COMPETITIVE WATCH: Spartan Stores To Pump Up Fuel Centers

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COMPETITIVE WATCH: Spartan Stores To Pump Up Fuel Centers

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Another grocery chain is eyeing up the fuel business as a way to become more profitable, convenient and consumer-centric. Spartan Stores, based here, has a desire to expand fuel to as many of its corporately-owned stores as possible.

Customers now want to gas up their cars at the same place they pick up groceries and prescriptions, according to Tom Montgomery, the company's director of fuel operations. "Today it's an expectation -- it's not simply a convenience," he said.

According to a report by The Grand Rapids Press, Spartan Stores has submitted a proposal to the Planning Commission in Caledonia, Mich. to operate a D&W Quick Stop gas station on a location that previously housed a drive-up restaurant.

Spartan needs approval to change the Glen Valley Shopping Center's planned-unit development zoning because it doesn't allow gas stations. It also needs an OK to construct the station with less than the required 25 percent open space and 50-foot setbacks from M-37, the report said.

A hearing on Spartan's proposal is scheduled for Sept. 28. The council could then consider it for a final approval in October. If Spartan receives the approvals in October, the gas station could open in December, Montgomery said.

The D&W station would be the fourth gas station in a seven-tenths-of-a-mile stretch of M-37, said commission member Victoria Peabody-Duren, who also serves on the Village Council.

Without the gas station, Spartan representatives said the store could prove unsuccessful. They said when Spartan recently purchased the D&W Food Centers stores, company leaders knew the Caledonia store needed the station and a pharmacy.

"If we don't do those things, we'll be closing some stores," Montgomery said, adding that four gas stations probably isn’t enough for the growing area.

In a report to shareholders, Craig Struken, Spartan's chairman, president and CEO, said, "Our organization is now focused on the growth phases of our business plan to position the company for profitable and sustainable growth." As part of this phase, Spartan will "more fully capitalize on our consumer centric and customer convenience business strategies," he said.

"Our growth plans include expanding our fuel centers, introducing more award-winning private-label products and brands, evaluating opportunistic retail store acquisitions, adding more convenience services, like walk-in health clinics, to select stores and expanding our retail and distribution businesses in Ohio and Indiana," he continued.

Spartan Stores owns and operates 68 retail supermarkets and 19 deep-discount food and drug stores in Michigan and Ohio, including Family Fare Supermarkets, Glen's Markets, D&W Fresh Markets, and The Pharm. It is the nation's tenth largest grocery distributor, supplying some 350 independent grocery stores in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.