Alimentation Couche-Tard and Holiday Cos. logos

Couche-Tard Rolls Out Holiday Stationstores' Programs to Its Circle K Network

Melissa Kress
Senior News Editor
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Holiday Cos. convenience stores

LAVAL, Quebec — As a leader in industry acquisitions, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. knows that the work doesn’t end when the deal closes.

Roughly 18 months after adding Holiday Cos. and its Holiday Stationstores convenience stores to its portfolio, Couche-Tard continues to bring Holiday's best practices to the rest of its network.

According to Couche-Tard President and CEO Brian Hannasch, the retailer is progressing with the North American rollout of Holiday's Smart Value program, a comprehensive in-store promotional initiative.

The rollout will move to Europe this fall, Hannasch said during Couche-Tard's first-quarter fiscal year 2020 earnings call, held Sept. 5.

In addition, several Holiday food pilots went live during the first quarter. This included one in the St. Louis market where the retailer went to great lengths to replicate Holiday's full food concept — including its first full store remodel in true Holiday style and format, relocating the checkout, and changing the entire customer flow inside the store, the chief executive explained.

"Holiday has a unique store layout where customers are routed very thoughtfully through the food section back to the coolers and into the impulse area where they wait to pay," said Hannasch.

Along with a strong foodservice program, the Midwest retailer had other strong suits, including its car wash program. To that end, Couche-Tard has introduced car wash subscriptions to its c-stores in Denmark and in the Southeast and Heartland Business Units in the United States — and they are showing "encouraging early results," Hannasch reported, noting that 20 percent of the car wash volume in the Holiday network comes through the subscription model.

Couche-Tard is adopting the Holiday way as the foundation of its new store labor tool, too. In part, it will drive allocation of hours based on analysis and best practices learned from Holiday.

"We are really taking the best practices from Holiday and a little bit from [CST Brands Inc.] to create what I think is a very, very robust, activity-based model that provides great transparency, labor utilization, making sure we've got the right level of customer service and activities for sites where we need it," Hannasch explained.

The new labor model will roll out on a large scale across North America in the third quarter of fiscal 2020.

"There is literally a list of probably 30 or 40 things that are being incorporated in the network. Some are completely invisible to customers and the operators, and some are very visible," Hannasch said during the conference call.

As of July 21, Couche-Tard's network comprised 9,792 convenience stores throughout North America. Its North American network consists of 19 business units, including 15 in the U.S. covering 48 states and four in Canada covering all 10 provinces. In addition, through CrossAmerica Partners LP, Couche-Tard supplies road transportation fuel under various brands to more than 1,300 locations in the United States.

In Europe, Couche-Tard operates 10 business units across Scandinavia, Ireland, Poland, the Baltics and Russia. As of July 21, Couche-Tard's European network comprised 2,706 stores. In addition, under licensing agreements, approximately 2,250 stores are operated under the Circle K banner in 16 other countries and territories.

Couche-Tard is No. 2 on the 2019 Convenience Store News Top 100 ranking.