Neighbours to the North
SINCE RECEIVING CSD’S CHAIN OF THE YEAR award in 2002, Petro-Canada has seen multiple changes. The most significant has been the merger between Suncor Energy Inc. and Petro-Canada, which was finalized in August of this year. While the company operates under the Suncor Energy name, it maintains the trusted Petro-Canada brand for its refined products and national retail network. The new corporation is Canada’s largest integrated oil and gas company. It includes more than 1,500 retail outlets and the largest market share for fuel of any Canadian convenience operation.
“Fuel volume, convenience store sales and customer counts are up since we won the award,” said Howard McIntyre, vice president of marketing for Suncor Energy, who was on hand for the awards ceremony in 2002. “And we’ve introduced the Neighbours store, which has served as a platform for introducing food and beverage capability and sales to our network.”
The company has worked hard to move away from the image of being a gas station with a convenience store attached. With the launch of the Neighbours brand in 2004, the company now offers a convenience store-restaurant with gas pumps conveniently located in front.
Suncor, the largest franchisor of A&W outlets in Canada, has built what McIntyre described as “integrated highway sites.” Each one is a super center with a convenience store, commercial truck stop and an A&W restaurant to serve all customers— from commuters to commercial truck drivers. At the same time, the company has added high-tech car washes bearing the Glide brand to several retail sites.
Based on the customer ’s choice at the time of entry, Glide can perform as either a touch or touchless car wash. Suncor offers customers the opportunity to purchase a Seasons Pass card that provides up to 90 consecutive days of Glade car washes for a single price, an offer that is particularly popular during the winter months.
To generate repeat business, customers can sign up to collect Petro-Points. With each fill up or in-store purchase, Petro-Point participants receive points that accumulate and can be exchanged for rewards, such as snacks, car washes or lottery tickets. The points also can be exchanged for a discount on gasoline purchases.
In addition, Suncor has revised the way it works with licensees who operate the company’s retail locations. In the past, a business would license a single Suncor convenience store, be responsible for the entire operation and share in the profits.
“Today, many of our licensees typically operate 10 convenience store locations. “It allows the licensee to manage the risk, the opportunities and the employee pool much better,” McIntyre said.
Petro-Canada contributes to the community through the Suncor Energy Foundation, a private, non-profit, charitable foundation established in 1998 to support registered Canadian charitable organizations. The foundation complements the company’s other forms of community investments, such as product or in-kind contributions, sponsorships, and employee giving and volunteer efforts. Suncor and Petro-Canada target agencies and organizations that provide new opportunities through education, address environmental issues and strengthen communities where Suncor has an operating presence.
McIntyre is proud of the innovations the company has introduced since 2002. “We are an oil company that got into convenience retailing later than other operators,” he said. “But now we have the experienced people, and we’ve earned to right to try something new.”