack experienced, well-known operators.
I wish them well … they have a long, slow road ahead of them.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"I love the idea of limited assortment drive-thru and have worked on several concepts and prototypes with clients over the years."
"It will take more than using sustainable/recycled building materials to win over consumers along the Eastern Seaboard where companies like Wawa are firmly entrenched."
"What I especially like about the concept is the potential flexibility that could be applied ... you could literally relocate the entire footprint with ease if necessary!"

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