Over the past two years, this channel has experienced a variety of changes that have made now more than ever a great time to evaluate and improve c-store branding.
Toward the end of 2020, the c-store industry was stressing heavily over forecasts for the year ahead. But throughout 2021, both large and small operators alike found new solutions — and serious growth opportunities — to stay ahead of those difficulties, despite the labor and supply chain issues that plagued the country for a good portion of the year.
But when you look at headlines around the channel, brands are poised for more growth than ever — and are already well underway with implementing their growth strategies. As a result, this has led to a greater need for c-store branding updates than ever.
Examples of Recent C-Store Branding Initiatives
Here are just a few of the many examples of the channel investing in c-store branding programs over the past nine months, which include new construction, refresh and remodel initiatives for facility interiors and exteriors, investments in electric vehicle (EV) charging, renewable energy solutions, and more:
- Murphy USA recently outlined its 2022 strategy in which it will revitalize 45 of its locations with new locations as well as raze-and-rebuilds, which the brand focused heavily on last year. This follows a recent acquisition that brought 157 Northeast U.S. c-stores into its portfolio.
- Foxtrot, a fairly new brand to the industry, raised $100 million in a Series C round with which it plans to open 25 new stores in 2022 and another 25 next year.
- TravelCenters of America, during its 50th anniversary year, announced its 2022 plans to renovate and upgrade more than 100 facilities inside and out, open new locations, open franchised locations, and implement EV charging stations.
- Kwik Chef rebranded to Texas Born (TXB) in mid-2021, opening its first new brick-and-mortar location around that time. It plans to continue to rebrand more than 40 Kwik Chef locations to TXB over the next couple of years.
What’s Going On with All of This C-Store Branding?
It’s no secret that the pandemic elevated and accelerated the need for c-store branding nationwide. Many of these image update programs and others pre-dated the pandemic entirely. But some of the primary reasons for these new programs include:
- Greater customer confidence in the channel after two years of people experiencing how helpful and effective stores were.
- Increasing competitiveness with the grocery store industry — providing shoppers who aren’t looking for a full grocery run with fresh options that can be purchased at locations that are faster and more…convenient.
- Closely related to the above — providing shoppers with a less-populated environment than that of a 25,000-square-foot grocery store building.
- Solidifying the position that brands have built up over the past two years and the years prior, emphasizing that their growth in popularity wasn’t by chance.
Need a reading break? Treat your eyes to a few of our c-store branding successes.
What to Consider with a Branding Initiative
It’s important to understand that this growing focus on c-store branding is not a short-term ‘thing.’ It would be a strategic misstep to allow your competitors to revitalize their image and locations while refraining from doing so yourself. Even if your program doesn’t involve launching dozens of new locations, other improvements will demonstrate that your brand is paying attention and investing in solutions that prioritize the customer experience.
This effort should be high on your list as well — according to Convenience Store News’ 2022 Forecast Study, 64% of respondents (small operators and large operators alike) are expecting that their total sales per store will increase this year. Innovation for the channel will be critical, too — the top three services retailers plan to implement will require brand assets to support their success:
- At-pump ordering for in-store items — new technologies and pump systems may require surrounds and other brand elements
- Contactless shopping via kiosks — kiosks are fixtures in your interior spaces that should be properly branded, positioned, and called out with signage
- Mobile pay in-store — installation of scanning solutions and point-of-sale systems may require updated fixtures, counters, and other brand elements
While these are high priority updates for many c-store retailers, they’re far from the only assets that should be considered. Virtually every aspect of your facilities provides a brand experience that is worth considering as you evaluate the scope of your program.
There are dozens of signage points at each of your locations, and each one serves an important purpose. Pillar signs along highways and streets, storefront signage, branding on pump canopies, door signage, interior signage, and wayfinding components all combine to create an experience for your customers — whether they’re aware of it or not. Implementing signage on that scale requires careful program coordination, efficient brand asset warehousing and logistics, and impeccable installation capabilities.
Exterior assets such as parking lots, concrete and asphalt, canopy and store lighting, and the more colorful brand assets that separate you from other nearby convenience stores also play an important role. Weathered, worn-out, or damaged assets like these are noticeable to customers as they pump gas, walk inside and around your stores, and use other services like air pumps and car washes. Investing in these assets ensures that each time a customer stops at your locations, they feel safe and appreciate what your brand has done to create the kind of experience they want.
While many c-store brands are looking into the solutions mentioned above to drive sales while still keeping their customers on the go, the interior of your locations still matters. Many customers will continue to come into the store, particularly as c-store brands invest in fresh market solutions, foodservice options, and other services that are only available inside the facility. Ensuring that everything from flooring, coolers, signage, countertops, fixtures, kiosks, restrooms, and other touchpoints are branded and in great condition will be essential to maintaining strong customer experiences.
A final consideration is how well lit your locations are inside and out. Investing in LED upgrades or, for established locations, retrofits will ensure that your brand not only saves money on energy costs over the long term but also provides a comfortable, pleasant experience for customers. A key detractor in whether someone chooses to visit your location versus a competitor’s across the street is poor lighting. If pump canopies, store exteriors, and even store interiors aren’t well lit or aren’t bright enough, it will make a customer think twice about making a stop. This also impacts your employees, too. Lighting plays an important role in making them feel safe and productive.
Work with the C-Store Experts
At Stratus, we partner with c-store brands across the country to help them more deeply engage with their customers and increase sales and loyalty through better brand experiences. Our capabilities in signage, energy solutions, refresh & remodel construction, and preventive maintenance combine to create a complete brand implementation solution that helps c-stores ensure that no matter how many locations they have, we can support their success.
Whether you’re looking to roll out a number of new locations or want to revitalize existing locations throughout your footprint, experience the infinite possibilities of working with Stratus. Connect with us today to learn more and to discuss your goals for the road ahead.