C-store design, including displays and fixtures factor into a c-store’s branding, helping to increase revenue and foot traffic.
By Lisa White, Contributing Editor
When Cruizer’s, a division of Chapel Hill, N.C.-based Holmes Oil Co., began its successful rebranding project, the goal was to differentiate its stores with a c-store design with cohesive brand message that included more than just an updated logo and new paint.
The 25-store chain enlisted Tampa, Fla.-based design firm api(+) to create a total rebranding plan.
“We met with the folks at api, and I told them the store limits my sells,” said Edward Holmes, CEO of Cruizer’s. “I wanted to take a location with proven numbers to see what would happen if we tore it down, rebuilt, expanded and modernized it.”
The chosen store was in rural Wilsonville, N.C. close to nearby Jordan Lake, which attracts 50,000 visitors in the summer.
“The trend we’re seeing with today’s c-store designs that was related to this project is creating a distinct personality to set the stores apart from other retailers in the channel,” said John Scheffel, api(+) design studio director, who helped spearhead Cruizer’s prototype project. “The goal is to create a safer and cleaner environment for more visibility inside the store using glass and open spaces, along with brighter illumination and improved amenities, like restrooms. For Cruizer’s, we created a distinct tone of voice that is evident through all the graphics and promotions as well as the store fixtures and design.”
The redesign includes white fixtures; light and bright vivid colors, such as green, light blue and orange; a light-colored floor; and clean, crisp design lines.
“We have no fixtures provided by vendors or manufacturer branding on our end caps,” said Holmes. “This creates a uniform look for us, since we’re focusing on what we’re offering, not who’s offering it.”
The prototype includes lighting under sales counters and within the candy set to bring added attention to the products.
This design emphasizes Cruizer’s, rather than its gas brands —Exxon, Mobil and Valero. Even though the outside gas canopies remained, its columns tie into the c-store brand.
“Inside the store, we specified white on traditional gondola shelves to tie in with the clean design aesthetic,” said Tom Henken, api(+) vice president and director of design. “We also included impulse stations in front of each checkout line, integrating the fixtures as part of a millwork package.”
Millwork was used to divide the beverage wall and create headers or surrounds in three areas—fountain drinks, frozen beverages and coffee. Counter fronts include faux plywood elements to tie it all together.
“In terms of the store layout, we tried to make the hot dog and condiment areas more user friendly with signage atop the gondolas,” said Scheffel. “We also added a refrigerated fixture that emphasizes fresh salads and sandwiches, along with an endcap highlighting fresh donuts and pastries.”
The results of the design have been impressive.
“Our in-store sales are up 38%, food sales are up 50% and gas volumes have increased 90%,” said Holmes.
This design overhaul extended to the restrooms, which saw the previous single occupant bathroom expanded to fit more traffic.
The completely hands-free restroom fixtures include an all-in-one touchless sink, soap dispenser and paper towel dispenser, as well as partitions separating the entryway instead of doors.
Moving forward, Cruizer’s plans to remodel two larger format stores, stripping the sites down to the walls, implementing the new brand concept, which will be extended to the exterior. There also is a new prototype store under construction in east Raleigh, N.C., which is 4,800 square feet.
“The overall plan is to have all Cruizer’s consistent in design, which will take about five years,” said Holmes. “api did an incredible job of taking what we wanted and improving on it. With the new logo, design and attitude of the store, they created a different consumer experience than we had before.”
Des Moines, Iowa-based Git N Go, which has more than 40 locations in Iowa and Illinois, recently revamped its own interior look with lit shelving displays, hard surface countertops and new floors installed in its foodservice areas.
“It communicates to the customer that we are serious about food,” said William Baine, CEO of Git N Go. “The under lit displays draw consumers’ eyes to the product, and consequently we saw a nice incremental sales increase after these were installed.”
C-store retailers should not underestimate store displays and fixtures. Everything from gondolas and shelving to restroom sinks and hand dryers help create an appealing ambiance that factors into a store’s branding.
The restroom, in particular, can make an impression.
Consider that nearly three in four American drivers (72%) say they stop to use the restroom when driving on a vacation, compared to 68% who purchase gas and 66% who buy food or drinks, making it the most frequent reason for stopping, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).
When it comes to displays at Salt Lake City, Utah-based Maverik’s more than 300 locations across 11 states, the theme is ‘Show Them, Don’t Tell Them.’ Typical signage consists of large, colorful photos depicting food and offerings, rather than verbiage. A colored waterfall above the beer vault is designed to draw in customers.
The tan fixtures have been updated to a charcoal color scheme that hides dust more effectively. All fixtures have been lowered to eye level, so product is no higher than five feet. Newer stores have angled gondolas, which provide more access to the coolers.
“We like the lower displays, because it allows customers to see across the floor and eliminates the feeling of being in a maze,” said Aaron Simpson, Maverik’s vice president and chief marketing officer. “We’re also getting rid of the clutter to showcase food better.”
For its two big monthly candy promotions, Maverik has implemented two candy bins with promotional signage on top and another by the register to encourage impulse buys.
“We’ve gotten away from freestanding racks and have built fixtures in cabinetry by the front counter and near the chips,” said Simpson.
Having lower shelving also makes people feel safer, since customers can see what’s going on, said Linda Cahan, owner of Cahan & Co. in Portland, Ore., a retail design consultancy. She added that c-stores are using more natural materials, like real wood in displays and countertops, rather than laminate and metal.
“We’re noticing more rounded corners, which softens edges for a better customer flow,” said Cahan. “That’s really important, because with sharp edges, people tend to unconsciously back away to avoid corners.”
Richmond, Va.-based Little Oil Co.’s CornerStone Market in Emporia, Va. has incorporated the local Hokie stone, a popular limestone rock, on the front of the building to help set it apart.
Far from a traditional convenience store, CornerStone has an open interior plan and no window signage.
“We have 12 48-inch television screens around the building, each playing its own content, such as craft beer being poured into a mug or pizza coming out of the oven piping hot,” said Barry Grizzard, sales manager for CornerStone. “These visuals entice customers.”
BIG ON BATHROOMS
Unlike c-stores of the past, restrooms have become more of a focus, as these are thought to be an extension of the brand as well as a barometer of the store’s cleanliness. This has become even more vital, with many retailers’ foodservice programs front and center.
“The thing with a restroom is that the cleaner it is, the more people will respect it and keep it tidy,” said Cahan.
Maverik recently upsized its restrooms, making them more appropriate to service each location.
“Our stores’ themes are the Great Outdoors and this runs through to the bathrooms,” said Simpson. “Tiling goes halfway up the wall, the ceilings are blue and there’s a mural of outdoor scenes on the wall above the tile.”
CornerStone puts a great emphasis on its restrooms, which it also upsized to include four stalls for women and two stalls and two urinals for men.
“Everything is touchless and doubled, including the sinks, soap and paper towel holders,” said Grizzard, referring to the new layout.