By Bill Scott
I sort of remember Buc-ee’s from the early 80s when I visited with my family in Lake Jackson, Texas. Lake Jackson is a lazy little town that has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past 40 years or so. The story of Buc-ee’s is more synonymous with the growth of Sam Walton’s Walmart than it is with a 7-Eleven, Wawa, Sheetz or a Circle K.
Over the New Year’s Day weekend, I had the experience of purchasing diesel fuel at a Buc-ee’s near New Braunfels, Texas, touted to be “The Largest Convenience Store In The World.” My plan was to take some time and take it all in, but the crowds inside and outside the store made a true assessment impossible. Frankly, I was overwhelmed.
However, I did manage to take these few photos with my phone, and I have had over two weeks to think about it; and putting aside the story of the man with the amazing foresight and passion, the people that built these stores, the financial institution(s) that must have financed these projects, the hours of arguments and hair pulling that must have transpired to plan such an expansive endeavor… I find it awkward to call this Buc-ee’s a convenience store at all. This store is a “Walmart for Travelers” and surely the creators of Buc-ee’s must have known this when they started.
This is what they mean when someone says, “You must think outside the box.” It is a story of innovation rather than evolution. Those that said, “It can’t be done” never tried it themselves.
Walmart began by building retail stores in rural areas before they put them in or near metropolitan environments. More than anyone else, Sam Walton was the poster child for stepping out on a limb and having the faith that it would support him. And even more amazing, Sam was left unchallenged for far too long. Is history repeating itself? Is the same thing happening with Buc-ee’s?
Could it be that someone in Bentonville missed the memo?
Are Walmart’s on the freeways even feasible? Buc-ee’s has proven they could be. Now the question is, “How long will it take Walmart to react to this competition?” The challenge is to see how Buc-ee’s might handle the threat. I’m surprised if it’s not already in the offing (maybe it is and I don’t know about it), and I sincerely hope that Buc-ee’s has a tactical plan for the melee that is sure to come.
Bill Scott is the author of two retail books, a convenience store retailing consultant and speaker and president at StoreReport LLC.