Build It & They Will Come'

For some sites, building unusual landmarks piques customer interest

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

[Editor's Note: This article is part of a special examination of ways retailers are engaging customers and staying relevant in a dynamic economic time. For more on the topic, watch for CSP magazine's March cover story.] KENLY, N.C. -- In the game of engaging an increasingly fickle public, retailers have used everything from onsite promotions to dramatic design choices to capture customer imagination and engender loyalty. Ernie Brame manages a truckstop that is presently constructing a 65-foot lighthouse as a way to stand out along the area's main throughway. Part [image-nocss] of a chain owned by the Iowa 80 Group, Walcott, Iowa, the structure is an effort to both distinguish the site and tie it visually to the company's larger network of locations.

"On the East Coast we love our oceans," Brame told CSP Daily News of the Kenly 95 Truck Stop, Kenly N.C. "When Iowa 80 bought the location they asked, 'How can we differentiate [the site]?' And they came up with the lighthouse."

Building the lighthouse is just part of a larger, 15-month construction effort that will increase the size of the building by 50% to accommodate a new fast-food offer and quadruple the size of the trucker store. Workers are also refurbishing the pump islands, as well as adding other amenities to extend an atmosphere of comfort to passing travelers, he said. Completion is expected in 2010.

Efforts like those of the Iowa 08 Group to catch the eye and imagination of the traveling public are numerous. To examine just how retailers in the convenience industry stay relevant with consumers, CSP staff reviewed the last year of reported activity and found more than 300 instances of retailer efforts, ranging from new coffee programs to marketing stunts inclusive of onsite weddings and "Guitar Hero" contests.

Brame's lighthouse plans (pictured) in Kenly, N.C., bear a striking resemblance to tourist attractions and their business model of building an architectural wonder to lure in traffic.

Along those lines, James Sandoro, founder of the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum in Buffalo, N.Y., updated CSP Daily News on his efforts to reconstruct a gas station designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The famed architect created the plans with the intent on selling the design and seeing sites built across the country. A harbinger of sorts, the designs played up to women, Sandoro said, focusing on clean rest rooms and providing a living space with a fireplace.

Sandoro said the addition to the current museum is intended to be an indoor exhibit and as fundraising efforts continue, the station-which will not be a functional facility-is set for completion within 24 months.

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
View More Articles By Angel Abcede