LAVAL, Quebec — The Circle K Fuel brand is now available at more than 2,300 sites across North America, and Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. is piloting some modified branding strategies with its fuel partners that place the brand more prominently on its canopies.
"Looking forward, we'll continue to work on strategies to grow the Circle K Fuel brand with the aim of creating a stronger ecosystem and enhancing the customer experience," President and CEO Brian Hannasch said during Couche-Tard's fourth-quarter fiscal 2020 earnings call on June 30, noting that the retailer is analyzing the results on a market-by-market basis.
The parent company of the global Circle K brand is also focusing on promotional and pricing approaches to increase customers' frequency of visits. This has included testing "more dynamic pricing strategies at 2,400 sites across the U.S.," he said.
In addition to bringing the Circle K Fuel brand to more forecourts, the company completed the rollout of Circle K's Easy Pay loyalty program to all U.S. markets that have the proprietary fuel brand in place. Launched last summer, the program rewards points for fuel and food and beverage items, which members can then convert into discounts.
In yet another marketing initiative, Couche-Tard deployed its Lift platform — which provides the ability to track customers' purchases in order to offer personalized discounts — in approximately 7,600 stores in North America. The retailer is now planning the platform's rollout in Europe.
"Additionally, as we continue to look at reverse synergies out of the Holiday transaction, we've expanded our Smart Value program, which was a key promotional tool for them," Hannasch said. "Now, it's expanded to the entire North American network. We're seeing great success in growing basket, and we're piloting that program in Europe."
The Future of Fueling
Turning to the future of mobility, Couche-Tard installed more than 450 electric vehicle (EV) chargers at 81 sites in Norway, and now leads the country in both share and absolute number of high-speed chargers, according to Hannasch.
"In the urban market of Oslo, we were the first to convert an entire station to EV charging. We are now probably a global pioneer in that front," he said. "We've also launched a home charging effort. This year, we've now got 1,200 units installed in residential chargers and 3,000 units committed."
Couche-Tard is dedicated to being a part of the solution by creating an ecosystem both at home and on the road for its customers in Norway, the CEO stated.
Other Key Initiatives
Couche-Tard's global Circle K rebranding effort is progressing, too. During the fiscal year, the company converted more than 800 stores to the new branding. It completed the project in Europe, as well as at more than 6,300 sites in North America, including almost 1,000 former CST Brands sites and 1,100-plus stores in Canada.
In addition to its company-owned stores, Couche-Tard has teamed with its franchise partners to convert more than 1,500 franchise sites to the new Circle K brand.
"We continue to see many benefits from our transition to a single global brand, including increased awareness by our customers, as well as the ability to speak to them in a unified voice," Hannasch said. "This latter point has been particularly impactful during the pandemic in communicating emergency procedures [and] company policies between our teams and our communities."
As of April 26, Laval-based Couche-Tard's network comprised 9,414 c-stores throughout North America, including 8,221 stores with road transportation fuel. Its North American network consists of 18 business units, including 14 in the United States covering 48 states and four in Canada covering all 10 provinces.
In Europe, Couche-Tard operates a retail network across Scandinavia, Ireland, Poland, the Baltics and Russia through 10 business units. As of April 26, its European network comprised 2,710 stores, the majority of which offer road transportation fuel and convenience products while the others are unmanned automated fuel stations that only offer road transportation fuel.
In addition, under licensing agreements, close to 2,350 stores are operated under the Circle K banner in 15 other countries and territories, which brings the worldwide total network to close to 14,500 stores.