Like most organizations, milestone anniversaries are very special for all of us here at Convenience Store Decisions. Providing 25 years of service to the convenience store and petroleum industry is both gratifying and humbling. We have survived this long because of our readers, and that isn’t something I take lightly.
This industry is and will continue to be nurtured by strong relationships and fortified by family-owned businesses with deep ties to the communities they serve. It’s one of the key reasons that all of the oppressive ongoing government intervention in areas like tobacco, fuel and foodservice are more a speed bump than roadblock.
Such strong relationships have resulted in a unique sharing of information that has helped elevate the entire industry. We should never underestimate just how special that is. It simply doesn’t happen in other retail channels. At industry conferences, such as the National Advisory Group’s (NAG) fall conference, it’s not uncommon to have c-store competitors talking about what it takes to provide outstanding service and drive new business. It’s understood and universally accepted that if you want to keep your customers, you better be great.
In fact, in my 18 years of covering the convenience store and petroleum industry, I have never heard a retailer badmouth another chain for doing too good a job. The focus is always about the hard work it takes to outperform the competition.
I learned this edge at a very early age. Long before I joined Convenience Store Decisions, I spent my summer months pumping gas, checking oil and cleaning windows at my father’s gas stations in New York. He always told me, “If you’re going to be lazy, stay home.” While other kids were getting lessons on how to throw a curveball, I was getting lessons on how to maintain streak-free windshields and upsell a quart of oil. While the industry has evolved, that service-based culture remains.
But it’s the relationships that make the job fun. I just got back from a cruise of French Polynesia (Tahiti, Bora, Bora, Moorea, etc.) with Brad and Teresa Call, Pat and Renee Lewis, Tom and Lynn Robinson and Louie and Holly Sheetz, among other wonderful friends and colleagues. It was a vacation of lifetime that solidifies why I enjoy this industry so much—the people.
In this issue, we spoke to countless retailers that discussed how the industry has changed since CSD rolled off the presses for the first time in 1990. “Over the past two-and-a-half decades, we increased our footprint and convenience stores became something people wanted instead of something people fought. And that is a huge change,” Bill Weigel, chairman and CEO of Weigel’s, said in this month’s cover story. “It’s changed because we’ve improved, and we have a better model than we had. We’re hiring better people and getting more sophisticated as an industry.”
Carl Bolch, founder of RaceTrac, told Convenience Store Decisions, that the areas of evolution that had the greatest impact on convenience store revenues and profits over the past 25 years were gasoline and tobacco. “The evolution in both of these categories has put pressure on retailers to create additional sources of income, of which food is a major part,” he said.
Read Senior Editor Erin Rigik’s comprehensive cover story beginning on page 28.
Farewell to a Friend
On the subject of friends and relationships, the industry lost one of its special souls last month with the passing of Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes’ Founder and President John MacDougall.
MacDougall opened the first Nice N Easy c-store in 1980 and grew the business to 80 locations in upstate New York, and into one of the most respected chains in the industry. He was a giant in the industry and an even better man, and like many others in the industry, I will miss him. Our condolences to the entire Nice N Easy family.