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2018 Store Design Tips: Think Outside the Box

All boundaries are falling away

AMARILLO, Texas -- In an online world, Brian McKee, vice president of finance and new-store construction for Pak-A-Sak, Amarillo, Texas, is thinking outside the box—specifically with drive-thrus.

The 22-store chain has 11 years of experience with drive-thrus, which today contribute 30% of in-store sales. “People like to stay in their cars rather than wait in line in the store,” McKee says.

Everything in the store is available through the drive-thrus, although fountain drinks, cigarettes and beer are in highest demand among drivers. A range of those items are kept near the window.

“Drive-thrus are not easy,” says Michael Lawshe president and chief customer experience officer for Paragon Solutions, Fort Worth, Texas. “Many c-store retailers say, ‘We have legacy sites,’ or ‘It takes time to analyze what customers want,’ [but] all of those guys are missing [the] boat.”

Drive-thrus are one area in which being small can be an asset, Lawshe says. “I love the flexibility to innovate that a small marketer has and the ability to turn on a dime to do something different,” he says.

Other channels are taking the drive-thru concept to a new level thanks to innovative design. Seattle-based Starbucks has done its own outside-of-the-box twist by using shipping crates to create a no-seating option: locations with only drive-thru lanes and walk-up windows. With 45 so far across the country, the prefab structures allow for a low-cost, fast-track line to incremental profit. One Midwest c-store retailer, who requested anonymity, told CSP he is hoping to open a small but down-and-dirty new c-store concept using shipping containers.

Even Amazon, ironically, has put its own spin on brick-and-mortar. Its first Amazon Go location, in Seattle, features sleek turnstyles to manage entry into the store; uniform, prepackaged salads and other grab-and-go foods as customers enter; and contemporary woods, dark metals and a spattering of oranges and grays communicate a modern, technology-infused environment.

Now expanding into Chicago and San Francisco, Amazon Go (pictured), with its no-checkout, just-walk-out technology, has kept the store visit but eliminated the need to physically pay for goods.

Click here for the complete C-Store Design Tips report.

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