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C is for Community

Being the community's store is as important as being the convenience store.
A group of people putting their hands in together

It's been said before, but it's worth repeating: Convenience store retailers are better positioned than any other type of retailer to be the focal point of community service in the markets they serve.

The reason why is simple. How many times a month does a person visit a Home Depot or Lowe's? Unless they're actively performing a home improvement project, it's probably not more than once or twice. How about a supermarket? Most people do their grocery shopping once, or perhaps twice, a week. Now, take a convenience store, where consumers shop anywhere from three to five times weekly. Some even go to their favorite neighborhood store on a daily basis.

During a general session at last month's NACS Show, NACS President and CEO Henry Armour told audience members that c-store also stands for "community" store. "We are in every community around the country, around the world and often around the corner," he said.

The trade association has partnered with food-forward groups to enhance the nutritional offerings at c-stores, with the American Red Cross to support first responders, and with the Good Jobs Institute to address labor issues in the industry. More recently, NACS spearheaded the development of TruAge, an app for preventing youth access to age-restricted products. More than 35,000 c-stores already support TruAge to curtail illegal alcohol and tobacco purchasing by minors.

It's gratifying to see how many individual convenience store companies are also giving back to their communities in various ways. A few recent examples are:

  • Casey's General Stores Inc.'s Cash for Class program, which kicked off its third year this fall, has raised $3 million for students, families and educators through a combination of round-up donations and the retailer's partnership with LIFEWTR. More than 250 schools in the retailer's 16-state market area received grants.
  • Maverik stayed true to its Adventure's First Stop theme by giving nearly $700,000 to the National Park Foundation through a Round Up Your Change summer donation program.
  • Wawa Inc. will transform a former convenience store in Philadelphia and provide more than $1.5 million in support for the next five years to Popcorn for the People, an organization dedicated to creating career opportunities for autistic individuals through the production and packaging of products. With the new space, Popcorn for the People will be able to expand its production capabilities and continue to create jobs for people with autism and other disabilities.
  • The Spinx Co. chooses beneficiaries based on its corporate charitable mission: "Spinx & Kids: Mind, Body, Spirit. Growing healthy kids where we live, work and play." The retailer donated $120,000 this year across four charities in the Greenville, S.C., area that fit this mission: the American Red Cross, Greenville Free Medical Clinic, Loaves and Fishes, and Safe Harbor.

These are just a sampling of some of the ways that convenience stores can and do position themselves as the "community" store.

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