The North Carolina convenience chain is preparing for 2018 by employing
some new retail strategies and sharpening some traditional ones.
By David Bennett, Senior Editor
The motto, “Whoever said, ‘You can’t have convenience and low prices,’ obviously never shopped at Fast Phil’s” perfectly captures the spirit of this North Carolina convenience retailer.
Fast Phil’s, a 10-store chain that’s part of Statesville, N.C.-based Raymer Oil Co., has become a comfortable commodity for the smaller communities it serves. Its promotion of affordable product prices that undercut nearby grocery stores in many cases isn’t an idle boast. Rather, it’s part of its retail philosophy—the same philosophy that has made it a shopping destination in western North Carolina, affording patrons the convenience factor they have come to expect.
Matthew Redmond, president of Raymer Oil, said the c-store operation isn’t content to rest on its laurels and is in the midst of a business acquisition that will allow the family-owned company to increase its 20-store portfolio by 10 locations. Raymer Oil also counts 10 Run In branded c-stores as part of its retail operation.
Raymer Oil is also a fuel wholesaler. While it’s still too early to share the details of the merger, Redmond said its part of the company’s overall plan to grow its retail operation, which includes a robust revamp of its foodservice program.
That includes continuing to add foodservice to every store that has space large enough to accommodate it, said Redmond, who joined the family business seven years ago.
Bypassing partnerships with branded quick-serve restaurant operators, the chain counts larger sites such as its store in Statesville, which operates a full-service deli and serves made-to-order food. The store can do breakfast and lunch, enticing customers with buttery biscuits, custom sandwiches, pizza and chicken wings.
“I will say that being an acquirer of smaller chains we have become comfortable operating stores of varying sizes,” Redmond said.
Some of the company’s locations range from 2,000 square feet to as big as 5,000 square feet, three of which feature sections for indoor dining. Some of the larger locations have enabled Fast Phil’s to operate its own foodservice program. The program is set to grow in 2018.
“We are working on three deli additions,” said Redmond.
Many of the Fast Phil locations now offer many modern conveniences, including fresh-brewed coffee stations, walk-in beer caves, and expansive cold vault spaces—some with 12-14 cooler doors.
Since 1980, Fast Phil’s has been providing monthly and weekly specials on staple items—bread, milk, eggs and cereal—that are often lower than the local supermarkets. The third-generation business began in 1945 with a local oil company founded by Redmond’s grandfather. The company, Raymer Brothers Inc., acquired Raymer Oil, Fast Phil’s, and Kevitt Oil in October 2015. Raymer also operates its own transportation company.
Usually, customers will notice that prices are the same from one Fast Phil’s location to the next, whether it’s on beverages, tobacco products or snacks.
“Our price philosophy is pretty simple. We try to offer the highest quality customer experience at the lowest market price,” said Redmond.
The burgeoning retailer isn’t focused solely on business. It also supports the local communities where it operates by giving back through a variety of charitable causes. Being a good corporate citizen is part of its business plan, said Redmond.
“We sponsor a lot of local events and charities. I lost my mother to cancer in 2014 so I have a strong passion for local cancer charities,” he said. “We also fund a scholarship in her memory. In addition to that we are involved with a local Christian ministry.”
Redmond’s generous side comes out in various forms, as his busy schedule is proof.
“I think it’s important for us to get out in the community and help support causes in any way we can. That can be as small as sponsoring a hole in a golf tournament, attending charity luncheons, sitting on committees, and I have even been a ‘celebrity bartender’ for a local cancer charity,” said Redmond. “We have already budgeted to continue contributions to several of our go-to charities for the 2018 year, but we get requested regularly. Most recently we donated money to a local elementary school to help them implement some safety equipment. I’m incredibly proud of all the great causes that we have the benefit to be involved with.”
In the field, Raymer Oil offers bonus programs for part-time and full-time employees.
“When I entered the family business in 2011, we didn’t have any company-operated retail locations and only had three non-family employees,” said Redmond. “We now have 20 company-operated locations with more than 140 employees so we have really worked hard to maintain a small business feel with the large growth.”
To further its expanding operation, Raymer Oil is turning to modern means to maintain peak staff efficiency.
“We have recently started using social media to help us with store level hiring, and are currently working on adding some digital advertising,” Redmond said.
To better accommodate its customers, the c-store is now planning for a new loyalty program, which could be rolled out as early as this year.