Little General's Strategy Captures New Territory

W.Va.-based retailer "invades" Ohio with first store acquired in deal with Prima Marketing

Melissa Vonder Haar, Freelance Writer

BECKLEY, W.Va. -- Little General Store Inc. has led its troops into the Buckeye State with a rebranding of a convenience store that it has acquired as part of a transaction through which it has taken over the operations of five locations formerly operating as Prima Marketing/7-Eleven Stores.

As reported in a Raymond James/CSP Daily News Flash on Thursday, the stores are located in Washington, Pennsboro, Scott Depot and Hurricane, W.Va., and Albany, Ohio--the company's first Ohio location.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Prima Marketing LLC sold 76 stores to 7-Eleven Inc. in late August. Prima and 7-Eleven had been in discussions about the deal going back to when Prima sold off 26 sites to independent retailers in the first quarter of this year. (see Related Content below for previous CSP Daily News coverage).

With the five newly acquired locations, as well as one additional land parcel, plus the takeover of the two Prima Marketing/7-Eleven sites in Princeton and Kegley, W.Va., in April, Little General Stores have now taken over a total of eight locations from Prima Marketing/7-Eleven in 2012.

"We took over two of 7-Eleven's locations in April, in the southern part of West Virginia," Brian Waugh, director of retail for Little General Stores Inc., told CSP Daily News. "When we took those two locations over, about a month after that is when we started talking about these new locations--in the middle of May. We took the first one over almost a month ago, but we waited until we took the last one over before we officially announced the deal."

The store in Washington, branded BP, opened as a Little General Store on August 7. The store in Pennsboro, branded Marathon, opened as a Little General Store on August 8. The store in Scott Depot, branded Shell, opened as a Little General Store on August 16. The store in Albany, branded BP, opened as a Little General Store on August 22. The store in Hurricane, branded Exxon, opened as a Little General on September 6.

Acquiring the locations in Scott Depot and Hurricane, W.Va., that are located within the company's existing territory, now give it a total of five locations in Putnam County, W.Va., and allows it to continue to expand inside the West Virginia market, said Waugh. Acquiring the other three locations will allow the company to expand Little General into two new markets, with the Washington and Pennsboro locations being in the Parkersburg, W.Va., market, and the Albany location being in the Athens, Ohio, market.

These locations have now all been reset to the Little General image inside the stores and will also have an ATM, New River Coffee and Cappuccino, Siberian Chill Frozen Beverages and everyday value on staples such as milk, ice cream, pop, snacks, groceries, beer, wine, sandwiches, cigarettes, tobacco, novelties and movie rentals.

"We've already changed out the 7-Eleven logos to Little General's," Waugh added. "They've got the branded gasoline will stay what it is for now. The five locations we took over had deals with Shell, Exxon, and BP … that will stay as is. On the insides of the stores, we've changed the layouts and some of the products. There will be with some changes in merchandising. Our model going forward is that any site we build or purchase, we try to have some kind of branded foodservice. Some of them came with existing QSRs, others of these came with property where we can build them in."

In announcing the deal, Waugh said, "We are very happy to welcome the employees and customers of these five locations to the Little General family. All five of these locations have been known for providing quality customer service for many years. We are excited about the possibilities of these locations, and we would like to thank Prima Marketing/7-Eleven for everything they've done to build these businesses."

He said, "With the acquiring of these locations, we look forward to leveraging our strengths and operating capability to further expand the Little General business model to the residents and travelers in West Virginia and now Ohio."

As for future expansion, Waugh said, "We will continue to look for ground-ups. If an acquisition or a deal that comes along that makes sense, we'll do that as well. We look both ways. Some of our competitors only do ground-ups, but we'll do both."

Beckley, W.Va.-based Little General Store is a 93-location convenience store chain with 90 stores in West Virginia, two stores in Virginia and one store in Ohio. Little General Stores offer the Exxon, BP, Sunoco, Marathon and Shell fuel brands. The company is also a franchisee for 29 Subways, 16 Godfather's Pizzas, 11 Sam's Hot Dog Stands, seven Burger Kings, seven Arby's, four Taco Bells, four Chester's Chickens, two Steak Escapes, a Custard Stand Hot Dog and the 79er Restaurant. Including the 14 freestanding foodservice locations that Little General has, the company now operates a total of 107 locations. Little General currently has three new sites under construction as well: two sites (including one with a Shell/Arby's) in Kanawha County, W.Va., and one Sunoco site in Fairmont, W.Va.