Love's Continues on Growth Path

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Love's Continues on Growth Path

By Tammy Mastroberte, Convenience Store News - 03/26/2012

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- Last year, Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores invested $180 million into new construction for more than 20 new travel stop locations, and spent another $50 million-plus to improve existing sites, including the addition of new Love's Truck Tire Care Centers to current locations, expanding parking lots, reimaging restaurants and remodeling restrooms.

"Love's opened 21 new locations in 2011," Kyla Turner, communications manager at Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores, told Convenience Store News. "These were all new construction projects built from the ground up. We also acquired a travel stop in Benson, Ariz., from Gas City, and it is now a fully remodeled Love's."

The company opened locations in a number of states, including Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Washington. Additionally, Love's added 48 new Truck Tire Care Centers to its locations in the last year, which offer an extensive selection of tires, as well as batteries, parts and a variety of services.

"2011 was an exceptional year for Love's," said Tom Love, founder and CEO. "We will continue to grow throughout the country, offering accessible locations and the clean places and friendly faces Love's is known for."

On the fuel front, Love's is increasing the number of its locations with bulk DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) as demand grows for this urea-based chemical reactant that is used to destroy harmful exhaust emissions and meet Environmental Protection Agency standards.

Love's ended 2011 with 100 bulk DEF locations -- accounting for more than one-third of all its company locations -- and the retailer will continue to add more in 2012, according to Turner.

In addition to DEF, the chain also recently began offering bulk compressed natual gas (CNG) in partnership with Chesapeake Energy Corp. of Oklahoma. Love's installed the first pump at its location in Kingfisher, Okla., just outside of Oklahoma City where the company is headquartered. The c-store and truck stop operator plans to add 10 more CNG pumps to existing locations in Oklahoma this year.

The retailer continues to be a leader in technology as well. Last summer, it introduced Love's Connect, a mobile application (app) for iPhones, Androids and BlackBerries that offers customers real-time access to company locations, fuel prices, store amenities, food offerings and special promotions, as well as the ability for rewards members to check their points and credits. For the June launch, the company promoted the app with a nationwide sweepstakes, entering every customer who downloaded the app into a weekly prize drawing.

"Our mobile app is truly a way to connect with our customers," Turner said. "Enhancements are made based on the feedback we receive from our customers."

One of those enhancements included the addition of instant roadside assistance, which launched via an upgrade in December. Drivers can now instantly contact the chain's dispatch service when encountering problems on the road. The new upgrade also added DEF pricing and the ability for customers to see the total number of parking spots available at Love's truck stop locations.

These enhancements "help drivers get the services they need," Turner said, explaining that the company plans to introduce more upgrades and improvements to the app this year.

Another technology advancement announced by Love's in 2011 was a plan to install radio frequency identification (RFID) technology at all of its locations, allowing fuel transactions to be processed wirelessly without using a credit or debit card. The program, called Fuel Island Manager, is being installed and tested at select locations across the country.

"RFID transmitters identify trucks with a radio frequency tag and can automatically turn on a diesel pump and dispense the appropriate amount of fuel," said Turner. "This saves professional drivers valuable time at the pumps, and it helps trucking fleets manage their fuel costs."

While 2011 was an aggressive growth year for Love's, the company expects to continue its efforts in 2012.

New travel stops are in the works, along with remodel projects to improve both the accessibility and aesthetics of older locations, according to Turner. New Love's Truck Tire Care Centers are also planned, as is the continued expansion of bulk DEF offerings at Love's locations.

"Keep an eye out for new projects that will pop up in 2012," Turner said. "We constantly look for innovative ways to better serve our professional drivers and motorists on the road."