LAS VEGAS — A convenience store is not just a place to quickly buy a drink and fill up the gas tank. It's also a source of help and healthy choices that makes the community it serves a better place, according to speakers at Monday's Day 2 general session at the NACS Show.
Outgoing NACS Chairman Steve Loehr relayed a story from several months ago when an elderly gentleman entered a Kwik Trip store seeking assistance with filling his gas tank, checking the oil and making sure his tires were properly inflated. After receiving the help he needed, the man confessed that he knew how to perform these tasks but had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and he wanted to know if it was true that Kwik Trip employees took care of their customers and would take care of his wife when she would have to do these things after his passing.
"We hear stories like that virtually every day," said Loehr, reflecting on the 25 years he has spent helping to build Kwik Trip Inc. as a company and improving the c-store industry as a whole.
Kwik Trip and other chains like Sheetz, Wawa and QuikTrip are continually proving that c-stores can be successful while ensuring their employees are supported and happy in their jobs, which reduces turnover, retains expertise, and results in better service for customers and further success in business.
Loehr praised the ability of these chains to be selective about who they hire, noting that while Harvard University accepts 5 percent of its applicants, Kwik Trip accepts 1.8 percent, Sheetz accepts 4.5 percent, Wawa accepts 4.8 percent and QuikTrip accepts 3.1 percent.
NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, itself is an important resource for success, as it offers many resources to retailers and makes sure elected representatives understand the c-store industry and are more likely to be aware of the effects their work has on it. Loehr urged retailer involvement with legislators, highlighting local store visits as one way to teach them about the daily work c-stores do and the issues they grapple with.
"The government can shape our business as much as anyone," he said. "If legislators don’t have the right information, they often make bad decisions."
Making the Healthy Choice
Choice is an important element of convenience today, and customers increasingly desire the opportunity to make healthy choices.
Kwik Trip, which is known for the 400 pounds of bananas it sells each day, helped demonstrate its commitment to healthy choices last year when it teamed up with the nonprofit organization Partnership for a Healthy America (PHA). Next week, it will help PHA launch the Drink Up initiative, which urges consumers to drink more water more often.
"Consumers are demanding healthier options like never before," said PHA CEO Larry Soler. "Retailers can capitalize on this opportunity."
Monday's general session featured the announcement that two new c-store retailers are joining with PHA to offer more healthy options: TriStar Services LLC's Twice Daily c-stores in Tennessee and Kentucky, and U-Gas Inc., which has c-stores in Missouri and Illinois. Both chains will expand their availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and healthier packaged food, made-to-order and grab-and-go options.
Connie Podesta, an award-winning author, comedian and expert in the psychology of human relations, sales and leadership, closed out the general session by demonstrating differences between generations and genders using circles, squares, squiggles and triangles as groupings in an audience-wide personality assessment.
When working to increase sales, c-store operators should remember that people have different preferences for things like one's comfort zone, and people will willingly pay more to shop at a store where they feel comfortable, according to Podesta.
"Left to our own devices, we sell to our own shape," she said.