C-stores Take Aim at Fresh

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C-stores Take Aim at Fresh

By Melissa Kress, Convenience Store News - 10/09/2014

LAS VEGAS – Convenience store retailers are working hard to make the long-held perception that c-stores are not healthy a thing of the past. Somewhat surprisingly the way to do that may be to not but the emphasize on health.

Citing a NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing survey, Jeff Lenard noted that "healthy" does not resonate with consumers, but "fresh" does.

Lenard, vice president, strategic industry initiatives at NACS, led the educational session "Grow Sales the Healthy Way" at the 2014 NACS Show.

For the past few years, NACS has been trying to answer the questions how does the industry get recognized for being healthy and how does it address the NIMBY issue. Adding healthy options to the inventory mix address both of these concerns, he said.

While there may still be more work to do on the matter, some industry players are doing it right.

Ken Hagler, vice president of marketing for Tri Star Energy LLC, dba Twice Daily Convenience Store, explained that the Nashville, Tenn.-based company's journey to fresh began five years ago "when we took a hard look at ourselves and asked if we were well positioned for the future."

To that end, the retailer, which was known as Daily Convenience Store, conducted a consumer survey and found that out of 25 key points, customers gave high marks to only four: friendly service, clean stores, sell high-quality gas, and community involvement.

"We came to the conclusion that we needed to do something," Hagler added. That something included to working with consultants who zeroed on a great opportunity for the retailer: the female consumer with a focus on fresh offerings.

For New Orleans-based Diaz Inc. the move to a fresh focus in its Diaz Market stores came from a more personal level. Giselle Eastlack, chief financial officer and general manager, explained that four years ago the company embarked on a store remodeling program During the process, Diaz realized that as a working mom always on the go, the stores didn't offer items that she wanted.

"I took from my own life," she explained. "It was important to me to be able to shop our stores."

As part of the remodeling efforts, Diaz asked a personal trainer to walk around a Diaz Market and point out items for parents and children. Those five or six items, she said, became focus of the retail chain's fresh program.

"It's great to have these options but it's just an option," she noted, adding there is a time for decadence.

As Tri Star Energy began its evolution it tapped the tagline "Twice Daily, Fresh All Day" as part of its rebranding efforts, Hagler said. 

"The changes we made were pretty extensive. There were some nice things about our previous brand, Daily, but we were really a Coke and smoke kind of place," he explained. "If we really wanted to differentiate ourselves and become a destination we came up with the Twice Daily brand with a focus on fresh."

Part of the process was revamping the interior of the stores, displaying a fresh deli case near the front door to grab the customers' attention right away. "It is a strong physical presence that something is different," Hagler noted.

To date, 28 of the 70 stores have been converted to the Twice Daily brand, he added.

Diaz Market took a similar view of the fresh case and its role in communicating the changes with the consumers. The company did not change where it was getting its fresh offerings from, it just changed where it placed them in the store and brought them to front of mind, Eastlack said.

"Pick a spot in the store that is very visible to customers and start from there," she advised. "Let that be the focus of your store."