INCREASED

More and more businesses are expanding their services and creeping into territory that was once served primarily by the truckstop and travel plaza industry. Interstate convenience stores are adding diesel fueling lanes and expanding services, big box retailers are adding quick-service foods, interstate restaurants are adding gasoline fueling lanes and confectionary products, and motor carriers are adding driver services and conveniences to their distribution centers. 

“You hear about different and or new adjacent competition, but sometimes it doesn’t sink in until you really see it,” said Darren Schulte, NATSO’s vice president of membership. 

During a recent presentation for NATSO’s board of directors, Schulte compiled photos of businesses that are expanding their presence on or near the interstate high-way system, such as WaWa and Buc-ee’s. “When you see a Buc-ee’s and you see 80 to 120 fueling stations, you understand its significance,” he said.

Thinking about the competition can be overwhelming, but it is also necessary to know how to prepare and to fully understand the choices both existing and potential customers have available to them.

Throughout the year, Stop Watch will look at specific categories, including dealerships, carriers’ distribution centers, big box retailers and turnpikes, how they’re changing and what NATSO members need to know about the category. In this issue, we will kick-off the series with a look at interstate c-stores.

THE CHANGING FACE OF C-STORES

In many areas, convenience stores are expanding their reach and pulling in professional drivers, passen-ger vehicles and locals. Especially those located directly on interstates.

“There are a lot of convenience stores that are adding diesel and trucker merchandise and calling themselves travel centers,” said Roger Cole, editor of NATSO’s Biz Brief and a former NATSO chairman. “It isn’t at all of their facilities but it is at some of them.”

Cole cited the Rutter’s chain, which also offers a fleet card that provides several benefits to users, including a discount, built-in controls that can limit fueling by the day of the week or the time of the day, online account management and exception reporting via email.

Schulte said new players are entering the industry within the U.S. from abroad. Copec, one of the largest companies in Chile that operates in the fuel and c-store industry, has entered into an agreement to acquire full equity interest in Mapco Express, a convenience store chain with 348 corporate stores operating primarily in Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. The company has additional presence in Arkansas, Virginia, Kentucky and Mississippi. Mapco Express currently has a handful of travel centers and Schulte expects that number to grow over the next few years based on their travel center expertise in Chile.

In Chile, Copec has more than half—about 53 percent—of the entire Chilean gasoline market share with 626 company and dealer-operated service stations, 82 Prontobranded convenience stores and 220 Punto-branded convenience stores. The company has also created Pagoclick (mobile pay) and Zervo (a selfserve fueling dispenser).

Lorenzo Gamuri, the chief executive officer of Copec, said acquiring Mapco represents an important step for the company’s entry into the U.S. market. “Mapco’s assets are located in a geographic zone with interesting demographic attributes and with the size for a proper competitive operation in the U.S. market,” he said.

In October, the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon has plans to enter the c-store industry. Restaurants are even embracing change and adding fuel and convenience offerings, further expanding the reach of c-stores into the travel plaza and truckstop market. Rudy’s Barbeque in Texas has gasoline fueling lanes and Chef’s Point Cafe is a gourmet restaurant located within an operational c-store. Fuel, a 20-ounce soda and lobster macaroni and cheese with a Bloody Mary anyone? Ruby Tuesday is in the process of adding Tesla charging stations and there are Tesla charging stations adjacent to Chipotle properties and other fast casual restaurants.

“Understanding who the competition is, who their customers are and how that overlaps with a truckstop or travel plaza’s existing and future customers is the first step in understanding how the industry is changing and how we can change along with it,” Schulte said. 

 



via Business Feeds

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