Certified Oil Begins Reimaging

Recognizing a need to update its retail image, offer an expanded array of products and services and attract more women, Certified Oil has launched a multimillion-dollar redesign of its convenience store and petroleum network. The company also said it is developing a prototype design for a new brand of Certified convenience stores.
The reimaging project calls for 10 of its company-operated stores to be upgraded by the end of 2008 with an additional 30 stores over the next two years. Based in Piqua, Ohio, Certified Oil operates or supplies more than 140 locations in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky.
“We sat down and took a good, hard look at the company, and what we concluded was the stores needed to be refreshed with a fresh image that has a broader appeal to new and existing customers,” said Greg Ehrlich, Certified’s chief operating officer. “Our goal is to create an image that ties together the range of service we offer, from the fuel pumps all the way into the convenience store. We believe we’ve come up with a look that takes advantage of our heritage and combines it with an attractive modern accent. This will ultimately make our stores more welcoming and reposition Certified as a more upscale regional brand.” 
The reimaging campaign will present a more cohesive image to consumers, creating a consistent look that will be immediately recognizable from one location to the next. In addition, the new design will create a more inviting, upscale image that will make the stores more appealing to female shoppers–a consumer group that has historically been a challenge for convenience stores to attract.
Changes Inside and Out
The process will affect both the exteriors and interiors of the stores. Exterior upgrades will include a redesigned company logo that will appear on the fuel brand identification sign, canopy, building, and fuel dispensers, Ehrlich said. The interior will be uniquely branded with modern “lifestyle” photography. The new design elements will also be incorporated into the company’s letterhead, uniforms, Web site and marketing material, creating a holistic and unified presence for Certified.  
In an effort to leverage Certified’s long history (its 70th year of operation will begin in 2009), wall coverings illustrating scenes from the company’s early days of operation will be incorporated into the interior image package. From a merchandise perspective, the company will introduce its own private-label coffee brand, Carlyle’s Cup, named after the company founder, Carlyle Baker. 
The design prototype for new stores will incorporate a larger footprint, expanded fast-food areas and better-defined coffee and soda fountain areas. Certified enlisted the services of Integrate Inc. as a partner in this project.
While the chain is excited about the new design and prototype, it’s part of a larger process of reinventing the retail offering. 
For starters, Certified is heavily invested in real estate, owning all of the land its stores are on. As such, the company’s goal is to maximize the value of its real estate investments. Part of that strategy is to sell off the weaker units to fund the redesign and prototype, as well as develop stronger in-store programs like a proprietary foodservice brand.
“Foodservice is the real growth area right now,” Ehrlich said. “It allows you to be less dependent on low-margin categories like fuel and tobacco and, when done well, it creates long-term stability for the organization.
“We spent the last year evaluating this area and concluded we have the real estate to build standalone restaurants, but the market is oversaturated with those concepts,” he said. “The real value to our brand is to develop an upscale concept that meets the needs of today’s fast-paced convenience customers with great food, great value and fast service.”
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