CHICAGO-- Locating new stores within condos, building theme stores to stand out from competitors and embracing new technologies that deliver more convenience to today’s always connected consumers.
These are a few of the new strategies retail operators are embarking on overseas as competition remains fierce in markets from the United Kingdom to Australia to South Korea.
Click through for a quick recap of some of the latest operator initiatives from outside the United States …
1. Wal-Mart developing fuel network in Mexico
Retail giant Wal-Mart is planning to open 200 gas stations in Mexico in the near future, according to government sources. The move, as reported in El Financiero, comes in the wake of Mexico ending price controls for gasoline as part of the deregulation of its fuel market, which the government has controlled since the late 1930s. Deregulation is meant to bring in outside competition but has also led to price spikes.
Wal-Mart has not commented on any plans to open the gas stations, including whether they would be stand-alone sites or located next to its retail stores. It also remains unclear whether the company would operate its own stations or find a partner. Recently, Wal-Mart has launched a variety of c-store tests in the United States.
Wal-Mart has operated in Mexico since 1991 and currently has more than 2,400 retail sites under such banners as Wal-Mart Supercenter, Bodega Aurrera Express, Sam’s Club and Suburbia.
2. Caltex debuts next-gen concept in Australia
Fuel company Caltex debuted a new concept in Australia dubbed The Foodary. The store offers an expanded selection of food and services with a heavy emphasis on convenience technology. Located along a busy commuter road in suburban Sydney, The Foodary offers food and drink for all three major dayparts, with options that include barista-prepared coffees, meal kits from a local provider and baked goods from a local bakery. It also houses an outpost of Australia’s Sumo Salad restaurant chain. New services debuting at the store include laundry cleaning and parcel pickup.
On the tech side, Caltex developed an app for guests of The Foodary that allows them to pay for fuel using their mobile device, as well as to preorder food for quick pickup inside the store.
Caltex plans to use the store as a test site for new products, services and tech initiatives, and may roll out part or all of The Foodery concept to additional stores. The pilot location was rebranded from an existing Caltex Star Mart.
3. FamilyMart expands into condo buildings
Japan's FamilyMart has partnered with property developer AP Thai to develop convenience stores within condominium buildings. The effort is part of FamilyMart’s push to put its brand in front of more younger consumers, per The Nation.
FamilyMart’s newest unit is located at AP’s Aspire Sathorn-Thapra condo building in Bangkok. The c-store offers an updated range of products compared to traditional units, including fresh fruit and vegetables and new ready-to-eat foods. It also features a more premium look along with an eco-friendly operating model, according to the company.
FamilyMart has more than 1,100 locations in Thailand, including 28 condo units, 10 of which operate under an exclusive deal with AP.
4. Tesco focuses on customer service
The United Kingdom’s largest grocery retailer, Tesco, is restructuring personnel for its Express convenience-store chain in a bid to put more employees in front of guests. As part of the move, Tesco is phasing out its deputy-manager role and creating a new shift-leader position within its c-stores. The restructure will result in a net of 1,500 new employees to work in Express stores. Tesco said it is providing options and assistance to those affected by the elimination of the higher-paying deputy manager position.
The restructure is part of a larger transformation effort among Tesco’s group of brands amid stiff competition, particularly from discount brands. The company has more than 1,800 Express shops in the United Kingdom.
Tesco exited the United States in 2013 when it sold off its troubled Fresh & Easy brand.
5. With Me's individualized store design
The newest c-store from South Korea's With Me boasts a variety of features themed after classical music. Located at the Seoul Arts Center in Seoul, the new With Me is shaped like the art center’s music hall, has music listening stations and features pictures of famous classical music artists and displays of their albums.
The new concept unit is part of an effort from the 1,830-unit chain to open more individualized c-stores, reports Korea Bizwire.
With Me is owned by Korean retail giant Shinsegae Group.
6. Costcutter tests Shopper First program
Convenience-store group Costcutter recently launched a brand transformation initiative for its various banners in the United Kingdom that includes a new tagline and logo, new interior and exterior store features, new store layouts, and expanded to-go food options.
At the heart of the Shopper First initiative, which rests on the company’s flagship Costcutter banner, are new store-level consumer insights that the company compiled for operators of its Costcutter, Mace, Simply Fresh, Supershop and Kwiksave convenience brands. The insights will allow individual operators to optimize their product ranges based on consumer demographics from the immediate surrounding area of their store.
Costcutter has so far opened two new stores under the Shopper First initiative. The 2,600-unit convenience group says that the pilot stores were developed based on the most in-depth shopper study in the company's 30-year history.