CSP Magazine

Grand Opening: Spinx is Carolina Dreaming

How the convenience-store retailer's newest location was built for adaptation and foodservice expansion

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For more than 40 years, Spinx has delivered on its mission “to always be the friendly company that makes people’s lives easier.” Today, that mission, developed by founder Stewart Spinks, translates into an adaptable store design that emphasizes fresh prepared foods. Rick Glay, company operations excellence manager, spoke with CSP about the Greenville, S.C.-based chain’s newest store template.

Q: Give us a brief history of the chain. How many stores do you operate in, and in which markets?

A: Spinx was formed in 1972 by Stewart Spinks with a home heating-oil delivery service and one convenience store in Greenville, S.C. Today, Spinx is still family-owned and operates 80 convenience stores in South Carolina, employing more than 1,400 associates through its stores, food operations and related businesses.

Since 2013, Spinx has expanded through acquisition and new-to-industry stores, adding seven stores in the Columbia market and another seven in the Charleston market.

Spinx continues to grow geographically and as a company where team members thrive. Through our growth, we strive to provide our customers, partners and employees with stimulating and rewarding experiences.

Q: Over the past several years, Spinx has ranked among the industry’s pacesetters in trying to make its stores more inviting. What are some of the key underlying strategies behind this approach, and how is that reflected in the store design?

A: Constant improvement is one strategy that is woven through all areas of our business, including our store design. Once we settle on a store design, or some change within it, we don’t rest on our laurels and assume that our work is done. We gather customer and associate feedback, watch customer behaviors, traffic and buying patterns, and are always looking to improve upon our best ideas.

Q: Your newest store design is very impressive. What distinguishes it from some of the earlier models?

A: The newest store design is 6,800 square feet and is actually a reproduction of a store design originally developed in 2012, with some minor tweaks. Some distinguishing characteristics of this design include high, open ceilings; clear lines of sight from the entryway; and bright, inviting colors and materials.

We have multiple versions of this store design, ranging in size from 4,500 square feet to 7,000 square feet. We determine which we will build based on the available real estate.

Q: We’re seeing greater emphasis on designing stores that are more family-friendly and feature better-for-you offerings. What makes the latest Spinx location stand out as it relates to these broader changes?

A: We strive to meet our customers’ needs in terms of choices each time they visit one of our stores. As a result, we have rolled out various programs, including our Fresh on the Go program, in response to the desire to have better access to fresh, healthier meals and snacks. What started as a pilot program in 2011 has grown into an offer that is part of every new store we build.

Also, we have included a made-to-order smoothie station as part of our new builds, which customers seem to also really enjoy. Although this program is still in the introductory phase, its success at seven stores so far bodes well for its expansion to others.

Q: Spinx has often stood out for its embrace of technology. Can you share some of the attributes that allow you to better connect with the customer?

A: Spinx prides itself on being on the forefront of technology, whether that is internal processes that can be improved through new programs, or customer-facing tools such as our mobile app. In recent years, we have put additional emphasis on the customer-facing tools that we have, specifically our social media presence, as a way to connect with our customers and potential customers.

What we have learned is that our customers like to give and receive information via social outlets, so it has proven to be an important tool in communicating and connecting with them.

Q: Why did you see a need to create a new template? What were the key considerations in reaching this final design?

A: The need for a new store design arose in part from our foodservice offer. We wanted to allow our associates the right amount of space, based on industry best practices, to prepare our expanding menu of meal and snack choices. We also wanted to meet our customers’ expectations in terms of options.

For Spinx, getting to a final store design meant finding a balance between the amount of space needed and making every linear foot work for the business in terms of generating sales.

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