From electric vehicle chargers (EVC) to biodiesel and ethanol blends, convenience retailers are working to provide customers with the fuel and fuel alternative options they need, while looking forward to increased demand as vaccines roll out.
Ankeny, Iowa-based Casey’s General Stores’ fuel offer varies by location, said Tony Spuzello, manager of commercial fuels for Casey’s. But its new stores offer five products: E15, E85, E10, a premium gasoline option and diesel.
“This will be a standard for Casey’s as we build new locations and look to remodel existing fuel island locations,” Spuzello said. “Biodiesel and higher blends of ethanol are a part of the demand equation and help to offer consumers a choice while also helping them save money compared to non-blend petroleum products.”
In states along the West Coast, he’s seeing a rise in demand for renewable diesel as well as renewable diesel-biodiesel blends. Other states closer to the Midwest are continuing to look at low-carbon programs, he said, which may shift renewable products closer to where they’re produced.
Meanwhile, Sunshine Gasoline President Maximo Alvarez Jr. said the 350-store Florida chain partnered with retail tech company GetUpside to learn more about its customers’ fuel preferences and behaviors and drive new customers. Before the pandemic, GetUpside was driving around 2.5% of all Sunshine’s Chevron volume, he said. Since April 2020, it’s increased to close to 5%.
Ultimately, Sunshine Gasoline aims to stay competitive on price, Alvarez said, as well as customer service and cleanliness.
Brandon Lawrence, founder of Fuel Insight, a data science consultancy, noted a chain’s in-store offer will continue to prove increasingly important this year, too.
“The biggest shift that we’ve seen is that volume is no longer king,” he said. “The pandemic showed that a strong inside offer can be a lot more resilient.”
Casey’s has seen success with its in-store offer, Spuzello said, and its Casey’s Rewards program, both of which help to keep the chain top-of-mind when it comes time to purchase fuel.
“As we recover from COVID, we hope to see fuel demand improve as we get into the summer of 2021,” he said.
Lawrence, too, is cautiously optimistic for a strong summer and overall year ahead.
“We’re at a turning point, a fork in the road,” he said. “Either things are going to get much better, or they’re going to get worse. But I err on the side of bullish on this one. I think we’re going to have a very strong year. I don’t think it’s going to be as strong as 2019, but maybe 3% or 4% down.”
And while the regulatory environment will play a bigger role than ever before, “When it comes to electric,” he said, “I don’t think it’s a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.”