Wawa’s merchandise sales grew last year, despite a down economy, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
“We’re not up to historic averages, but we’re performing better than the vast majority of retailers,” Howard Stoeckel, Wawa’s CEO told the newspaper.
What’s helping Wawa, which has stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia triumph in difficult times? Stoeckel pointed to the company’s strong focus on value and its effort to make the time a customer spends the store a positive experience.
The company is helping time-crunched customers get out of the store in less time and keeping prices on food items, such as sandwiches and drinks, affordable. Recent promotions include a $3.99 flatbread sandwich rollout, 99-cent fountain drinks and $2.99 Hoagiefest deals. But it’s the store’s loose, friendly in-store vibe that Stoeckel said is Wawa’s most durable competitive advantage.
“A lot of people can sell coffee. A lot of people can sell hoagies. A lot of people can sell gas. But no one sells it in the same fashion,” Stoeckel told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “That has sustained us during these difficult times.”
And employees also have a lot to be happy about. Together, about 8,000 employees own about 28 percent of Wawa, which currently is ranked the 69th-largest private company in the nation by Forbes magazine, with $5 billion in revenue for 2007.
“They have an emotional attachment to the brand, but they also have a financial attachment,” he said. “They want to see this company survive over the long term.”
New concepts also are keeping customers coming back to the store. Wawa smoothies and frozen cappuccinos are now being test-marketed and online the company is running promotions for its Hoagiefest and for Dress Your Bottle, a promotion that lets customers dress a bottled soft drink with accessories.