CHICAGO — During a spring when retailers are likely to miss out on the usual fuel price and demand lifts, several major convenience-store players are also taking hits on the stock market.
U.S. stock markets have seen major losses as concern about the coronavirus has grown across the country. A March 9 rout knocked 7.6% off the S&P 500 index, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged nearly 3,000 points on March 16, the worst day for stocks since 1987.
Here’s a look at how c-store stocks have fared through these events:
|Company||Position on CSP's Top 202||Recent high||Price on March 13||Price on March 17|
|Alimentation Couche-Tard (Circle K)||2||March 5: $43.68||$36.40||$33.15|
|Casey's General Stores||4||March 10: $175.22||$152.73||$145.95|
|Global Partners||26||Feb. 28: $18.89||$10.97||$10.22|
|Marathon Petroleum (Speedway)||3||Feb. 21: $59.08||$24.21||$20.65|
|Murphy USA||5||March 9: $113.78||$99.17||$94.77|
|TravelCenters of America||29||Feb. 21: $16.70||$11.70||$8.81|
Source: Yahoo Finance
More operators have done the same, beginning initiatives that range from deep-cleaning programs and free food for children to paid sick leave and discontinuing the use of reusable cups.
Here’s what c-store chains are doing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in their stores …
7-Eleven has increased its standards and procedures for proper hygiene, hand washing, sanitation and food preparation in its stores, the company said. It has also increased the frequency of cleaning high-touch surfaces.
- Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven Inc. operates, franchises or licenses more than 66,000 stores in 17 countries, including more than 9,300 in the United States. The retailer is No. 1 on the Top 40 update to CSP’s 2019 Top 202 ranking of U.S. c-store chains by number of retail outlets.
Specific preventive steps include:
- Telling employees and franchisees to stay home staying home if they feel ill or show COVID-19 symptoms.
- Displaying Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommended hygiene posters in high-traffic areas in stores.
- Temporarily discontinuing the use of personal cups for hot and cold dispensed beverages.
- Stocking stores with high-demand, essential products and making them easy to find.
- Offering a contactless delivery option, which will begin next week.
“We recognize coronavirus is a serious concern to our customers,” said Joe DePinto, president and CEO of 7-Eleven. “As a neighborhood store and convenient delivery provider in so many communities, 7-Eleven is monitoring the situation closely to prioritize the health of our customers, employees and franchisees across more than 9,000 U.S. stores.”
Family Express Corp. has installed hand sanitizer stations throughout its locations and is exploring how its corporate employees can work remotely, Gus Olympidis, CEO of Family Express, told the Times of Northwest Indiana.
"We're putting hand sanitizers everywhere in our stores," he said. "This [changes] habits about personal hygiene. It's changing the way people think and will have a lasting impact, including on working from home.”
Sheetz Inc. has established an advisory board of senior leaders and sanitation and food-safety experts to monitor the virus and implement preventative measures in its stores.
- Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz is No. 14 on the Top 40 update to CSP’s 2019 Top 202 ranking of U.S. c-store chains by number of retail outlets.
Specific measures include:
- Increasing time devoted to cleaning and sanitizing gas pumps, touchscreens, countertops, door handles, cash registers, credit machines, ATMs and other high-touch areas.
- Reinforcing proper hand washing and hygiene.
- Requesting sick employees stay home and evaluating the health of employees before the start of their shift.
- Providing an additional two weeks of paid time off to employees who contract COVID-19.
“While the spread of coronavirus and rapidly changing environment surrounding it have produced a lot of fear and anxiety, I want to assure you that Sheetz is prioritizing the health and well-being of our team members, customers and communities above all else,” said Travis Sheetz, president and COO of Sheetz.
While Sheetz’s stores will remain open, some may close as a last resort, the company said.
Kum & Go LC has focused on cleanliness, supporting its associates and increasing overall communication to endure the coronavirus.
- Based in Des Moines, Iowa, Kum & Go has nearly 400 stores in 11 states. The company is No. 18 on the Top 40 update of CSP's 2019 Top 202 ranking of convenience-store chains by number of retail locations.
Specific initiatives include:
- Adding hand sanitizer and other solution products at the registers and other high-touch areas.
- Requiring ill employees to stay home and to be tested if they show symptoms of COVID-19.
- Covering the cost of employees who get tested for COVID-19.
- Compensating employees who miss time due to any required quarantine.
- Constantly speaking with stakeholders and customers on navigating the unknowns of the virus.
“Our priority has always been the safety and well-being of our associates and customers,” said Kyle Krause, chairman and CEO of Kum & Go. “As we’ve been monitoring the evolving situation of the novel coronavirus, this priority has remained paramount.”
Kwik Trip Inc. has discontinued the use of food sampling and refillable mugs and cups to combat the coronavirus, according to a report from WFRV-TV. Also, Kwik Trip said its staff will monitor restrooms and sanitize high-touch surfaces at least once every hour. Kwik Trip has also placed hand sanitizer stations at the gas pumps and throughout its stores.
The company is also waiving delivery fees via EatStreet, a third-party delivery service, to encourage customers to practice social distancing, according to a report from WISC-TV. More than 70 Kwik Trip locations in Wisconsin that offer delivery through EatStreet, all of which are waiving fees for every order more than $8. This applies for any item except for beer, liquor and tobacco products.
“These are largely unprecedented times, and we want to make it as easy as possible for everyone to get the items they need without having to take on additional costs,” David Jackson, digital marketing and loyalty manager for Kwik Trip, told WISC-TV. “Whether you need bread and eggs, or some comfort food like our famous chicken sandwiches and a Big Buddy, we’re going to make sure you’re able to get what you need without having to leave home.”
Because of the coronavirus, Rutter’s has postponed two grand opening events for stores in Bellefonte and Lebanon, Pa., that opened in February. The company did not reveal when those events would be rescheduled.
- York, Pa.-based Rutter's has more than 70 stores in central Pennsylvania. The company is No. 96 on CSP's 2019 Top 202 ranking of the largest c-store chains in the United States.
“We always look to provide our customers with the best grand opening experience possible, which includes food sampling, charity check presentations and prize giveaways,” the company said. “With the current concerns around the coronavirus, food sampling is not recommended. Therefore, we are postponing our celebration until a later date when we can all enjoy the full Rutter’s grand opening experience.”
Denver-based grocery, restaurant and convenience-store hybrid Choice Market has implemented a five-step plant to combat the spread of COVID-19 in its stores. Those steps include:
- Closing at midnight (normal closing time is 3 a.m.).
- Bolstering its cleaning procedures for all surfaces, including food equipment, point-of-sale systems, self-checkout and door handles.
- Requiring all employees—even those not handling food—to wear protective gloves.
- Increasing inventory of toiletries and grocery items.
- Requiring ill employees to stay home.
- Compensating employees who miss work from potential COVID-19 exposure.
Customers can still order for pickup or delivery during this time via Choice Market’s website, the company said.
Haymakers Convenience Stores, an eight-store chain with locations in Illinois and Missouri, has implemented various cleanliness and employee-driven initiatives to protect its associates and customers during the outbreak.
They include cleaning high touch points such as cashier stations, credit-card terminals, foodservice counters cleaning shelves, restrooms and sit-down furniture more often than usual; restocking restrooms with more soap, paper towels and hand sanitizer; and adding extra hand sanitizer at cashier stations and foodservice counters.
For its associates, Haymakers has provided hand sanitizer and tissues in break rooms and meeting rooms; requested employees stay home if ill; and encouraged its staff to follow the CDC's suggested hygiene practices.
The company also recommends its customers practice safe food handling while at home.
“While the impact of this virus changes every day, we are committed to doing everything we can to continue to protect the health and safety of our customers and team members,” said Rich Niemann Jr., president and CEO of Haymakers, Champaign, Ill. “We are monitoring the situation carefully and using the advice of organizations like the CDC as well as local government and public health officials to inform our actions.”
Independent c-store operator Lou Perrine’s Gas & Groceries has launched a program to keep operations running while practicing social distancing. Store associates will fill up a customer’s gas tank at the pump as well as bring any items from inside the store out to the car for no extra fee. All items except for beer and liquor are eligible.
“Not only will our team come pump your gas, [but] we will even shop for you,” said Anthony Perrine, owner of Kenosha, Wis.-based Lou Perrine’s Gas & Groceries, in a video promoting the program. “We will make your life easier by filling your tank, grabbing you a gallon of milk, a pack of smokes and even a sweet treat.”
Little General Stores will offer free 6-inch Subway sandwiches to school-aged children March 16-20 to support the closure of state school systems because of COVID-19, the company said. The sandwiches being offered include Subway’s Turkey Breast, Black Forest Ham, Cold Cut Combo or Veggie Delite sandwiches.