CSNews Exclusive: Sheetz Keeps Growing

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CSNews Exclusive: Sheetz Keeps Growing

ALTOONA, Pa. -- Sheetz Inc. has a busy summer planned in terms of store growth. The convenience store chain, which currently operates 353 stores, has opened six new locations so far this year, and expects to have a total of 23 new stores built by the end of 2009.

Louie Sheetz, executive vice president of marketing, told CSNews Online six of the 23 new stores are rebuilds, where the retailer razes an existing location and replaces it with a new one. All of the new builds are being constructed according to the same store model Sheetz has used for the last three years, he noted.

Sheetz’ newest store opened yesterday at 1180 Manheim Pike in Lancaster, Pa., and marked the company’s third location in the area. The 5,000-square-foot store offers fresh food items, including the MTGo! and Shweetz Bakery lines of sandwiches, wraps, doughnuts and muffins, along with Sheetz’ signature MTO line of Angus beef burgers, premium grilled chicken sandwiches, freshly made salads, French fries, onion rings and more. Sheetz Bros. Coffeez, a full-service espresso and smoothie bar staffed by a trained barista, is also available at the store.

Doors officially opened yesterday morning and employees hosted a grand opening celebration and ribbon-cutting in the afternoon. As part of the celebration, Sheetz made a donation to Lancaster Parks and Recreation for its summer swimming programs.

According to Sheetz’ Web site, additional new store openings are slated for Thursday, June 18, and Tuesday, June 23, in Strongsville, Ohio, and York, Pa., respectively.

The 23 new builds planned for this calendar year are an increase over last year, when the company slowed new store construction to concentrate on completing its $46 million Sheetz Bros. Kitchen, a 140,000-square-foot central commissary in Claysburg, Pa., where products are prepared for fresh, daily delivery to Sheetz’ entire c-store network.

Still, the 2009 figure is slightly off Sheetz’ annual growth goal. "We have a stretch objective of 10 percent growth per year, so technically that would mean building 35 new stores per year," Louie Sheetz told CSNews Online. "That’s been a long-standing annual goal for us, and we are expecting to get back on this pace."

While the economy has had an impact, the bigger hurdle is logistics—specifically, the amount of time it now takes to develop a site, which is getting longer each year.

"For whatever reason, it’s getting increasingly more difficult and timely. That’s why we always try to have many [sites] in the pipeline," Louie Sheetz explained. "We have a lot of real estate representatives out there now trying to put sites in the pipeline."

In combination with its growth plans, Sheetz is also testing a new marketing platform for its underdeveloped markets, starting in North Carolina. The multi-marketing campaign, which blends traditional media, promotional activity and event marketing, is "a bit of revised brand positioning," said Louie Sheetz. "We’re trying to educate a new community on what a Sheetz is and how it may be different than a traditional gas station."

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