BELLEVILLE, Ill. — Jim Forsyth isn’t a fan of new-age online marketing for his convenience-store chain. “I know social media is big now, [but] I'm not a social media guy,” he said. “I'm too old.”
Forsyth—CEO of FKG Oil Inc., Belleville, Ill., operator of 80 MotoMart c-stores in six states—discussed the retail brand, gaming innovation, challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, private-label innovation and much more in a new Talks From the Top conversation for CSP’s Outlook Leadership Community.
- Click here to join OLC and to watch Forsyth’s on-demand webinar.
So, if not by social media, how does Forsyth market his brand?
“Since we're spread out in six states and we only have 80 units, we can't really advertise in the traditional way,” he says. “We have digital boards out in the front of every unit with color graphics; they're very bright. We were one of the first to put LEDs in everywhere. So, when people see our units, they see that.”
FKG prides itself on its private-label fuel brand, Moto, which gives the company the “freedom to purchase fuels” from a number of sources, Forsyth said, allowing FKG to save more cents per gallon over time compared to many of its competitors.
“Having that private-label fuel brand enables us to always price with a low price,” he said. “I know everybody does that now. But in the older years—I’ve been around in this business since 1984—it wasn't that way. So, it enables us to compete effectively with any competition we have out there.”
Beyond private-label fuel, FKG also offers in-store gaming in six of its 35 stores in Illinois and seeks to add five or six more within the next year, Forsyth said. Once FKG receives its gaming license for each store, it builds a separate gaming room within the store that also has access to foodservice, he said. Gaming has allowed FKG to not only grow its new gambling business, but also increase its made-to-order food program.
“Gas taxes [in Illinois] are among the highest in the country,” he said. So you look at anything you can do on the Illinois side to make your unit profitable. Gaming is one of those things. Whether you like gaming or not, you have to do it, because if our competitor has gaming and we don't, they're going to kill us over time.”
Meanwhile, FKG is adding drive-thrus to its new stores and is testing takeout, while Forsyth remains skeptical of the longevity of delivery service.
“Any time you do any of these things, you need more employees, so it affects your efficiency," he said. "But it's fun to splatter out and try all these things.”
Every new effort—whether curbside pickup, mobile ordering or gaming—must make employees and customers happy, he said. Any service that achieves that goal, then it’s done its job.
“When you get down to the final solution at the end, you have to have efficient units that satisfy the consumer [and] that make your employees happy,” he said. “And if both of those groups are happy, your shareholders are happy. That's how we're looking at it.”