GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Any convenience store and gas station operator knows a fresh look does wonders for a business that is striving for longevity in a competitive marketplace. Local CITGO marketer American Gas and Oil Inc. (AGO) is just one example of this.
"C-stores have evolved over the years from selling tires, batteries, fan belts and wiper blades to what the foodservice establishments they are today. Now, we have larger complexes, provide more food options and have become more of a destination," Jason Berris, president of AGO, told Convenience Store News. "To succeed at that business, we need to look fresh and welcoming, and give customers as many reasons as we can to keep them coming back."
Based in Grand Rapids, the operator of 41 CITGO branded service stations is in the process of upgrading its locations as part of CITGO Petroleum Corp.’s new Illuminate Reimage Program. Unveiled in honor of the company's 110th anniversary, the program builds off CITGO's "Centennial Image," which was introduced in 2010 as a way to strengthen its trusted brand status and enhance its visual appeal to the public.
"CITGO inspires and motivates us. When we undergo a frontcourt upgrade like this Illuminate project, it encourages us to freshen up the interiors of our stores as well, upgrading counters, layouts, increasing and improving our foodservice and c-store offerings, and keeping things modern and interesting to our customers," Berris said.
Elevating the existing CITGO Trimark symbol, the Illuminate program seeks to symbolize energy and progressiveness through multiple elements, including:
Utilization of brush aluminum to better reflect new lighting features.
New "eyebrow" lighting to brighten the whole canopy and increase the roadside visual appeal of CITGO locations at night.
Under-canopy reflective paint to further illuminate the entire CITGO station experience.
Other elements include upgraded decals and product IDs, valances, pump skirts, brushed aluminum risers, and pole-mounted flag IDs for dispensers.
"In this day and age, our business model requires us to have stores that stand the test of time," Berris said. "We want attractive, clean imaging and stores that can adapt to the changing landscape of our industry. CITGO's illuminated centennial imaging utilizes its clean image, bright and inviting elements, and high-quality materials that will keep our stores attractive for a number of years."
AGO anticipates that it will take 12 to 14 months to reimage its CITGO branded stations, taking into account slower progress in the winter months and the extent of work needed at each site. Most of the work that needs to take place is integrating canopy imaging and eyebrow lighting. Some locations only need to be decaled, while others need new aluminum composite material (ACM) fascia on the canopy. However, several stations with newer pumps already have the Illuminate image and the CITGO Euro sign in place.
According to Berris, AGO's CITGO branded stations will benefit from the Illuminate Reimage Program in a number of ways. For starters, the fresh look will brighten the look of the stations and allow them to stand out, especially at night. The reimaging also will provide an added element of comfort, safety and cleanliness to each location, and create an exciting and welcoming atmosphere to attract roadside customers.
"The CITGO brand image isn't stale, but it's nice to refresh an appearance we've come to recognize over a number of years," the AGO executive noted. "While a customer may not notice the detailed changes — like white to brushed aluminum on the canopy — the new elements are sure to catch the eye of someone walking or driving by."
The new program's elements will be more efficient and cost-effective as well. The LED light elements are more energy efficient and easier to replace than older lighting. Additionally, use of brushed aluminum and ACM fascia will require less upkeep, thus reducing maintenance costs by withstanding the test of time.
"CITGO helps us keep a fresh look. They invest in their image and keep up with times and technology, which is the same thing we want to do inside our c-stores as we move forward," Berris told CSNews.
Houston-based CITGO operates three refineries, located in Corpus Christi, Texas; Lake Charles, La.; and Lemont, Ill.; and wholly and/or jointly owns 48 terminals, nine pipelines and three lubricants blending and packaging plants. CITGO transports and markets transportation fuels, lubricants, petrochemicals and other industrial products and supplies to a network of approximately 4,700 locally owned and operated branded retail outlets in 30 states and the District of Columbia.