Turning Lemons Into a Technology Opportunity

Wawa Inc. is mulling plans to transform a shuttered c-store into a tech hub.
Melissa Kress
Executive Editor

The COVID-19 pandemic certainly impacted daily life for both consumers and retailers. Some changes will be looked back on as a blip in history, while others are turning out to be more permanent. As businesses and schools reopened, consumers were free to move about the country once again. However, shutdowns did a number on major cities — many of which still have not seen a return to "business as usual" despite companies wanting their employees to return to the office, if not full time, then at least three days a week.

As a resident of one of New York City's boroughs, I know from friends that those back-to-work directives haven’t carried much weight and have been flexible, at best. This is good news for workers, but bad news for those retailers that have built their businesses around serving the 9-to-5 crowd.

Wawa Inc. is one example. As workers and students in Philadelphia have stayed home, the decline in foot traffic and other concerns reportedly drove the convenience store retailer to reduce overnight hours at some city locations and shutter others completely.

But further proving it is a leader in the convenience space, Wawa is now exploring turning one of those shuttered stores into a technology hub. Plans are in the early stages, but Wawa President and CEO Chris Gheysens recently told the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia's CEO Council for Growth that the company is mulling plans to transform one of its closed Center City stores into a training center for tech workers.

According to Gheysens, the planned tech hub is part of a greater effort by Wawa to invest in the region's technology talent market. This was spurred by an ongoing shortage of midlevel tech talent in the area.

The move would not only be another signal that technology is taking its rightful place in the convenience channel, but also a signal that Wawa is pivoting from being a leader in the food retailing space to a leader in the technology space as well.

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