Immediately upon entering Kum & Go LC’s new prototype store in Johnston, Iowa, it is clear to customers that this is not the convenience store they remember from their childhood.
The 6,000-square-foot razed-and-rebuilt store — located at 5225 NW 86th St. — is the largest location in the West Des Moines, Iowa-based convenience store operator’s portfolio to date and borders on the look and feel of a contemporary hotel, Mark Hastings, chief operating officer of Kum & Go, told Convenience Store News during its recent visit to the prototype.
Combining modern design with functionality, the new store concept emphasizes Kum & Go’s foodservice offerings and brings to life the brand’s slogan: “Where & Means More.”
“The Marketplace design is the next evolution of a store design built to meet our customers’ needs,” explained Chris Jones, senior vice president of marketing. “We wanted to create a store experience that, in line with our brand promise, delivers more than our customers expect.”
STARTING A REVOLUTION
Developed over the course of two years, the Marketplace design is a “labor of love,” according to Hastings, and was conceptualized to “create a much more exciting [customer] experience.”
To bring this distinctive concept to fruition, Kum & Go partnered with New York City-based branding firm CBX, as well as BRR, an architecture firm based in Kansas City, Kan.
Ensuring a strategic alignment process from beginning to end was paramount to CBX. The firm immersed itself in the Kum & Go brand to truly understand how to connect the c-store operator’s core values, passion for excellent service and heritage to the development of a new store design and experience that would be a true extension of the brand, Todd Maute, a partner at CBX who worked with Kum & Go on the project, explained to CSNews.
“Our collective goal was to bring consumer touchpoints together within the store under one brand and enhance consumers’ shopping experience,” Maute said. “Our core desire was to have the store become an extension of the brand [Kum & Go team members] have worked so hard to build, while supporting the core values and services that make it such a great retailer.”
When it came time for execution, this meant elevating the “physicality” of the store. The Marketplace prototype’s fuel canopy and store exterior are a far departure from Kum & Go’s previous stores. “The design signals ‘change’ from the street all the way through the store,” Maute commented. “From a distance, you can tell this is something new.”
THE FOODSERVICE CONNECTION
The Johnston store officially opened for business on Feb. 18 and got cooking.
With an emphasis on Kum & Go’s foodservice offerings and its “Go Fresh Market” fresh food program, customers are immediately greeted in the Marketplace store design by a fresh pizza and made-to-order sandwich station directly ahead of them.
“We had food [positioned] to the side for years and people weren’t making the connection. Now, it’s as soon as they walk in the door,” Hastings noted.
To draw even more attention, an oversized red ampersand is mounted over the station, where pizza and sandwich makers are clad in their new uniforms: chefs’ jackets and caps. The station backdrop is white subway title, which also can be found outside at the fueling stations.
Other unique foodservice-related features of this store are: upscale bakery offerings, including fresh bread baked on the premises and Kum & Go’s signature product, ampersand doughnuts; 42-inch menu boards displaying real pictures of Kum & Go’s food, not generic images; a cold dispensed beverage station boasting 30-plus options and featuring flavor shot dispensers so customers can amp up their drinks; a crushed ice dispenser that uses filtration technology Starbucks helped Kum & Go create; a toppings bar of condiments; and a special toppings bar for coffee and other hot beverages, designed with millennials in mind.
Throughout the sales area, lowered gondola fixtures create greater visibility to engage customers and make it easier for them to shop. At the same time, snack quads in diagonally positioned aisles give customers the opportunity to seek out their favorite snacks or discover something new.
The Johnston site is also the chain’s first to feature indoor seating in order to create a social environment — including a five-seat community table similar to Starbucks, according to Hastings. The new prototype also debuts Kum & Go’s first-ever growler station, which sells local, domestic and craft beers during peak business hours. A recently passed Iowa law now permits retailers in the state to sell take-home beer in growlers.
Some additional unique features of the Marketplace design are:
- A quick-service checkout station that doesn’t allow tobacco or lottery sales;
- Patio seating complete with overhead heaters for availability during three seasons;
- Complimentary Wi-Fi and charging stations;
- An expansive beer cave and separate fridge for singles;
- Music playing throughout the store;
- Touchless restrooms;
- E15, E85 and unleaded fuel options;
- LED lighting in-store and at all fueling stations;
- LEED certification (chain has more than 110 LEED-certified stores); and
- Clutter-free counters, which coincidentally mirrored a recent CSNews story on why it’s important to keep your counters clean, according to Hastings.
WHERE & MEANS MORE
Beyond just what it sells, the next-generation store is a physical representation of Kum & Go’s core values, which include passion, integrity, teamwork, caring and excellence.
Playing off the retailer’s slogan, the ampersand symbol plays an integral role in the prototype store design. Displayed both strategically and whimsically throughout the Marketplace concept, the ampersand emphasizes that at Kum & Go, you always get more.
In fact, because the ampersand is integral to the company’s branding, a piece of artwork was specifically commissioned for the Johnston site. An 8-foot-tall by 7-foot-wide, handmade ampersand sits on the north side of the building as a tribute to Kum & Go’s slogan. Designed and produced by Des Moines art studio Sticks, the artwork honors the community of Johnston with keywords and images that reflect the area’s attractions and sayings on one side, while the other side showcases Kum & Go’s core values and culture.
As Hastings shared with CSNews, the Johnston location is the “guinea pig” of the Marketplace concept, and company executives are already toying around with ideas they would like to bring to future Marketplace stores. These ideas include: electronic trash compactors to eliminate garbage bag usage and reduce waste; cabinets that will retrofit supplies like boxes for cups and lids to save space and keep storage areas well-maintained and organized; and faucets over the cold dispensed beverage slots to keep drainage areas easily maintained and cleaned, thus saving employees time from having to take the slots to the back room to wash.
Kum & Go’s next location to feature the Marketplace design and enhanced Go Fresh Market foodservice offering will be in Joplin, Miss. This store will likewise have its own unique ampersand artwork, paying homage to the catastrophic tornado that struck the city in 2011.
Before the end of this year, the retailer plans to open a total of 28 locations featuring the Marketplace design in Iowa, Colorado, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Missouri and Arkansas. Kum & Go currently operates 430 convenience stores in 11 states.