For more than 40 years, Ideas 2 Go has featured hundreds of interviews with convenience retailers from more than 40 states and four continents. Seen first by NACS Show attendees, the video program showcases best practices and emerging concepts that redefine convenience, as well as quick takeaways retailers can implement at their own stores.
From frictionless store experiences to innovative foodservice offers, this year’s stores are operating the convenience store of tomorrow. These videos showcase retailers that are the bright lights of the convenience and fuel retailing industry and are leading the way by staying ahead of the everchanging consumer landscape.
Here’s a sneak peak of the Ideas 2 Go videos making their debut at this year’s NACS Show.
The cow ... had been a part of our heritage and extends from all of the elements of our branding and image.
—Brad Chivington, Senior Vice President, High's
The High’s store in Gambrills, Maryland, is the first to undergo a brand revitalization project, including a new logo and floor plan. The 4,870-square-foot store showcases a wide variety of High’s signature items, including hand-breaded chicken, hand-made pizza and hand-dipped ice cream. There’s also an expanded area for hot, cold and frozen dispensed beverages.
Tying it all together are new tech upgrades, including a frictionless payment option through Skip that allows customers to purchase items on their phones without visiting a cashier, along with touchscreen ordering for prepared foods and ice cream.
Founded in 1928 as an ice-cream store chain, High’s grew rapidly throughout the mid-Atlantic states. At one time, there were more than 500 locations, making High’s the largest ice-cream store chain in the world. In 2012, Carroll Motor Fuels acquired High’s and began to build off its strong heritage. Today, High’s operates 49 convenience stores and employs 500 people.
The goal of The Goods Mart is a store that you walk out of feeling better.
—Rachel Krupa, Founder and CEO of The Goods Mart
the Goods Mart
New York City
The Goods Mart is a convenience store in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood, a stone’s throw away from Little Italy and Chinatown. With roughly 400 square feet of retail space, the store is quintessentially New York: a small footprint that maximizes every inch of space for its 200-plus SKUs.
The Goods Mart focuses on curation and community. The owner, Rachel Krupa, works with a dietician to provide items that meet certain nutritional profiles—but only if the food tastes delicious. The food also must be better, not perfect, in terms of nutrition. The items are almost all packaged, and Krupa tries to avoid single-use plastic packaging whenever possible.
Krupa grew up in Michigan and remembers the local Sunoco being the community hub, a characteristic she’s recreated with the Goods Mart. The store has a tip jar where customers can donate to specific local causes, and they can sign up to participate in community events such as cleanups at local parks.
I don’t consider this a convenience store; I consider this more of a marketplace.
—Eric Slifka, president and CEO, Global Partners LP
In January 2019, Alltown launched Alltown Fresh, what the company calls “the fresh convenience market” in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The store offers fresh food choices, bean-to-cup coffee, outdoor seating, groceries, craft beer, a water fountain for pets, traditional snacking options and phone and electric vehicle charging stations.
Freshly prepared, made-to-order meals include organic, natural, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian and locally sourced alternatives. The 4,800-square foot store incorporates classic hardwood signage, exterior and interior seating, an open grill for fresh made-to-order food items, kiosk ordering, a variety of organic self-serve beverages on tap, smoothies and artisan bakery items. In addition, Alltown Fresh features a wide selection of grab-and-go favorites and healthier packaged alternatives.
The retailer’s commitment to the community includes support of numerous local events and charities. As part of the Global LP family of brands, there are more than 70 Alltown stores in the Northeast.
Frictionless is coming … You will forget your wallet and go without it all day long, but you will not forget your phone.
—Raymond Huff, President, HJB Convenience Corporation
Located in an office building in Denver, Colorado, Russell’s Xpress is an unmanned convenience store operated by HJB Convenience.
Amazon Go is not the only convenience store concept to introduce frictionless checkout, nor was it the first. Russell’s Xpress is an unmanned c-store concept that owner Raymond Huff and his team launched in 2015. The store is stocked with snacks, confections, beverages and general merchandise for grabbing and going—the perfect selection for office workers who want to quickly and conveniently satisfy their food and thirst needs.
To enter the unmanned store, customers are required to enter their phone number or the number for the office they are visiting inside the building. Customers grab the items they want, scan the UPC at one of two checkouts and pay using credit or debit, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Google Pay.
Retail disruption is so advanced in Shanghai, China, that there’s even a term for it called “New Retail,” a seamless integration of the in-store and online shopping experiences. Here are four new retail concepts from recent visits to Shanghai during NACS Convenience Summit Asia:
Ratio is a fully automated coffee shop. Like most retail in Shanghai, customers order and pay with their phone through the WeChat app, making cash payments and the checkout line obsolete. But Ratio takes it a step further. The drink-making process is also automated by a robot, allowing customers to choose not only the type of coffee, but the exact temperature and taste profile. Ratio serves 400 drinks per day, and more than 50 drinks are on the menu.
Hema, an Alibaba-owned retailer, creates a unique customer experience: It’s part market, part restaurant, part warehouse and part fulfillment center. The store does not have a traditional checkout area. Instead, self-checkout and kiosks allow customers to pay for items throughout the store with Alibaba’s payment app, Alipay. But most of Hema’s shoppers (60%) place their orders online for delivery. Employees fulfill orders by collecting items throughout the store, and ceiling conveyors move full shopping bags overhead to a common fulfillment area, where an army of electric scooters waits to make deliveries.
BK24 is a new concept from Buddies that opened in December 2018. The small store, at just 50 square meters, attracts local business people in an upscale downtown neighborhood. Buddies is a subsidiary of the Shanghai Liangyou Group, which operates 520 stores, including 270 franchises stores. BK24 offers lunchbox delivery through a partnership with JD.com, where customers can order a lunchbox from their phone, and the hot meal is delivered to their office or home.
More than 100,000 customers fill up every day at uSmile stations in Shanghai, a subsidiary of PetroChina. While cupholders are useful for grab-and-go items, so is the trunk: Gas-buying customers can purchase larger items in bulk like cooking oil and rice at the fuel island. Inside the store, customers will find grab-and-go snacks and drinks, PetroChina’s Duck-branded items and household items like vacuum cleaners. Customers can pay with their phone inside the store for both fuel and in-store items.
We are a mealtime solution, and our sushi is as good as anybody’s … The joke of convenience store sushi is dead.
—Mike Terry, Senior Vice President of Convenience Stores, Hy-Vee inc.
Hy-Vee Fast & Fresh
Just minutes from downtown Des Moines is a Hy-Vee’s Fast & Fresh convenience store, a newer concept from the well-known Midwestern grocery chain. The Fast & Fresh store is a hybrid of grocery and convenience, blending prepared foods and take-home meal solutions amid a pared-down grocery selection and grab-and-go fare.
Food takes center stage with the Mia Pizza concept, freshly made dough that’s prepared daily for made-to-order pizzas that are customizable and baked in a wood-fire oven. There are also take-home meals to bake or reheat, as well as fresh-cut produce like onions and bell peppers for at-home cooking. The store also features freshly prepared sushi that’s delivered twice a day.
While the focus of the store is on fresh and healthy options, Hy-Vee also offers indulgent items as well as a robust spirits, wine and beer selection, including growlers and crowlers for craft beer.
Today’s customer is used to having things delivered to them, and I think the future of convenience retailing is on a food truck.
—Larry Jackson, Managing Director, Good to Go Markets; Chief Grill Master, Bullhead Pit Beef
Good To Go Markets & Bullhead Pit Beef
When Larry Jackson sought to bring foodservice into his Good To Go convenience store, happenstance led to the Bullhead Pit Beef food truck. At first, the food truck remained parked at the store, but as the concept took off, Jackson began operating the truck at community events, festivals and local breweries.
Pit beef sandwiches are the main attraction on Jackson’s food truck menu, a Baltimore favorite of thinly sliced roast beef cooked over charcoal. The menu also includes chicken, pork, tacos and sides, such as mac and cheese.
Working on a food truck takes teamwork to the next level: Having the right attitude, people and culture matters—especially in a small space—to solve problems quickly, adjust and serve customers. A food truck is also the ultimate eating on the go and immediate consumption method of food delivery.
Being hyper-local is quintessential to the Choice brand. But it takes time, it’s not a check the box thing ... We’re out there in the community searching and finding local purveyors that we feel would be a good fit for Choice.
—Mike Fogarty, Founder and CEO, Choice Market
Choice Market founder and CEO Mike Fogarty and his team have developed a convenience store and prepared food offer that’s perfectly suited for an urban Denver community, where customers tend to gravitate more toward upscale healthier options made with natural and organic ingredients.
Located in a 350-unit apartment complex, Choice is a combination of a convenience store for coffee, drinks and snacks on the go, a fill-in grocery store for fresh meats, cheeses, fruits, produce and household items, and a quick-service restaurant featuring seasonal and locally grown ingredients for fresh-prepared sandwiches, salads, bowls and juices.
In addition to made-to-order menu options, Choice offers freshly prepared and packaged foods in recyclable and compostable packaging, a nod to the company’s sustainability efforts to sort and recycle food and merchandise packaging.
Conceptually, it’s visual. It tells the customer we’re different, and it’s the next evolution of our industry.
—Dave Carpenter, President and CEO, J.D. Carpenter Companies Inc.
Former NACS Chairman Dave Carpenter, president and CEO of J.D. Carpenter Companies Inc., recently opened a new 7-Eleven store just outside of Denver inspired by the visualization of food that European retailers create with their fresh and prepared food offers and displays.
With a food first focus, the store features kombucha on tap, organic and natural juices from Tractor Beverage Co., a self-serve roller grill, bean-to-cup coffee and specialty lattes, espressos and cappuccinos, freshly baked New York-style pizzas and empanadas, hot soups, soft-serve ice cream, smoothies, packaged salads, fresh-cut produce and 7-Now delivery.
The store offers some elements that are not ubiquitous at other 7-Eleven stores, a nod to Carpenter’s ability to work with 7-Eleven to develop and test new concepts and ideas that reach new demographics and elevate the overall industry definition of convenience.
You can view these videos anytime at www.convenience.org/Ideas2Go. While you’re there, check out our collection of archived Ideas 2 Go videos that continue to inspire.