PITTSBURGH — As Terri Micklin settles into her new role as president of GetGo, the convenience store industry veteran looks forward to bringing the chain's neighborhood strategy to the forefront and building upon its legacy of putting the customer first.
"We spend a lot of time thinking like the customer. That's sort of our mantra: think like the customer. And we know that right now, what our customers are asking for is more value," Micklin told Convenience Store News. "They really need to stretch their dollars in today's inflationary environment. And so, we've really leaned into thinking about value and quality and how we can give that to our customer base."
With Micklin at the helm, a new era with an evolving customer strategy fits GetGo's modus operandi. The GetGo brand started in 2000 as a fuel redemption center outside of Giant Eagle Inc.'s supermarkets. Micklin described it as a simple customer experience: They would shop Giant Eagle and earn rewards on their grocery purchases, which could then be redeemed for fuel discounts at the forecourt.
The concept began to evolve as the company started selling more convenience products. Ultimately, the GetGo Café+Market format launched in 2015 as a food-first concept that features a full made-to-order kitchen. Today, there are more than 270 GetGo Café+Market locations.
Along the way, Giant Eagle/GetGo reached a number of unique milestones:
2001: The WetGo car wash brand was introduced.
2004: Fuel Perks, GetGo's first loyalty program, launched.
2019: AdvantagePay, an extension of myPerks, was introduced.
2020: A new multitier loyalty program, myPerks, launched.
2023: A new and improved version of the AdvantagePay program debuted, myPerks Pay Direct. Members get the same everyday fuel discounts of up to 30 cents off the posted per-gallon price as AdvantagePay members, but with the added option of paying for purchases at Giant Eagle and Market District locations.
"We've had this really nice arc of growing from a traditional fuel redemption center in front of supermarkets to a full kitchen, innovative convenience store brand that I think has one of the most unique reward and loyalty programs synced to all of the brands within Giant Eagle Inc.," Micklin said.
"That's one of the things that I think makes GetGo unique is we are a family of brands. You have the Giant Eagle and Market District supermarkets, Giant Eagle Pharmacy, GetGo convenience and fuel locations, and then WetGo car washes. For customers within our neighborhoods, you can shop and weave your way through this family of brands, where you're earning perks at every location that you can also redeem at every location," she continued. "You gain a ton of value by staying loyal to our brands. And that's something I think makes GetGo unique from the other convenience stores out there in the industry today."
Earning and stacking perks that are redeemable across the board is just one way Giant Eagle's family of brands bring value to customers. The other way, according to Micklin, is helping guests maximize value without sacrificing quality.
This entails a two-pronged approach. It is first creating a memorable guest experience through customer service. Then, it is coupling that experience with the constant evaluation of its offers to ensure everything meets the company's high standards.
One example of this is GetGo’s brand-new bean-to-cup coffee program, which launched earlier this year. In addition to updating equipment to offer a fresh-made coffee experience in less than one minute, the convenience retailer took the program a step further, reformulating the bean roast by working with a local coffee roaster in Ohio to create an exclusive signature roast found only at GetGo.
"But it's not enough to do that. We then decided to give away free coffee to all of our customers. We launched 'Free Coffee Monday.' Then, over the summer, we turned that into 'Summer Coffee Friday,'" Micklin shared, adding that a 99-cent coffee promotion was rolled out in the fall. “Those are things that I think our customers really appreciate because it's just that little bit of luxury and indulgence they get from a very, very high-quality product at a great value."
Food innovation will continue to play a large role in the future of GetGo. On the prepared foods front, the chain recently relaunched its burger program and is leveraging that experience with the introduction of a new chicken sandwich.
"I always want to emphasize that we are, at our core, a grocery company. We are a company that provides food for families to bring home to their kitchen table. So, when you're coming into GetGo, you're getting the same high-quality ingredients that you're buying at our supermarkets, just prepared for you in a way that makes it easier to enjoy on the go," Micklin said. "That connection is really fantastic because we have such a high-quality assortment of foods to pull from to stock our GetGo stores."
Additionally, GetGo is looking to bring more food throughout the chain. Currently, there are some stores that do not have a full kitchen and the company is working on some programs that are going to put more food in these stores.
The expansion of GetGo's private label program is another key area of focus. Most recently, the retailer launched a line of gummy candies and an assortment of packaged nuts. Bringing the synergistic concept full circle, GetGo is using the same manufacturers and suppliers that are packing the nuts that are available at Giant Eagle's supermarkets. But, for the GetGo brand, they’re packaged in a way that makes them easier to enjoy on the go, Micklin pointed out.
While the convenience retailer is focused on driving value and quality, it is also focused on keeping things easy for guests. For example, in the next year, GetGo will have completed a rollout of electronic shelf labels. This will allow the company to clearly communicate all of its pricing, which will give GetGo a more efficient way to engage with guests about promotions and value.
Micklin — whose appointment earlier this year was part of a larger roundup of executive leadership changes at Giant Eagle — is no stranger to the convenience channel. Her career spans a beginning at Exxon Co. USA through its merger with ExxonMobil Corp. before joining fellow Pennsylvania-based Wawa Inc., where for more than 20 years she focused on the development side of the business, spearheading multiple construction initiatives, including new stores, remodels and other significant projects. In 2022, Micklin joined Giant Eagle as senior vice president of strategy and development before being elevated to her current position this past April.
Micklin's background will serve her well in her new capacity as president of GetGo as she leads the company's ongoing strategic growth plans for the c-store chain and the WetGo car wash concept.
"We're always in a growth mindset. We've mostly been growing through new store growth and organic growth," she said. "We're always open to acquisitions, but right now our focus has been on more organic growth within our communities. That being said, I think there are a lot of areas that we see opportunity to grow through new stores to reach a little further than we do today."
In determining the right site for a GetGo, the company considers a few key factors. First, it looks at the community and asks, what kind of need or desire does that community have that could be a unique fit for GetGo? Then, it considers the local population and traffic count to evaluate the opportunity.
"On top of that, we also look for ways we can synergize with our other brands. We find we do much better when we can bring our brands together, so we want to make sure we're building in sync with a Giant Eagle or Market District supermarket so that you have that ability to unlock greater value from our overall network," Micklin said.
As of press time, GetGo had recently opened a new store in Greensburg, Pa., with one under construction in Franklin Township, Pa., that is expected to open in spring 2024.
"After those stores, we're going to continue to focus on building out in our existing geographies where we operate and then beginning to tie and connect those markets together," she shared.
Additionally, three new standalone WetGo Pro Car Washes are expected to open early next year, including one in Franklin Park and one in Collier Township, Pa., as part of the larger Pittsburgh market. A third location, in Middleburg, Ohio, is part of the company's Cleveland market. In total, WetGo operates more than 40 locations.
Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle operates more than 470 Giant Eagle, Market District and GetGo retail locations throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and Indiana.