Shop-in-shop concept brings outdoor brand to Tennessee travel center.
As the lines between retail channels continue to blur, retailers are finding new ways to attract new customers. Two of the nation’s biggest—Pilot Flying J and Bass Pro Shops—have collaborated on a shop-in-shop initiative that promises to draw even more interest to their popular brands.
The collaboration between the leading outdoor lifestyle brand and the national travel center network marks the first of its kind for both companies. The shop-in-shop concept, which was rolled at a newly renovated Pilot Flying J at 921 Murfreesboro Road, Lebanon, Tenn. earlier this summer, has generated strong customer feedback in the short time it has been up and running.
The two companies provided Convenience Store Decisions a peek behind the partnership in an exclusive interview.
Overall, the retail collaboration will allow Pilot Flying J to continue exploring innovative ways to better its guest experience, while enabling Bass Pro Shops to reach new and existing customers during their travels, said Brian Ferguson, vice president and chief merchant at Pilot Flying J.
Customers at the Lebanon location can choose from Bass Pro apparel and clothing accessories, including products from top brands like RedHead. Ferguson explained that teaming with Bass Pro Shops was a logical fit.
“We have been big fans of Bass Pro Shops for a long time,” said Ferguson. “We have always been impressed by their retail environment, the quality of their products; their stores are truly an experience. We have been looking to introduce innovative concepts into our retail offering. Our goal is to surprise and delight our customers and we quickly came to realize that we have similar growth strategies, similar core customers and it was fantastic opportunity for Bass Pro Shops to introduce their assortment and their brand to the Pilot Flying J customer—and similarly—for the Pilot Flying J customer to experience Bass Pro outside of a Bass Pro Shop.”
Pilot Flying J’s combined network of more than 750 retail locations across North America serves more than 1.3 million customers daily.
The shop-in-shop concept arguably is the capper to the 13,000-square-foot Pilot Flying J travel center, which also showcases the company’s new, interactive technology and products tied to its new consumer electronics center. Other initiatives at the Lebanon site include expanded foodservice offerings and other customer perks.
The shop-in-shop concept is scheduled to be expanded to additional Pilot Flying J locations by the end of the second quarter 2018. Pilot Flying J is looking at five more locations to fit the shop-in-shop concept—including both refurbishing legacy locations as well as incorporating the pilot program in newly built travel center. Just where and what travel centers haven’t been determined yet, Ferguson said.
But it’s not a one-size-fits-all strategy, however. Because of Pilot Flying J’s parallel business methodologies, the Tennessee company was a better collaborative fit than other convenience retailer prospects, said Jack Wlezien, director of communications at the Bass Pro Group in Springfield, Mo.
“We know that we have a lot of shared demographics so we know that our audiences are their audiences so that was a natural attraction and the more we learned how they concept their stores—especially the concept they’re developing—they really understood how important that customer experience was,” said Wlezien. “It’s not just the matter of having the right product in the right location. It’s the presentation, it’s the cleanliness, it’s the service and the quality of that experience. That kind of became the foundation.”
Bass Pro Shops is looking ahead regarding how the product mix might change once more customer feedback is gleaned.
“The sky’s the limit in terms of products and assortment that we can offer,” said Wlezien. “We just want to make sure we do it in a way that is the right mix for what Pilot Flying J offers and accompanies their selection and also preserves the integrity of the nature of this outdoor equipment, which is: ‘I want someone who can help me understand what’s the best product that I want based on how I want to spend time in outdoors.’ The apparel is kind of our launching pad for that.”
The Missouri-based retailer operates approximately 100 Bass Pro stores nationwide—and is expanding its footprint even more. This past Monday, Bass Pro Shops reached a deal to acquire outdoors retail competitor Cabela’s in a deal valued at $5.5 billion.