Private Label: From Baby Steps to Premium Positioning

Yesway to step up launch of self-branded products this fall

LAS VEGAS -- As a relatively new retailer in the convenience-store industry, having launched in 2016, Yesway purposely took a conservative approach to establishing a private-label program. Just this past spring, the company rolled out Yesway bottled water.

“You need to be realistic about your capabilities,” said Darrin Samaha, brand manager and marketing vice president for Yesway, during the workshop "Private Label 2.0" at the NACS Show in Las Vegas. “We started with bottled water because it’s easier to work with.”

Launched in purified, spring and enhanced (Yesway Water Plus) styles, Yesway water was the best-selling water brand in the chain’s 150 stores within two months, inspiring the company leaders to begin phase two of its private-label strategy this fall.

Come November, the two-year-old company will roll out self-branded lines of salty snacks, packaged bakery items and bagged candy in its stores, and on a future third-phase of the private-label strategy, consider which types of products are performing best. Those will get a “category enhancement” line extension that raises the new products up to premium positioning.

“Initially, we’re trying to deliver a quality product at a price [customers] can afford,” Samaha said. “But at the same time, we’re not afraid to create a premium play, based on what the data tells us. … Our strategy is to build as much brand equity as possible to elevate our brand beyond a newcomer in the industry.”

BW Gas & Convenience, doing business as Yesway, is based in West Des Moines, Iowa. At the beginning of 2018, with 80 c-stores, it ranked No. 82 on CSP’s2018 Top 202 list of chains by number of company-owned retail locations. It now owns and operates 150 c-stores and has plans to grow to 600 locations over the next three years.

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