Whether it’s rebranding an acquired site, expanding a merchandising space or simply sprucing up the interior, convenience retailers around the country are investing in remodeling projects to entice today’s customers.
By Marilyn Odesser-Torpey, Associate Editor
After acquiring 31 PDQ convenience stores last October, Kwik Trip launched an interior to exterior conversion program to be completed in three phases.
Everything from the coffee equipment and cash registers to the parking lots will be overhauled and by August the stores will be totally rebranded and reimaged as Kwik Trips, according to Will Churchill, the company’s merchandising manager.
Kwik Trip has long been known for its signature fresh bakery and robust Hot Foods and grab-and-go Fresh Case programs. One of the first imperatives during Phase 1 was adding tables in front of the registers to showcase bakery products.
Phase 2, which is expected to be completed in May, is also food-focused and includes tearing down walls to accommodate coolers for grab and go and larger kitchens to launch the company’s Hot Foods program. Phase 3, set to begin in April, will encompass a complete revamp of the exteriors.
Kwik Trip has also been remodeling some of its existing stores, Churchill noted. Some of the stores are being expanded by as much as 1,000-3,000 square feet by acquiring nearby real estate.
“We particularly focus on how we can improve our Red Zone area where we have our Hot Foods, Fresh Case, bakery, coffee bar, cold beverage and register areas—the parts of the store where most of our sales and growth are generated,” he said. In 90% of Kwik Trip’s new and some remodeled stores, the Red Zone has been expanded for easier customer access.
Since fresh food offerings such as whole fruits, cheeses and sandwiches have gone from being displayed on an end cap to a 12-foot, four-tier, open-air, refrigerated island case, in some stores sales have doubled in that category, Churchill noted.
The remodeled sites also increased the cold beverage cooler from 15 doors to 19. A switch from LED flood lights to LED strip lights in the beer caves provides three times the illumination, said Ryan Roberts, one of the company’s store engineering project managers.
Roberts said all the stores are being retrofitted with LED lighting inside and outside, increasing energy efficiency and providing more consistent light levels year-round.
Derek Gaskins, the retailer’s chief customer officer, said commitment to its customers has fueled a constant updating of the stores as well as their offerings.
Last year, Rutter’s remodeled more than 20 stores and another 20 are in the queue. Three new stores were opened last year in central Pennsylvania. Another seven to 10 locations are scheduled to open this year, including in West Virginia and Maryland—both new markets for the company.
One of the new additions to the stores are beer caves, 300-400 square feet in size with four to eight doors. Video screens above the cave entrances televise promotions.
Store lighting has taken a giant step forward with solar tubes and skylights that harness the sun and utilize natural light even on cloudy days. The result has been “a
significant savings on utility bills,” Gaskins said. After dark, the lights stand out on the blacked-out canopy for a sleek and modern design.
DISPLAYING CORE STRENGTHS
Renovations to new acquisitions and existing stores by NOCO Express in western New York are showcasing the company’s signature, freshly-prepared, grab-and-go Nickel City Foods, snack options and expanded beers, said Jim DeFilippis, NOCO’s vice president and general manager.
An updated, more open floor plan has been moving stores away from some grocery items and given more visibility to grab-and-go meal items and snacks. Four-foot back-to-back island cases offer sandwiches, coffee drinks, yogurts and parfaits, and cheeses.
To differentiate the craft beer section from the rest of the store, the company has installed copper tile ceilings and uses easy-to-change magnetic signage to promote the hottest local brewery brands.
Since switching to LED lights, including lights on merchandising shelves in 2016, the company has seen a $1,000 per store annual savings in energy costs, which DeFilippis described as significant.