Wawa Lays Out Washington, D.C., Strategy

By 
Greg Lindenberg, Editor, CSP

Wawa D.C.

WASHINGTON -- Wawa Inc. has officially announced its entry into the Washington, D.C., market, naming the location of its first convenience store in the nation’s capital as well as regional expansion plans.

As reported in CSP Daily News, on June 13, Wawa hosted local developers, real-estate teams and local officials at the Newseum for a community partnership event, a networking and educational opportunity to familiarize the community with Wawa’s offering, people, culture and expected economic and community impact.

The event included the unveiling of Wawa’s Washington, D.C., store design and first location, plans for continued expansion in the market, market projections for the next two to five years and the areas and D.C. neighborhoods Wawa is considering for new stores.

Here are more details about the expansion. …

Community partnership

Wawa community partnership

Wawa President and CEO Chris Gheysens, Senior Vice President and Chief Real Estate Officer Brian Schaller and members of Wawa’s real-estate and store operations’ teams provided a glimpse into Wawa’s history, offering and an overview of expansion plans.

“We are thrilled to start expanding into the Washington, D.C., market and bring our urban store design to this incredible community,” said Gheysens. “While we currently have stores throughout Virginia and Maryland, we look forward to bringing our unique mix of quality and convenience to residents of our nation’s capital by providing a unique, restaurant-style location created specifically for the D.C. customer. We’ve been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and support from our D.C.-area fans who are already eagerly anticipating Wawa opening in their city, and we can’t wait to open our doors to our D.C. friends and neighbors for the first time this December.”

“We couldn’t be more excited to begin our expansion throughout Washington, D.C., and provide our unique brand of appetizing convenience to so many new customers,” said Schaller. “By opening stores within the district, we will expand our brand awareness to the 600,000 residents and 700,000 daytime employees, including 200,000 millennials, who live and work in the district. In addition, we are extremely excited to serve the 21 million visitors who travel to Washington, D.C., each year, many of whom are already familiar with Wawa.”

For the fans

Wawa

Meanwhile, the company encouraged Wawa fans and the public to visit the Wawa D.C. Fan Celebration Area outside the Newseum.

It offered a meet-and-greet with Wawa mascots Wally and Shorti; a selfie station with Wawa props; giveaways; and a livestream of the invitation-only presentation.

First and largest

Wawa D.C.

Slated to open in December, Wawa’s first Washington, D.C., store, at 1111 19th St. NW, will be Wawa’s largest location to date at 9,200 square feet.

“This one-of-a-kind store will feature the latest in Wawa’s offering with an upscale urban feel, indoor and outdoor seating, as well as an interactive digital experience all in the heart of the district,” the company said.

Highlights of the store will include floor-to-ceiling windows; exterior patio seating for customers; upscale, custom interior tables and bar seating, allowing customers to take a moment for themselves; large, interactive screens creating a social experience in-store; free Wi-Fi; and Wawa’s largest interior to date, offering Wawa’s signature foods and specialty beverages along with Wawa’s newest offers, including custom salads and nitro cold-brew coffee.

 

Take a gander at the goose

Wawa Wild Goose Cafe

The first Washington, D.C., Wawa c-store also will be the first location to include the new Wild Goose Cafe.

Why D.C.?

Washington D.C.

Wawa decided to expand to Washington, D.C., because of the demographics as well as the proximity to its home market, said a report in the Washington Business Journal.

The chain is looking for sites between 5,000 and 7,500 square feet in areas that can show they have more than 50,000 pedestrians passing by each week, the report said.

Georgetown, West End, East End, NoMa, Capitol Hill and Capitol Riverfront were all on a list of areas where Wawa is looking, the newspaper said, citing John Poplawski, director of site acquisition and development for Wawa. It is not looking at areas like Arlington and Alexandria, Va., Bethesda, Md., and the other more urbanized suburbs, said the report.

A map of areas that Wawa is targeting showed lots of points in the district and then others outside the Beltway, but none in between, the paper said. Wawa is still trying to figure out a model that works in a suburb where it isn’t likely to be able to sell gasoline, according to Gheysens.

“We really haven’t made a true commitment yet to take a nongas, urban model into suburbia,” Gheysens said at the event.

“When we get out of the city, our model works best when we have that fuel offering,” said Poplawski. “The rents in Northern Virginia are not cheap, so we have to make convenience-store economics work, and when you don’t have fuel, it becomes even more challenging.”

 

Wawa’s expansion

Wawa’s leadership team shared plans for upcoming expansion into the Washington, D.C., market over the next several years.

Wawa plans to open 25 stores in the mid-Atlantic and 25 new stores in the already-established Florida market each year for the next several years, including five to 10 stores in the Washington, D.C., market in the next two to three years and 10 to 20 stores in five years, with full density pegged at as many as 50 Washington, D.C., stores, the company said.

Each new Wawa store will employ approximately 40 associates, with Wawa’s urban models employing close to 100 associates per store. All of these associate roles will be new positions brought to the area through the development of the stores. Associates in these full- and part-time positions will receive competitive salaries and health benefits as well as the opportunity to receive educational assistance through tuition reimbursement and stock in Wawa’s employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). Wawa said it will also continue its ongoing expansion in the surrounding counties in Maryland and Virginia to further its brand expansion.

The Wawa, Pa.-based retailer has more than 750 c-stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Florida.