Convenience retailers continue to redefine what convenience means. This year’s Ideas 2 Go program, which made its debut at the NACS Show in Las Vegas, showcases how companies are revolutionizing the customer experience and delivering excitement with new and unique offers—from the forecourt to store shelves to cashierless checkout.
TXB—which stands for Texas Born—is a complete 180 from the previous Kwik Chek convenience stores in Texas and Oklahoma. The reimagined concept begins with a 6,000-square-foot store, located in Georgetown, Texas, an Austin suburb.
“We use the term Whole Foods meets Hill Country,” said CEO Kevin Smartt. “It’s a new convenience store concept, but it’s not anything radically different—it’s just authentic.”
The emphasis on food is undeniable, with fresh prepared Tex-Mex fare like homemade tortillas, tacos and quesadillas. “We’re trying to be a place that’s easy to get in and out of that serves the freshest, highest quality food that it can serve. Everything we have in the store, food wise, we make here,” said Smartt.
TXB also places a big focus on private-label products, from tumblers to beef jerky. “Private label represents the brand, and our goal is to try to source everything in Texas, and we have so far,” said Smartt, adding that the company is creating a lifestyle brand with TXB.
The Walk-Off Market, powered by Amazon
Amazon brought its Just Walk Out and Amazon One frictionless technologies to T-Mobile Park for the first time at a Major League Baseball ballpark. The innovative technologies are featured at the venue’s new Walk-Off Market, which is designed to eliminate lines and allow fans to enjoy baseball.
“This type of buying experience is new for us but desperately needed,” said Malcolm Rogel, vice president of fan experience for the Seattle Mariners. “It’s different than football and soccer where you have a half ... so we needed something that can get food and beverages to the fans quick so they can be back to their seat in no time,” he explained.
The Walk-Off Market is stocked with a wide selection of beer, from craft to domestic and imports, as well as Northwest wines and ready-to-drink cocktails. The store also features a variety of Coca-Cola products, grab-and-go snacks, hot dogs, nachos, soft pretzels and Mariners-branded merchandise.
Lou Perrine’s Gas & Groceries
Single-store operator Anthony Perrine became a two-store operator in April with the opening of a new Lou Perrine’s Gas & Groceries convenience store in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The location taps into the history of the company that his grandfather built with nods of nostalgia in store décor and aesthetics.
“We are a community hub where people come together. My grandpa used to say they’re not just a customer, they’re family. There’s an emotional attachment to them—we want them to feel like family, and we want to get to know them as if they were our family,” said Perrine.
While staying grounded in the values his grandfather established, the second store gave Perrine a chance to showcase his vision for the company.
“This new store gave me the freedom to have fun and get creative, because I think it adds massive value to the customers. ... I rode the coattails of my dad and my grandpa. I really want to be able to put my name out there and make my bones my way in a unique fashion,” he said.
About six years ago, Coen was a collection of retail brands in the greater Pittsburgh area that included Co Go’s, Kwik King and Ruff Creek Markets. Today, Coen is consolidating its brands into Coen Markets and establishing a unified image and opening next-generation stores in a highly competitive c-store market.
“We’re on our way to consistently doing new builds,” said Charlie McIlvaine, Coen chairman and CEO. “It’s about creating a retail environment that is attractive, inviting and meant to say ‘fresh’ and it’s meant to say ‘food,’” he said.
Coen is also creating a frictionless experience, where customers can take advantage of the Coen Club mobile app, use self-checkout kiosks and touch-screen kiosks for food orders, and soon AI-enabled checkout-free technology by Grabango.
“This is the advent of cashierless checkout, which is taking another layer of friction out of the customer experience,” said McIlvaine. “We are now in data testing mode, allowing this system to learn through AI as people come into the store.”
La Crosse, Wisconsin-based Kwik Trip’s 800th store showcases its third-generation concept. The store, located in Holmes, Wisconsin, is roughly 2,000 square feet larger at about 9,000 square feet and features an updated color scheme, new flooring and ample space for customers to shop the store.
“Giving guests room to move felt easier and more comfortable than our previous stores, where things were a little tight at times,” said Carl Rick, training manager and owner at Kwik Trip. “We really opened the store a lot, which with COVID-19 helped a lot. People liked more space,” he said.
The new store also allows Kwik Trip to focus on food—especially the dinner daypart.
“We have expanded to fresh chicken in all our stores,” said John McHugh, director of public relations. In terms of meal solutions, he says that Kwik Trip wants to be known for more than chicken and pizza, and that includes fresh meats. “For those who still like to grill out in the evening, you can stop at Kwik Trip and get steaks, hamburgers and chicken breasts. We want to be known as the full meal solution for all your options, not just a few,” he said.
Fuel. Food. Fun. That’s the tagline for Wakepoint JBJ, a unique convenience store, bar, barbecue joint and home of live music on Lake LBJ in Kingsland, Texas. Whether customers come by boat or car, Wakepoint is the destination for water enthusiasts and those enjoying the outdoor space for live music, festivals or Sunday gospel services.
“The anchor to the concept was going to be the convenience store, but being on the lake, we wanted to add an experience to the traditional convenience store experience. And from there it just blossomed,” said owner Scott Westlund.
The customer experience can be felt from all areas of the lakefront location, a goal Westlund kept in mind while developing the concept.
“We spent a lot of time designing the feel of the store. We wanted to be welcoming, warm, a higher level of offerings and took the idea of wanting that experience and brainstorming other ways we could make this site something unique for everybody who passes through our doors,” he said.
Ideas 2 Go showcases how retailers today are operating the convenience store of tomorrow. To see videos of the c-stores we profiled in 2022 and earlier, go to www.convenience.org/ideas2go.