By Erin Rigik, Associate Editor.
Enmark Stations Inc. is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and preparing its business for the next 50, with new larger format stores, remodeled retail graphics and displays, an expanded foodservice menu, energy efficient lighting and an investment in new technology.
This forward-thinking commitment to growth makes the Savannah, Ga.-based, third generation family-run business a Convenience Store Decisions 2013 Chain to Watch.
Enmark, which operates 62 stores in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, works to differentiate itself by offering great customer service, a quality product mix and safe stores in convenient locations, as well as with a firm commitment to giving back to the community and its employees. The executive management team looks to ensure its stores are destinations where the female demographic is comfortable shopping—especially working and stay-at-home moms—by providing proper lighting, cleanliness, top-notch restrooms and the products they demand.
Jerry Morris, director of operations, noted that Enmark’s growth model over the last five years and continuing into 2014, has been a combination of an aggressive remodel strategy on existing locations, acquisitions and new store development, but the chain is simultaneously focused on internal growth.
“We’ve recently added several people to our management team to position ourselves for growth, including a director of real estate to increase our ability to acquire new sites and to find more acquisitions,” Morris said. “We also recently hired a new foodservice manager to help us manage and grow foodservice in all stores. Foodservice growth is our biggest focus, as well as technology.”
The results have paid immediate dividends. “We’ve increased our overall foodservice sales by 53% so far this fiscal year,” Morris said. “And we will continue to focus on our people and providing the very best customer service through a well-trained and friendly team.”
In 2013, Enmark completed the acquisition of two stores, which it promptly remodeled, and at presstime the chain was working on an additional acquisition.
Enmark is also interested in expanding acquisitions in markets where it currently operates.
“We have three remodels currently in the permitting stage, and we’re working on two raze and rebuilds of current sites, one of which will feature a major co-branded foodservice and truck fueling with diesel and CNG,” said Houstoun Demere, vice president and general manager for Enmark. “We have one new location that we have purchased the property on and are working on the design of that location currently, plus we are looking at several new potential sites.”
What’s more, in the past two and a half years, Enmark has remodeled some 20 locations, refreshing the sites in time for its 50th year. During the remodels, Enmark has worked to add energy efficient features when possible.
As the chain has embarked on new builds, it has added LED lighting inside and out—including LED canopy lights, the back wall lights, the area and perimeter lights, LED lights inside the store itself and inside the cooler doors—for maximum energy efficiency.
In the restrooms, Enmark now uses a motion-activated switch that senses when a customer enters the room and turns on the light, saving energy costs when the restrooms are empty. In addition to saving energy costs, the LEDs are also expected to help the company save on maintenance expenses, as the LEDs are expected to last about 10-13 years.
Large Format Focus
Enmark debuted its prototype large-format store in Springfield, Ga., in January at the site of a former convenience store, which Enmark fully remodeled to feature eight gas pumps, two diesel fueling locations, fresh-brewed coffee, frozen yogurt and freshly-prepared food, including hot breakfast items, fried chicken, smoked ribs and rotisserie chickens.
It has plans for two additional large store prototypes in the Savannah market, both of which will exceed 5,000 square feet.
The first location—one of the aforementioned raze and rebuilds—is set to measure around 7,000-square feet, including the c-store and co-branded foodservice area. That site is also set to have 20 fueling positions and diesel and CNG fueling for large trucks.
The second location, also still in the planning stages, is set to be an evolution of the first larger store, measuring between 5,000-square-feet to 5,500-square feet. It will feature multiple foodservice offerings, an ample seating area and free WiFi for customers. That location also features a beer cave, expanded cooler doors and an expanded car wash with an option for tire shine, hot wax and more.
Enmark embarked on a larger format design after it decided it could best meet the demands of its customers with a bigger store. “We need more space to expand our offering, especially in the fresh category, so that we have room to include fresh to go, hot to go, along with coffee, fountain, frozen yogurt, ice tea and so on,” Morris said.
The larger square footage also allows for more merchandise, including increased cooler doors, an increased coffee presence, 32 flavors of fountain drinks, pastry cases and more room for the customers to move around the store and have more space to shop.
Morris draws up the preliminary designs for the stores himself. “He’s kind of our in-house architect,” Demere said. “We eventually end up working to the design that we feel fits our customers’ everyday needs. Then we build it, and then with the next store we might want to change this or that, so it’s a constant evolution.”
Perhaps the largest differentiator in the larger-format stores is the spotlight on expanded foodservice offerings. Across all of its locations, Enmark has seen strong margins on its foodservice initiatives. It currently offers three Krispy Krunchy Chicken programs, its own proprietary Tasty Traditions breakfast program, one Fox’s Pizza franchise and two co-branded Larry’s Giant Subs.
“We are continuing to add Krispy Krunchy and Tasty Traditions to existing locations based on the successes we’ve had in our first three ventures. There are plans to roll out four more before the end of the year. We have experimented with rotisserie chickens, ribs, and other items in our Springfield, Ga. location with plans to add these offerings in other stores, and expand on our take home meal options,” said Matt Clements, Enmark’s director of marketing. “If we feel like a location can do well with hot food then we’ll add it.”
Tasty Traditions features items such as a biscuit sandwich as well as full meals for guests who have more time to sit down and eat. Full meals include eggs, meat and biscuits. The menu also features a big sandwich made using Texas toast, and featuring eggs, cheese and the customer’s meat of choice.
Sales and gross margins have driven Enmark to seek new ways to expand on its foodservice initiatives. “We’re fairly developed in most of the traditional c-store categories— tobacco, fuel, snacks, etc.—but we see a big opportunity in the foodservice arena for our chain,” Clements said. “We are relatively new to foodservice, but we just feel it’s a natural fit for our stores, especially when we go to these larger format locations.”
Enmark has also rolled out a self-serve frozen yogurt program at 10 stores in the last six months. It offers up to eight flavors of yogurt per store with as many as 8-12 toppings. “We use countertop self-serve machines and customers fill their own cup. We weigh it and sell it by the ounce just like a yogurt shop,” noted Morris. “We’re experimenting with programs constantly to see what draws in new business. It’s been an interesting process thus far, and we’re just starting to get traction with it. We will continue to experiment with new ideas like this to increase our product offerings.”
The company is strategically promoting items that it has found to be significant traffic drivers to increase same-store sales. “The two this year that we’ve probably had the most success with are coffee and fountain. We’ve aggressively promoted both if these categories through lower price points and an extensive advertising campaign, and we’ve tied them in with our 50th anniversary. This has been a huge traffic driver for us, and we’ve seen a lot of benefit outside the stores through incremental sales of non-promoted products in the stores,” Clements said.
Big on Technology
The chain’s emerging strategy on loyalty is based on a reloadable cash card that offers up to 10 cents off per gallon. “The response has been tremendous and has created a very loyal Enmark customer base,” Demere said. “Our cash card customers collectively save well over $1 million dollars a year. Our customers appreciate a card that does not require them to have a bank account or share their account information to earn a discount at our stores. Dual price road signs have effectively communicated this discount to our customers and have been critical in the marketing of this program.”
Enmark is committed to exploring new technology to keep pace with the demands of tomorrow. In the fourth quarter of 2013 it plans to roll out a mobile app and relaunch its Website. Hosted by GasBuddy, the app will feature a store locator and allow for mobile couponing.
“We’ll work with our vendors to send out coupons, measure results, and our long term strategy for the app will be based on these results. The app is not tied to a loyalty program, but that might be something we get into down the road,” Clements said.
Enmark is also exploring self-service kiosk ordering for its foodservice locations to speed up transaction time and relieve congestion at the deli area. Soon, the chain plans to start testing Lift technology—the digital screens that upsell customers at the register—with the intention of rolling it out to more locations if the pilot shows positive results. In addition, Enmark is planning to add digital LCD monitors throughout the stores to further tout product specials.
Many Enmark stores already have a flat screen TV, which broadcasts the news each morning as commuters run in for their coffee. “We’ve let some of our managers know that if there’s a football game or other major event going, to put that on, and customers really seem to appreciate that. It’s just another differentiation,” Morris said.
Preparing for the Future
While 50 years in business is an impressive milestone, the chain is hardly complacent. “We celebrated our 50 year anniversary this year, so we’ve been around for a while,” Demere said. “What started as a company marketing Enmark gasoline and cheap cigarettes in small kiosks has morphed into a company with stores with large footprints and a big variety of offerings. We know that what we are today is not what we will be in 10 years. We embrace change and know that our stores will continue to evolve to meet our customer’s needs.”
While competition is fierce from within the industry and from other channels, Enmark will continue to look to differentiate its brand in the market. “Whether it’s through foodservice, technology, non-traditional c-store offerings, and things we haven’t even considered yet, we will look to be innovators to stand apart from the crowed.” Demere said.
Morris agreed. “We’re looking to turn up the heat in the coming years. We think we have a lot of the right things going for us. We have the cleanest restrooms out there in almost all of our stores. We’re not scared to try things,” he said. “We’re testing CNG, frozen yogurt, different deli concepts and have engaged in initial discussions to try a host of other programs. The opportunity is here to try a lot of new things, do some experimenting and determine what we want to be in the next 10, 15 and 20 years.”
Enmark at a Glance
Founded as Interstate Stations in 1963 by Robert Demere, Enmark Stations Inc. is a family-run Savannah, Ga.-based company, which is celebrating its 50-year anniversary this year. The chain operates 62 stores in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, and has 21 car washes.
Houstoun Demere, Vice President and General Manager
Jerry Morris, Director of Operations
Matt Clements, Director of Marketing
David Crapse, Accounting/Finance Manager
Rick Howard, Assistant Director of Operations
• Three Krispy Krunchy Chicken programs
• Tasty Traditions, a proprietary breakfast program
• One Fox’s Pizza
• Two Larry’s Giant Subs co-brands
• Self-serve frozen yogurt program at 10 locations