Casey's CEO Darren Rebelez Says Company Is 'Here for Good'
NEW YORK — The leadership of Casey’s General Stores Inc., surrounded by store team members, rang the opening bell at the NASDAQ stock market here Friday morning. Darren Rebelez, president and CEO of Casey’s, the fourth-largest convenience store retailer in the United States and the fifth-largest pizza chain in the country, signaled the start of the day’s trading session.
“I’m pleased to be here to ring the opening bell alongside our Casey’s team members,” said Rebelez, who was appointed to his position in July 2019. “Already a 50-year retail success story, Casey’s is accelerating its growth for the next 50 years. On top of a momentous 2019 where we sold more than 85 million slices of pizza and experienced our sixth consecutive quarter of growth, we’re on track to open 85 new stores by May 2020 — demonstrating to our guests and investors that we are here for good.”
“Here for Good” is also the name of the retailer’s new brand campaign — a campaign designed to bring attention to Casey’s high-quality food offering, the retailer’s commitment to doing good in the communities it serves, and its promise to stay in those communities for the long term.
“I’m excited about a lot of things,” Rebelez said in an interview with Convenience Store News after ringing the NASDAQ bell. Coming off the strong financial performance of the past 18 months, he cited the “vast potential of this brand, coupled with so many things we already do well, particularly in foodservice.”
Casey’s is committing to grow its store footprint by three to five percent each year for the next three years, focusing on flexible store models to ensure that the unique needs of each location and the particular community are met.
“We have nearly 2,200 stores, but are concentrated in only 16 states,” said Rebelez. “If you peel back the onion a little more, you’ll see that approximately 2,000 of our stores are in only nine states.”
The planned opening of a third distribution center in Joplin, Mo., will enable the retailer’s geographic expansion, as well as alleviate pressure on its existing distribution centers in Terre Haute, Ind., and its hometown of Ankeny, Iowa.
Casey’s, which prepares all of its foodservice offerings from scratch in its stores — including its famous pizza, made-to-order sandwiches (currently in 1,500 stores) and doughnuts — has made its mark by serving small communities. “A little over half our store base is located in markets with 5,000 people or less,” Rebelez explained.
However, its development strategy is not so rigid that Casey’s would avoid small metro markets. “We currently have three stores in Terre Haute, which has a 60,000 population,” the CEO said. “The competitive dynamics of a small city are similar to a small town.”
Besides opening in small cities, Casey’s is taking a look at opening non-fuel stores. “It’s another tool in our development toolbox,” said Rebelez. “Where we can’t find a site large enough for fuel, or in municipalities that don’t allow fuel, we think with our strong food background, we can be successful with non-fuel stores.”
Rebelez also highlighted three other growth opportunities in the year ahead:
- Dispensed Beverages: “We just reworked our coffee program with new cups, new lids and an improved quality drink. Frozen, carbonated and non-carbonated drinks are also a huge opportunity,” the chief executive shared.
- Private Label: “We currently have some private label, mostly in water and bagged candy, but see a big opportunity to develop private label in other categories to add depth to our existing product mix,” he said. “We’re just getting started with that.”
- The Digital Space: “We are reaching more guests through digital technology, including the new Casey’s Rewards program, expanding online assortment and increasing delivery options.”