Retailers at NAG learn from experts that real estate and site development involve a bevy of considerations.
The National Advisory Group (NAG) Conference continued in Nashville, Tenn. Sept. 12, the topic of real estate was a hot topic of interest.
Entitled “Developing Real Estate: How to Find and Invest in Great Locations,” the audience got to hear some best practices from experienced leaders in this important slice of convenience retailing.
The panel included Charles Bell, senior vice president of facilities at Tri Star Energy LLC, Buhler, president and CEO of Open Pantry Food Marts of Wisconsin Inc., and Jack Kofdarali, president and CEO of J&T Management Inc. and former chairman of the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).
The session was moderated by Mark Radosevich, president of PetroActive Real Estate Services, who said many chains are pulling the trigger on new locations.
“It’s an exciting time because it’s exciting to see new-to-market sites go up,” Radosevich said.
Radosevich explained that in assessing any property for either purchasing to build, remodel or to sell, a convenience retailer should carefully evaluate with certain considerations in mind. He said as part of the process, retailers should rate rank all of its existing sites from top to bottom and highlight investment and divesture candidates.
Bell delved into the intricate topic of issues to consider with selecting a site to develop. Some of the things retailers should consider, he said. Include:
- Far corner/near corner to an interstate;
- Minimum traffic counts;
- The presence of a traffic signal;
- The lot size; and
- Access to utilities
“One thing we look at is the size of the lot,” said Bell, to at least determine how easily traffic can flow in and out.
As the project continues, companies must also weigh how much of the planning process will be done in-house or sourced to outside experts, including architects and civil engineers.
VALUING REAL ESTATE
Buhler explained to the group that often, the real estate value of a store can eclipse the real monetary value of the store’s operation.
Buhler, CEO of Open Pantry Food Marts of Wisconsin Inc., sold 19 stores to 7- Eleven in 2012. At one time Wisconsin c-store, the remaining units Buhler described as high-performing units. He explained that Open Pantry required 7-Eleven to lease the properties and purchase only the business value because the retailer preferred the option of keeping 7-Eleven as a tenant and receiving the rent income. The choice was to keep our real estate because it is “exceptional property.” 7-Eleven still remains as a large income source for the company.
“We did a lot of wrong things over the years and learned some lessons,” said Buhler.
With banks still offering financing at low interest rates, Buhler told the group ready financing for building projects is available in today’s market.
“Right now, it’s a relatively wonderful time to borrow money,” he said.
The last speaker had a broader view of store development projects. Kofdarali is experienced at developing real estate projects big and small. More than a year ago, he had operated 28 Arco/ampm stores in southern California, before selling off 24. Now he’s looking at developing bigger projects, all centered around c-stores.
For example, he is tackling a $9.5 million project in the city of Moreno Valley, Calif. When done, the six-acre tract will include a 3,800-square-foot c-store, a 37,000-square-foot industrial building and two stand alone, quick service restaruants.
Kofdarali said as retailers look at different profit centers to build their sites around, one big investment that can pay off handsomely is a car wash.
“Car washes are huge cash generators,” Kofdarali said. For example, new express car wash offerings have the potential to generate $30,000 per month, depending on a convenience retailer’s operation available space.
The NAG Conference continues through Wednesday, Sept. 13.