1989's Future C-store: Service Depot?

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1989's Future C-store: Service Depot?

Sometimes past predictions can be a little off the mark -- take George Orwell's "1989," or "2001: A Space Odyssey." And other times, predictions made years ago aren't that far off. Take the Sept. 26, 1989, issue of Convenience Store News, which asked whether the future of c-stores would be focused on the services they provide to differentiate themselves from the competition, drive traffic and appeal to a broader customer base.

CSNews reported retailers were experimenting with electronic devices including photocopiers, financial services and more. Tom Thumb Food Markets, a then 194-unit chain, was testing in four stores a kiosk called Unbank, which was directed at handling the financial transactions for consumers without bank accounts, and could cash checks, write money orders, wire money orders, pay bills or get cash advances.

"We look at Unbank as a destination service purchase," John Mason, chief financial officer for Tom Thumb, told CSNews at the time.

Meanwhile, The Southland Corp.'s 7-Eleven stores were becoming a destination with photocopiers in nearly 1,000 stores, along with event ticketing machines called TicketQuik, and a precursor to pay-at-the-pump called GasQuik. Stores also offered check-cashing and utility bill payment services.

And still other c-store chains were offering fax machines and even stamps. While some of these services didn't survive the test of time, others are still a major initiative at c-stores. Catering to the underbanked today through financial services is an especially popular way to accommodate Hispanic immigrants -- a growing ethic group in both size and profitability for c-stores.

However, CSNews wasn't entirely accurate in its prediction. It does say in the article "As the boom in foodservice programs runs its course …" Twenty years later, foodservice is an even more important element of convenience retailing, and it doesn't appear that it will be going away any time soon.