CHICAGO — In September, after a 50-year run, Casey’s General Stores Inc. debuted a new, modernized logo and embarked on an image update that honors the convenience-store retailer’s traditional, rural roots while signaling a new, more contemporary direction.
The move by Casey’s is one of the most high-profile examples of the recent wave of rebrands and image refreshes by chains of all sizes that has swept the convenience channel.
The chains each have their own reasons and strategies for the changes, some of which predate the COVID-19 pandemic. But the pandemic elevated the perception of c-stores, making now a good time to launch strategic rebrandings, said Terry Monroe, founder and president of American Business Brokers & Advisors, Effingham, Ill.
The c-store being there for consumers during a time of confusion and uncertainty “instilled confidence in people’s minds and raised their level of awareness of how important the convenience store was,” he said. “It is only natural that retailers would take advantage of the situation and upgrade their logos and their image.”
Ken Shriber, managing director and CEO of Petroleum Equity Group, Chappaqua, N.Y. agrees the recent litany of chain rebranding makes sense. “It is a great time to refresh the c-stores with an image, logo or name that draws consumers away from the grocery store for fill-in visits,” he said. “There is a heavy leaning toward the ‘fresh market’ concept, which should attract that customer who is not looking to do a large grocery shop, but needs some of the same items that can be purchased at a more convenient location and quicker. And post-COVID, customers will encounter far fewer people during the visit than at a more than 20,000-square foot grocery store, although the directional rebranding started long before COVID.”
The c-store industry is also reinventing itself to cope with disruptive competition from e-commerce, new technology and delivery. The challenge of the pandemic also presents a clean slate for retail. The elusive “new normal” has yet to be determined. Convenience, despite a long history or being perceived as a second-tier retail channel, has clearly earned the essential designation. Many chains are looking to solidify the idea that their status is not a fluke, and that they have a real place in their communities and their customers’ daily lives.
Here are some of the chains that have recently announced changes. …
"We've repositioned the brand," Chris Jones, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Casey's, said. "We've brought all of these new things to our guests—new mobile app, new webpage, new rewards program—so we're bringing to market a refresh of the visual identity of the brand. We will update all 2,200-plus of our stores, as well as our digital assets and in-store signage, over time. We’re also working on a range of new private brands, Casey's-branded products, and it's really lent itself nicely to the development of the packaging.”
Jones acknowledged that the old logo was “looking a little outdated. It's 50 years old,” he said. “The more we've enhanced what we're giving our guests from a proposition standpoint, the further and further behind our visual identity was falling.”
The new logo updates the sarif font with a sleeker and more casual sansarif design. It no longer says "General Store"; however, it maintains the iconic barn and rooster weathervane silhouette.
“We've really tried to keep some of the things that our guests love about the brand, this idea we have our roots in rural farming communities,” Jones said. “We've contemporized that look and feel. … We've made it more friendly, more approachable and more up to date than it was before.”
The overall goal, he said, was to maintain the roots of the company while letting customers know there is more progress to come. “Guests, when they've seen the new logo through our research, have said, 'It's what I know and love, but it tells me that something new is coming ahead',” Jones said.
CPD Energy Corp., New Paltz, N.Y., operates and supplies more than 200 stores. It is set to debut a new logo and branding for its Chestnut Market c-store chain, introduced earlier this year. The initiative will affect 55 stores and will roll out to dozens of additional stores over the next two years.
“CPD has been serving customers in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut tri-state area for nearly 40 years, but has operated under multiple retail brands,” said Sharif Jamal, director of brand development for CPD. “The c-store landscape has evolved over the years, and now more than ever, it’s important to create a consistent brand that connects with consumers and focuses on their daily needs.”
“We set out to give Chestnut Market an all-new identity package. The work included the creation of a new logo, updated exterior concepts, brand personality and voice,” said Steven Cohen, vice president of design services for GSP, Clearwater, Fla., which developed the new logo. “Our goal was to have CPD’s customers keep Chestnut Market top of mind by creating a memorable icon that could evolve into a total store package.”
Federal Heath Visual Communications, Euless, Texas, is doing the interior design for the chain.
“After 18 years, we really felt like it was time to examine our company, our values and the things that drive us, and we came up with a rebrand that is truly in line with who we are,” Kwik Chek CEO Kevin Smartt said. “We value hospitality, authenticity and integrity. This company was born and raised in the great state of Texas, and quite simply, there’s nothing that could capture our message and our roots better than the TXB brand.”
With the rebrand, Smartt aims for TXB to emphasize Kwik Chek’s Texan roots and values. “TXB is big city, open country and everything in between,” the company said.
TXB branding has already begun to show up in Kwik Chek stores, including TXB menu boards and cappuccino machines. TXB fountain cups have also replaced Kwik Chek cups. All stores have two sizes of TXB bottled water available and TXB jerky will be available by the end of the year. By the end of November, all new promotional signage will be TXB branded.
“They may have determined that because a number of companies in the c-store industry have some form of the word ‘quick’ in their names, that no longer afforded them the unique identity they wanted,” said Steve Montgomery, president of b2b Solutions, Lake Forest, Ill. “Nor did it provide a link to their Texas heritage.”
Coen Markets Inc., Canonsburg, Pa., is rebranding its approximately 60 c-stores to the Coen name, including its Ruff Creek Markets and CoGo’s stores. Its goal is to reimage the stores by or shortly after the end of 2020.
The company also signed an agreement with BP to reintroduce the Amoco fuel brand to the greater Pittsburgh market in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Coen Markets will rebrand the forecourt for all of its company-operated sites to Amoco.
“Our food offer has been a success with our guests,” Coen Markets President Andy McIlvaine said. “Similarly, we wanted to provide our guests with a high-quality gasoline and fueling experience.”
“The reimaging of all of our stores to Coen and Amoco will enable us to speak with one voice to our guests in the region,” said Charlie McIlvaine, Coen Markets’ CEO.
“Coen Oil rebranding to Amoco was an opportunity to bring back to its markets a fuel brand that had historically been very strong in its markets,” b2b Solutions’ Montgomery said.
Parkland Corp. has acquired the license for the exclusive use of the “On the Run” c-store trademark in most of the United States. It will use the opportunity for U.S. expansion and to “create a unified, North American retail and convenience-store brand,” said Ian White, senior vice president of strategic marketing and innovation at Calgary, Alberta-based Parkland.
“On the Run is an established retail brand that we can quickly and efficiently scale by leveraging the capabilities we have established in the Canadian market,” White said.
The strategic rationale for this deal also includes the opportunity for Parkland to rebrand its U.S. c-stores; to support the organic growth of its dealer business by providing an enhanced, bundled offer that combines a leading c-store brand with multiple forecourt fuel brands; and to capture efficiencies through common brand collateral, product assortments, private-label product ranges and operational continuity. It also provides a stronger foundation for U.S. mergers-and-acquisitions activities.
“The On the Run retail brand provides a solid platform for our continued U.S. growth,” said Doug Haugh, president of Charleston, S.C.-based Parkland USA. “Our U.S. customers will enjoy enhanced interior and exterior rebranding elements, larger and brighter canopies and a variety of new product offerings.”
In Canada, Parkland owns, operates or supplies stations under the Chevron, Esso, On the Run, Marche Express, Fas Gas Plus, Pioneer, Race Trac and Ultramar brands. It acquired most of the Canadian business and assets of CST Brands from Couche-Tard in June 2017. Parkland USA operates approximately 60 locations in 13 mostly Western U.S. states under the Farstad Oil, Superpumper, Harts Stores, KB Oil Express and Rhinehart Oil brands. It also has more than 300 dealers and more than 40 commercial locations.
GPM Investments LLC and its Israel-based controlling shareholder Arko Holdings Ltd. signed an agreement in September with Haymaker Acquisition Corp. II to form a new, publicly traded company called Arko.
“This transaction provides us with increased liquidity and access to the broader capital markets, enabling us to continue to execute on our proven growth strategy,” said Arie Kotler, CEO of Arko and GPM.
Based in Richmond, Va., GPM has nearly 1,400 stores (more than 1,260 company-operated) in 23 states. Brands include Fas Mart, Shore Stop, Scotchman, BreadBox, Young's, Li'l Cricket, Next Door Store, Village Pantry, Apple Market, Jiffi Stop, Admiral, Roadrunner Markets, Jiffy Food Marts, E-Z Mart, 1 Stop, TownStar, RStore, Mad Max, Baltus and Jetz.
“We are planning on keeping all of our community brands underneath our new company,” Kotler said. Arko will have a new logo and a new slogan: “A family of community brands.”
The new ownership structure also will allow GPM to speed up its already aggressive growth. “We are coming out of this merger with a lot of cash on hand to continue our growth strategy, and at the same time, we are planning on starting a remodel program in our stores,” said Kotler. The company plans to invest more than $300 million in 360 stores over the next five years, he said. It is already working on prototypes.
Liberty Travel Plazas
Liberty Travel Plazas in August unveiled a new name, mascot and brand identity—Onvo—along with a fully redesigned website, a refreshed loyalty program and an updated store design.
“While our old identity served us well over the past 30-plus years, it was time for us to update our brand to something that reflected our dedication to delivering experiences that leave our guests happy and fulfilled,” Andy Aulakh, founder and chief business development officer, said.
Scranton, Pa.-based Liberty began remodeling key stores this fall, and it expects to remodel all stores by the end of summer 2021.
The company, founded in 1988, has 32 travel plazas and gas stations, in northeastern and central Pennsylvania. It also recently expanded to upstate New York.
Meanwhile, retailer associations are also refreshing themselves. The Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA) has renamed itself the Energy Marketers of America (EMA) to reflect the industry’s growing portfolio of liquid fuels and other alternative energy sources such as renewable diesel and biodiesel.
The Alexandria, Va.-based group, a federation of state and regional trade associations, represents about 8,000 independent petroleum marketers.