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Last updated 7/17/2020: Official NACS Show housing and registration is now open. The Show is still a number of months away, but our preparedness plans are evolving daily in light of new guidance on COVID-19.  Check back here for more information, or goto:  www.nacsshow.com for the latest new.

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wearing mask at a gas station

How To Level-Up Gas Station Experience Amidst Covid-19 Pandemic

Talk to people about the Covid-19 pandemic and most of what you’ll hear are complaints or negative reactions to it. Truly, this pandemic has affected us all, and not in a good way. All industries are fighting their own battles to try to make their businesses survive. What if I told you that although the pandemic has brought a lot of negativity to the masses, you as a gas service provider could turn things around. Instead of moping around the negativity, you can use it to your advantage. What is the main priority of your customers in the presence of the pandemic? Well, it’s their safety of course. COVID-19 is deadly and although they need gas, they would rather go to gas stations where they feel safer. Here’s how you can do that:

Use Signs

Do you require customers to wear masks when inside your convenience store? If you do, then put up that sign. Some people become more confident to buy something from your convenience store if they see that you prioritize safety. That is just one way to improve sales from your convenience store. If they see that you implement such rules, they’ll be more confident that they are of lesser risk to buy something from you. Additionally, make sure your employees follow your signs too. Signs for social distancing would also be great. Additionally, your employees must also implement them in a courteous manner. They can remind the customers by pointing out the signs or by waving the signs. Apart from the signs, you can also create physical barriers to keep the distance. You may even place markers on the ground to help them know where to stand while in the queue. Make sure your employees also practice this so that when customers see them, they’ll also know that the rules apply to everyone else.

Provide Hand Sanitizers And Free Masks

If your customers don’t have masks, your employees can kindly point them to the area where they can get a free one. In that way, they can go inside your convenience store and make the purchase. Hand sanitizers also add another level of protection. When they see that you are one with them to stop the spread, they are likely to feel comfortable buying gas and other stuff from your station.

Use Freebies As A Marketing Tool

Make the best out of the situation. We all know that you have to lessen contact amongst customers so if you must make them use a pen, let them take it home. Add your gas station’s name or logo on the pen and use it as advertising. New pens for each customer who needs to use them is a great advertising tool.
Tow Truck Driver At Gas Station Waiting For Fill Up

Pivot And Profit To Local Service Businesses

Driving the highways, tollways, and interstates of the United States, it is difficult not to notice the many truck stops distributed along these vital transportation routes.  With signs emblazoned high above the horizon, and more than a few billboards alerting you of their location well before their exit, these outposts are strategically located to cater, in large part, to the professional truckers that heavily travel these routes. Featuring showers, hotels, restaurants, plenty of diesel pumps, and large parking spaces dedicated to larger truck rigs, the truck stops identify largely with the trucker customer base, and the truck stops, in turn are rewarded with a happy customer base that spends generously in all the right places. As an urban dweller and owner of a convenience and gas station in Raleigh, NC, I often wonder why other convenience store owners do not do the same for their service-industry customers.  I have found over the years that the workers in the service sectors like HVAC, towing, landscaping, utilities, and electric are often repeat customers and spend significantly more than your average driver topping off the tank on their way home from work. So today, as follow up to an earlier article on the importance of the occupational service sector, I’ve been asked by the editorial staff of SOspeedway to review our recent effort to pivot of our convenience store in North Raleigh to better cater to our service sector customers.

What We Did

Expanded Targeted Offerings – With our belief that a convenience section dedicated to service-based drivers would also help drive ancillary convenience stores, we devised an area for items like back rest supports, steering wheel covers, and other high-dollar, high-margin items that would likely appeal to service truck drivers, further driving in-store sales and customer retention.   This “Service Section” like was located directly across from the refrigerated fresh foods section where many of these customers grab lunch for the day.
  • Rewards Programs – As a convenience store owner of employee, there is a good chance you know who you best customers are and you probably know them on a first-name basis.  Rather than simply waiting for them to find out about rewards programs like the Speedy Rewards Mall programs to, we actively reached out to these customers to get them involved, and where appropriate, gave them a unsolicited discount on a purchase.  In my opinion nothing goes further for creating a life-long customer than recognizing these important customers individually.
  • Smoking Section – We had asked our top service-sector customers what they would like more than anything and a clean smoking section was rated near the top.  Although hesitant to implement for fear of driving away non-smoking customers, we were able to carve out some open green-space away from the pumps and the store entrance to locate a cozy area with potted plants and a few ashtrays.  While not overly large, we wanted to ensure clean, adequate space while not creating a perception that they were being sent to “smoker’s jail” as we like to call many of the cramped smoking-only spaces we have seen elsewhere.
  • Added Diesel Pumps – Service technicians are on the road – a lot.  And with the increased driving miles it makes more sense for these companies to own diesel-powered vehicles versus their gas counterparts.  With this in mind, we were noticing that many of these customers were having to wait for the diesel pump in the mornings and late rush hour.  In response, we made the decision to convert a gas pump to diesel making it a total of two pumps and four nozzles diesel and four / eight for gas.  Although there are now times every day where our traditional gas customers must wait for a pump to become available, we have seen it as an acceptable,  net-positive trade-off.

The Results

While we only have 6 months of data at the time of this writing our operating revenue have increased an impressive 5% and is trending steadily higher every month.  With the additional revenue, we’ve nearly paid half of the outlay for the pump conversion, new product and smoking section construction.  If this trend continues, tobacco product sales will increase 7% YOY. On the downside, as expected, we did see a higher wait time for the normal gas station pumps, and we did have had some initial setback with product placement with the new within the store.  This forced us to try a number of different product offerings at the new “service section”, and had to eat the cost of a few higher dollar items that were not selling.

The Feedback

Feedback was mostly positive.  Here’s a couple that stand out…

We love the new additions; the smoking section is a nice area to get out of the tow truck and have a smoke break after filling up and eating lunch.  Diesel pumps are not as congested at lunch.Willis Banks, Straight Away Towing Service, Raleigh NC

I come here around three days a week and prefer it over the BP across the street.  Its cleaner and the workers behind the counter know us.  Fact is, we are repeat customers and were offered a preferred customer discount without being asked.  I appreciated it.” – Brian Jordan, Independent Electrician, Wake Forest, NC

Conclusion

For years we had a suspicion that the service-sector customer profile was more profitable than more other segments, but we were always hesitant  to convert the customer experience toward that base in fear of alienating our “bread and butter” customers, however the effort so far has been well worth it. While there are some downsides, the additional revenue speaks for itself and we would suggest any owner of a convenience store to take steps to similarly address the occupational service sector customer profile. Thanks for reading!
convenience store at gas station

Tips To Improving Convenience Store Sales For Gas Station Owners

The pumping station and the convenience store at a gas station go hand in hand to provide whatever a motorist might need. However, recent data shows that although there is a growing demand for gasoline every year, convenience store sales aren’t showing the same progress. Most of the motorists only go to a gas station to refuel and that means missed opportunities for you to increase the sales in your convenience store. Don’t just stand there and let this happen. There are still things you can do to improve the sales in your convenience store.
Reduce Your Convenience Store Refrigeration Costs

Reduce Your Convenience Store Refrigeration Costs

Based on the findings of a U.S. Small Business Association report, refrigeration costs can make up approximately 60% of total electricity consumption in establishments that rely on commercial cooling. Nevertheless, there are many opportunities you can explore to help you maximize energy efficiency and eliminate waste. With costs in mind, here are 5 essential tips/products to reduce your convenience store refrigeration costs.
Blurry Image Of Gas Station At Night

Customer Spotlight: The Occupational Service Sector

There’s no question:  the gas station business has been, and will continue to be extremely competitive. Couple that with additional headwinds from an overall decline in gasoline consumption and the breakneck changes in consumer tastes, it has become absolutely critical that Gas Stations, Service Centers, and Convenience Marts differentiate our businesses in order to remain viable. Speedway Corporate and franchise owners should constantly be looking for creative ways to attract and retain loyal, high-paying customers. One way to do that is to focus on the customer profiles that spend the most time and money at our Speedway locations.   In many ways the occupational service sector businesses fits the bill.
gas station

Top Factors to Consider Before Purchasing a Gas Station

The constant demand for fuel accompanied by a bunch of other aspects make Gas Stations a viable business opportunity. As a result, purchasing the same brings several benefits that will be essential to the business plan that you have in mind. But before going ahead with the same, there are certain factors that need to be taken into consideration. Apart from covering the business plan, the factors below enhance the outcome and help you get used to the new form of business.