Thorntons Looks Beyond the Pump

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Thorntons Looks Beyond the Pump

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- An indicator that the Thorntons convenience chain is focusing on its stores, rather than gasoline, can be seen when the company's CEO, Matt Thornton, is found picking up trash at one of its more than 150 stores, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.

Since taking over the post from his father and company's co-founder James H. Thornton in 2001, Matt Thornton has tried to push the company's profits from gasoline to high-margin items such as sandwiches, doughnuts and gourmet coffee, as well as target more women and high-income consumers, the report stated.

To accomplish that, new Thorntons locations are being built larger than its competitors, company officials told the Journal. Inside, higher-quality products such as fresh salads and cut fruit are sold in areas featuring glass walls, abundant lighting and wood floors, the newspaper reported.

In addition, a focus on competitive gas pricing will help the company reach its goals. The company's philosophy is to be the last brand to raise gas prices and the first to drop them, Thornton told the paper.

"We want the price of gasoline to be as low as possible, because there is such a thing as disposable income," Thornton told the paper. "We absolutely see people downgrading. They might buy a few less of an item, or trade down from a Marlboro cigarette to a generic brand."

Further, Thorntons separates itself from competitors such as Kroger and Speedway by not offering a credit card reward program, because Thornton views such programs as "a bit of a bait-and-switch for retailers," and said the fine print in such offers can be confusing, the report stated.

The chain holds approximately one-fifth of the Louisville, Ky. area's convenience store market, with the majority of its 155 stores located in Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, according to the report. Thorntons has stores as far away as Connecticut, and is expanding in Nashville, Tenn., and Chicago, the Journal reported.

Thornton told the paper he expects to add eight to 12 locations annually, describing the plan as "not a very sexy story in terms of growth," but one that follows the company's goal of careful expansion. Convenience Store News spoke first with Thornton on the company's plans for growth in its Feb. 4, 2008, issue. To read more about his plans, click the following link:

Thorntons Plans Steady Growth

Other plans that aim to make the company a premier convenience store brand include bigger stores, an upscale design and lower turnover, according to Graham Baughman, chief operating officer for Thorntons. Average store size for a Thorntons' location is 4,000 square feet, allowing for higher sales volume, both at the pump and in the store, Baughman told the paper.

An upscale store design also plays a part in attracting affluent and women shoppers. Some design features include glass walls, stained concrete floors and tall ceilings. Convenience Store News took an in-depth look at the company's new upscale store design in its Oct. 22, 2007, issue. To read more about the design, click the following link:

Fresh Forward

Moreover, entry-level store associates' pay is higher than the industry average -- at $7 to $13 an hour -- allowing less than 100 percent store turnover annually for front-line employees, Baughman told the paper. Less than 5 percent of top managers leave the company per year and assistant managers' turnover is less than 20 percent, he said.