Pump It Up! C-Store Innovations & News Street Fight

Pump It Up! C-Store Innovations & News

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The convenience store (C-store) is a MULO (multi-location) retailer we often take for granted.

Most of us have stopped along the road for a hygiene break, a fuel refill (gas or electric), coffee, and perhaps even a snack and frosty beverage. Urban and suburban dwellers often rely on their neighborhood 24-hour MULO store for late-night treats or emergency items like diapers.

C-store shopping holds steady at 64 percent, which may not even include those consumers who stop for gas or an EV charge and buy a few things inside the shop.

Total sales at C-stores have reached $860B!

Players like 7-Eleven, Circle K, Speedway, Wawa, and Casey’s General Store dominate the market, although other brands are emerging, expanding, and innovating.

In addition to installing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, convenience stores are making many other innovative moves to meet the needs of today’s consumers. Among them are:

  • More expansive food and dining options. Some convenience stores have introduced specialty food items like fried chicken (Royal Farms) and pizza (Casey’s General Store). Sit-down options for dining are being expanded at Rutters and Sprint Mart. They are designed to compete with fast casual brands.
  • Automation, which is taking hold in many parts of the retail and restaurant world, is essential in the C-store industry. Finding labor at off-hours can be challenging, but robots are coming to the rescue. One Florida chain called Re-Up even focuses primarily on AI and automation in its stores. AI and facial recognition is already being rolled-out in many stores to cut down on shoplifting and crime.
  • The mega-C-store. A quiet competition has been going on in the C-store world for the title of “biggest store.” That honor currently appears to go to the Buc-ee’s in Sevierville, Tennessee. It spans 74K square feet and has 120 gas pumps and a 250 feet long car wash. But Buc-ees is not just known for its footprint. Named an innovative retailer by Fast Company, the brand also has a semi-famous brisket sandwich and proprietary popcorn (sold in Walmart). Non-food merch and gift items have also become staples of many C-stores. Their EV charging stations will involve a Buc-ee’s alliance with Mercedes.
  • Merch. Brand loyalty is often expressed by sporting a favorite company’s logo on your body or in your car or home. The 7Collection from 7-Eleven is a prime example. Their online store creates an off-location revenue stream, and their apparel becomes free brand advertising.
  • Mergers and acquisitions. As in many other retail sectors, brands often gobble up other brands, to strategically expand their footprints and cut costs. For example, BreakTime Corner Market recently acquired 23 Loaf ‘N Jug C-Stores from EG America, which is one of the leading C-store holding companies in the U.S. today. They operate more than 1,600 stores, including brands like Cumberland Farms, Certified Oil, Fastrac, Kwik Shop,  Minit Mart, Quik Stop, Sprint, Tom Thumb, and Turkey Hill.

And, if food, robots, and merch aren’t enough to sway consumer preference, loyalty programs also abound in the C-store space, as they do in many other retail and restaurant categories.

Be sure to watch the C-store industry for creative and innovative ideas on how to give consumers what they need, when they need it — on the road or around the corner. It’s likely one retail category that will live on (and perhaps even expand)!

For more insights into retail, restaurant, and service innovatives, be sure to join us at Street Fight LIVE in Chicago on June 7th!


Nancy A Shenker, senior editor with Street Fight, is a former big brand (Citibank, Mastercard, Reed Exhibitions) marketing strategist and leader. She has been featured in Inc.com, the New York Times and Forbes.