CSN EXCLUSIVE: Embracing a Changing Convenience & Fuel Landscape

BPAMA and bp work hand in hand to bring the best solutions to consumers.
Melissa Kress
The 2024 BPAMA conference and business expo in Arizona

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The 2024 BP Amoco Marketers Association (BPAMA) Convention and Business Expo not only marked the association's 50th anniversary, but also celebrated five decades of working with bp to better serve the convenience and fuel industry. 

BPAMA has approximately 145 members that make up about 4,000 of the 7,000 bp/Amoco marketer sites. The members represent about 80% of bp's brand volume. Boosted by those numbers, and the association's relationship with the energy giant, BPAMA is gearing up to play an integral role in bp's journey to transform the convenience, fuel and energy landscape. 

"I think everybody recognizes that it is coming — EVs [electric vehicles], hydrogen, whatever those changes are. I think they also recognize that it will come at different places and different timing depending on where you are. Because of that, I think they, in general, are trying to figure out how to participate, and when and how it makes sense for them," Jack Allard, BPAMA executive director, told Convenience Store News at the convention. 

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"Our members embrace it, they just don't know how to participate yet. In some cases, there are marketers that are out piloting things and testing on their own. I think all of them value the partnership with bp, who can provide a larger global or national view on the timing and how to do this. They just have more resources and people dedicated to this," he added. "I think they look to bp for some guidance."

BPAMA Chairman Andrew Woodward of Elliott Oil Co. in Ottumwa, Iowa, agreed that the pace and extent of change is not a one-size-fits-all proposition for the marketers and that the association's members are "leaning on bp for guidance" while following the lead of consumers. 

[Read more: BP Leans Into Convenience Retailing Following Thorntons Deal]

"From a marketer standpoint, it really depends on what region you're marketing in. Marketers know the change is coming and they are embracing it, but every region is at a different pace. And, at the end of the day, it's really dictated by consumers, and marketers can't change that," Woodward said. "It's what the consumers are demanding and wanting. The West Coast is at a totally different energy transition rate than where I market in Iowa or New York City. You really see it where bp is test piloting this transition in unique markets in New York City or California."

This year's BPAMA conference shined a light on bp's commitment to and investment in the United States and the different energy transitions — whether it's oil, EVs or hybrids, the chairman added.

Growing Together

As CSNews previously reported, bp is planning for roughly half of its cumulative $55 billion to $65 billion "transition growth engine" investment to go into convenience, bioenergy and EV charging from 2023 to 2030. 

Greg Franks, senior vice president, mobility & convenience, Americas for bp speaking at the conference
Greg Franks

According to Greg Franks, bp's senior vice president, mobility & convenience, Americas, the company's vision is to not only grow its network, but also strengthen it by diversifying its offers. Marketers are a big piece of the picture.

BP's intention is to be industry-leading in EV charging, biofuel, convenience and digital offers, as well as fleet services and truck services following its acquisition of TravelCenters of America. "As we diversify that offer and we are more things to more consumers, the branded marketers are at the core of it; the bp and Amoco stations across this country [numbering more than] 7,000 locations. Many of them have been in their communities for decades," Franks told CSNews

[Read more: BP to Acquire TravelCenters of America for $1.3B]

In fact, this year's BPAMA Convention and Business Expo recognized a few marketers with 100-year awards. "We have new marketers coming in, but we have the vast majority that have been in for decades. They work in these towns. They know the corner they work on. They know the community they serve. They know the people that are coming in," he explained. "In turn, as these diversified products come to market, they're the ones that are going to tell us what's working, what the customer wants, and what the customer is telling us about. How do we need to pivot? We want to be customer obsessed and they, in a lot of ways, are our eyes and ears to what communities want and need."

BP works closely with BPAMA and its subcommittees to bring the right solutions to market. "Whoever is closest to the customer has the best insights about the customer. We have great respect for that and we listen to what they have to say," Franks said. 

BPAMA's Allard also pointed out that in addition to working with the association's members, bp sees the convenience and fuel business through consumers' eyes firsthand at its company-operated convenience stores. 

"It works very well in terms of trying to understand what the consumer wants because I think they're coming at it from two ways," Allard said. "At the end of the day, the marketer benefits from both of those. They benefit from bp's experience with what they're saying and what they can bring to the table. And they also benefit from sharing their ideas, and challenge and push and pull on it. It is a two-way street and it works well."

Facing Challenges

With thousands of sites under its umbrella, BPAMA provides a means for its members to discuss pain points and challenges, and join forces to find solutions. 

"We try to understand if it's a one-off issue — we're not really trying to represent a marketer and go plead their case — or if it is an issue that we think multiple marketers are facing or all marketers are facing. Then, we're an avenue to help raise those concerns or issues," Allard explained. 

Acknowledging it can be difficult, he noted that all marketers are not the same. "You've got company ops and dealers and combinations of those, and people that run full food offers and no food offers. All of these programs have to try to come together to support those folks. I think we're a means to help communicate," he said. 

Coming from a marketer's perspective, Woodward pointed to labor costs, inflation rates and aggressive competition as among the biggest pain points — similar to the overall convenience channel.

"The unknowns of how quickly and the true impact of the energy transition. How is it really going to affect the oil industry? Technology adoption — people talk a lot about self-checkout to help try to manage labor costs, but then there's pros and cons on the other side of that, too," he said. 

Foodservice is another big area. "Our little company is a mixed bag. We have company-owned and -operated sites and dealer sites, and to be successful in direct retail operations, if you're not investing in foodservice — not just investing in it, but very good at executing it — then you're not able to compete. It just really depends on your business model. A lot of dealer sites still to this day have very little or no foodservice as part of their business model," Woodward said. 

The 2024 BPAMA Convention and Business Expo took place Feb. 19-21 at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.

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About the Author

Melissa Kress

Melissa Kress

Melissa Kress is Executive Editor of Convenience Store News. She joined the brand in 2010. Melissa handles much of CSNews’ hard news coverage, such as mergers and acquisitions and company financial reports, and the technology beat. She is also one of the industry’s leading media experts on the tobacco category.

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