Trimming the Red Ink

When the economy falls off a cliff like it did in September 2008, is your business going to survive or even thrive? Most companies reacted to the downturn by cutting the usual costs: training, travel, raises, bonuses, headcount and 401(k) matching contributions. The bad news is these kinds of cuts also put employees in a

Ready to Go

Shame it isn’t as simple as signing on the dotted line. "You’d think," said Lynn Mitchell, one of six owners at the new RediGo Food Mart chain in Lake County, Ohio, "that we could sit down, have a few beers and come up with a name." But then you’d be thinking like someone who never

Mapping Atlas’ Technology

Maher Najjar may be the new guy at Atlas Oil Co., but he leans on an old saying to illustrate the technological challenges he knows loom on the horizon for the c-store industry. "You have to know where you are before you know where you’re going," said Najjar, who after just three months at Taylor,

Alon Emerges

Alon USA At a Glance: Alon USA is a Dallas-based independent refiner and marketer majority owned by Alon Israel Oil Co. Ltd. It was formed in 2000 when Alon Israel purchased the downstream operations of Atofina Petrochemical. Today, Alon owns and operates the Fina fuel brand and Southwest Convenience Stores LLC (SCS), the largest 7-Eleven

Driving Traffic with New Products

Increased channel blurring is making it tougher for convenience stores to retain existing customers—and harder yet to develop loyalty in new ones. With drug stores like Walgreens and Rite Aid now selling beer and wine, Dunkin’ Donuts offering a wide array of drinks, and fast feeders continuing to gobble up market share by offering consumers

Prototypes with Plasticity

The successful development of a convenience store prototype is a bit like an exercise in finding one’s soul.  Half the soul-searching is done through scrupulous examination of all the internal components, while the rest is done by accounting for all the external forces that perpetually shape the inside. Sound spiritual and cryptic? Maybe just a

Onboarding: The Key to Valued Employee Retention

Branding, corporate identity and corporate image are just a few of the buzzwords the folks in the marketing department use to describe the basic building blocks of a comprehensive business development plan. What these terms have in common is that they’re all about communications. Simply put, as every convenience retailer knows, the world won’t beat

Hide ‘em or Flaunt ‘em?

Wisconsin architectural historian Jim Draeger figures two schools of thought exist in American towns where gas stations or c-stores are introduced. He calls these schools the “hide ‘em or flaunt ‘em approaches.” In the “hide ‘em” school, town planners want gas stations or c-stores to adopt architectural flavors that reflect the community’s subjective tastes. Colors,

Failure to Clean Keeps Customers Away

Customers at convenience stores and restaurants are far less likely to return if they find restrooms that are unhygienic or poorly stocked with supplies, according to a recently completed national online survey. The survey, sponsored by SCA Tissue North America and conducted online by Harris Interactive among a sample of 2,175 adult U.S. foodservice customers,

Customers Rate Rutter’s No. 1

Rutter’s topped the York Sunday News’ 2008 “Best of York” rankings in six categories, beating out a number of other national brands. Rutter’s took first place in the six categories evaluated by its hometown newspaper, including breakfast, coffee, deli/sub/sandwich, fast food, lunch and milk. York, Pa.-based Rutter’s bested the likes of Cracker Barrel in the

Shell Games

Maybe there’s still a bit of debate on the medical merits of catharsis, but Bobak Bakhtiari could be the man to put the issue to rest. "Does it further ignite aggression?" asked Bakhtiari, a former counselor at a California psychiatric facility who now runs Tanforan Shell, his family’s convenience store and carwash in San Bruno,

The Wild Ride Continues

As if industry operators didn’t have enough to worry about, ExxonMobil dealers were greeted with the news that the Irving, Texas oil giant decided to exit direct-store operations by divesting 825 company-owned and -operated stations as well as 1,400 stations leased to dealers. This decision thrust those dealers into an anxious state of limbo, an

NACS: Visa’s Move to Reduce Debit Holds a “Smokescreen”

With retailers and consumers struggling from the card companies’ policy of placing excessive holds on credit- and debit-card transactions at the fuel pumps, Visa announced a plan to reduce hold times to just a couple of hours. Right now, issuing banks impose a hold on funds in their customers’ bank accounts for an amount exceeding

Reshaping the Convenience Landscape

For some marketers and distributors, Exxon Mobil Corp.’s decision to get out of direct-store operations could present the chance of a lifetime; an opportunity to acquire the rights to stores for an entire market, maybe more. For others, the announcement caused immediate fear and panic concerning the long-term viability of their operations and, in some

Get Ready for Gen Y

The international marketing firm Youngster recently reported that for the first time in history, the market group known as Generation Y, those ages 10 to 25, is evenly divided across each of its five age-based subgroups. A short 10 years ago when Generation Y first burst on to the scene, the vast majority of Gen

Fighting Through the Pain

Everybody wants a piece of the action. That was among the key messages my father taught me when he was running his business. Though he only had three pumps and four service bays, there was no shortage of business partners or associates who wanted a cut when times were good, but were nowhere to be

7-Eleven Forging DSD Changes

7-Eleven President and CEO Joe DePinto (pictured) fired a shot heard ‘round the industry calling for reforms to the direct store delivery (DSD) distribution system that helped grow the operator to one of the largest retailers in the U.S. The system has been used effectively for some 30 years, but the problem is, not much

The Customer: Wine Appetites and Beer Wallets

The 2008 consumer, complex and roiling in its many needstates, has become a multi-headed hydra whose rituals and habits are being altered by external forces. It is, however, a creature predictable on at least one front: It always appreciates the convenience and value of the neighborhood c-store. Pinched by rising costs of fuel, food and

The Competition: Discretionary Spending Looms Large

For the past decade, the list of retailers that have cut into the convenience store industry’s consumer base has included the usual suspects: Wal-Mart, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Walgreens and a slew of other national brands in a smattering of channels. C-stores are predictably pitted against those same powerhouses in 2008, but the environment is far more

Security and operations: Security and operations: Security and operations: Operating Costs Rise Across the Board

The cost of operating a convenience store is up significantly thanks in part to a number of factors, the most glaring being interchange fees and credit card costs. But labor and utilities also experience significantly higher year-on-year gains. The industry’s operating expenses on a per-store, per-month basis rose across the board in 2007, according to

Recession Rx for Business

In good times, running a company is exhilarating. Money is flowing, customers are happy, employees have a spring in their step. In not-so-good times, like now, the very same job can feel like scaling Mt. Everest in a snowstorm while wearing a knapsack filled with bricks and suffering from a bad case of the flu.

Sam’s Club Launches ‘100 Days of Summer’

Today’s independent convenience-store operator faces a variety of challenges when it comes to running a successful business, and the rising cost of food and nonperishable items, lack of time and a lean staff can all impact the bottom line. With more than 25 years of experience helping small businesses succeed, Sam’s Club is uniquely qualified

Dunkin’ Donuts Offers Free Iced Coffee

Dunkin’ Donuts will host its second nationwide Free Iced Coffee Day on May 15, with plans to serve nearly four million cups of iced coffee to its customers at locations nationwide, the company said. From 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on May 15, customers can walk into any participating Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant in the U.S.

Couche-Tard, Irving Oil Expand Partnership

Irving Oil Limited and Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. today announced the expansion of their existing partnership to include 252 Irving Oil convenience retail sites across Atlantic Canada and New England. Couche-Tard and Irving Oil entered into a convenience retail partnership seven years ago in Quebec, though the newly expanded partnership will provide both companies with opportunities

Alon Acquires Krotz Springs Refinery from Valero

Alon USA Energy Inc. signed a purchase agreement to acquire the Krotz Springs refinery from Valero Energy Corp. The purchase price of this transaction consists of $333 million in cash plus an amount for working capital, including inventories, to be determined at closing. Also, both parties have agreed to a five year off-take agreement along

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