ANKENY, Iowa — Two months before the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread across the United States, Casey's General Stores Inc. embarked on a strategic plan consisting of three key pillars: reinventing its guest experience, creating investment capacity through efficiencies, and accelerating unit growth.
Despite the challenges presented by the global health crisis, the convenience store operator has kept its focus on those pillars.
"In addition to navigating through a global pandemic and delivering record financial results, the company also did a great job executing on our long-term strategic plan," Casey's President and CEO Darren Rebelez said during the retailer's fourth-quarter fiscal year 2021 earnings call, held June 9.
Pillar 1: Reinventing Its Guest Experience
During the fiscal year, the company made great strides in ramping up its guest experience, particularly with digital engagement. Notably, the Casey's Rewards program — which launched in January 2020 — now has more than 3.6 million members. In addition, 700-plus Casey's stores offer delivery through DoorDash and another 700 stores offer delivery through Uber Eats.
Casey's private label program is also gaining steam.
"Our private label initiative is off to a great start, capitalizing on the brand equity we have built up for over 50 years. We recently eclipsed 3 percent of grocery and other merchandise sales [with private label], significantly outperforming our goal of 2 percent for fiscal 2021," the chief executive reported.
Pillar 2: Creating Investment Capacity Through Efficiencies
In the area of operational efficiencies, Casey's Joplin, Mo., distribution center is now operating and serving more than 600 stores. Casey's third distribution center is expected to reduce miles driven by roughly 1.8 million miles per year.
A newly formed and centralized procurement team is also more effectively leveraging the company's scale, and using strategic sourcing tactics to drive savings.
"We now have a dedicated protection team that provides prevention support throughout the entire organization," Rebelez said. "And finally, our centralized fuel team continues to deliver great results. Our performance excelled relative to the industry volumes and profitability in our geography during extremely volatile times."
Pillar 3: Accelerating Unit Growth
Casey's continues to expand its c-store network as well.
"We continue to see tremendous growth opportunities in our business and remain bullish to add 345 stores over the next three years," Rebelez said. "We’re well on our way as we just recently closed on the largest acquisition in our company’s history."
That acquisition, of Omaha, Neb.-based Buchanan Energy, closed on May 14. Calling Buchanan Energy "a perfect strategic fit," Rebelez said Casey's pizza program will pair well with Buchanan's well-located, high-volume Bucky's convenience stores.
In addition, Casey's inked a $39-million deal with Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. for 49 locations in Oklahoma that is expected to close by the end of the month.
The convenience retailer also built 40 new stores during its 2021 fiscal year.
"Our two-pronged balanced approach to store growth — the organic builds and acquisitions — enables us to be selective and disciplined, which we believe is the most effective way to drive shareholder value, and generated three years EBITDA and returns on capital investment," the chief executive said.
Ankeny-based Casey's currently operates more than 2,300 convenience stores.