With canoes hanging from its store ceilings and loyalty-club giveaways ranging from a Lamborghini to a boat, Maverik has long been Adventure’s First Stop. The company’s new store format further emphasizes that brand lens with a deeper emphasis on bringing the outdoors inside.
Aaron Simpson, vice president of customer fanatics for Salt Lake City-based Maverik Inc., spoke with CSP about the new store and the company’s goal to show, not tell.
Q: In 2014, Maverik took a close look at its store set. What did you learn from that “investigation,” and how has it influenced your latest store design?
A: Our stores were getting very cluttered at the time. And from a customer’s perspective, when you walked into our stores, nothing really stood out. As we visited several locations, we actually stood in the doorway and adopted the perspective of a customer walking in. We discovered that we needed to focus the customer’s attention on categories we really wanted them to notice: prepared food, fountain, coffee, packaged beverages and foodservice.
Q: When you considered your new prototype, how did Maverik’s mantra of Adventure’s First Stop influence your decisions? Was the company’s catchphrase a hindrance or a benefit to the new design?
A: Our brand lens (Adventure’s First Stop) influences all of our decisions, and we put these decisions through that lens. The vision we developed that ultimately inspired the new store design uses words like “blaze the trail,” “feed your adventure” and “food you crave.” Also, one of our brand philosophies in-store is: Show them, don’t tell them. As we designed the new store, our theming was really important to help showcase those foodservice destinations [such as] Bonfire Grill.
Q: Your latest design is unique and experiential. Can you delve into the thinking behind the concept, from the architecture to the kind of experience you are trying to create?
A: The overall concept is really about showcasing those key foodservice destinations, so that customers are drawn to them.
We also opened up the food prep area with the Bonfire Grill concept so customers can see that we’re making fresh food in each of our stores. The architecture fits our brand lens: When you walk into a Maverik, you don’t walk into a store—you are walking into the great outdoors.
Q: One of the challenges some retailers express in rolling out a new concept is the effect on legacy stores. For customers patronizing your newest template, what impression do they have of older stores? Are there any tie-ins across your entire retail network?
A: I think every retailer faces this challenge as stores evolve. One of the things that our store vision (and guiding principles) helped us do is apply the same principles to our legacy stores. We lowered our gondola displays to 5 feet so customers could easily see across all of our stores. We eliminated the clutter, especially in the older, smaller stores. We have continued to remodel our older stores, updating brand theming and highlighting those food destinations.
As for legacy stores, I think that when customers see fresh food (e.g., burritos) being prepared fresh in a new store, they realize the same burritos are being made fresh in older stores as well, even if the kitchen is not visible in those stores. Our hope is that the new stores can lift food sales across our retail network.
Q: What distinguishes your newest prototype from earlier templates, and have you seen a lift in sales?
A: We’ve seen a significant increase in food sales (both grab-and-go and our new made-to-order program) with the Bonfire Grill concept. The new stores are in excess of 5,000 square feet and include a seating area both inside and outside the store. All impulse racks (chips, candy) are built into the cabinets for a very clean merchandising look.
We are actually working on a new customer segmentation right now that is behavioral-based, and our target segments are focused around food and beverage occasions.
Q: Can you guide us through your store?
A: When you walk into the store, the customer service area is right by the doors so it’s easy for our Adventure Guides to greet you. The Bonfire Grill is front and center so the customer immediately knows we’re serious about fresh food. In our old store format, the customer service area made it difficult for customers to move from one side of the store to the other. (We learned this from a VideoMining study.) Our new store removes that barrier.
Q: If someone were visiting Maverik for the first time, what would stand out that underscores Maverik’s uniqueness?
A: The unique retail environment: walking into the great outdoors. I also think seeing fresh food preparation, friendly “adventure guides” and a large, clean store stand out. I’m often told “I love Maverik; … it’s my favorite convenience store,” and “My favorite
Maverik is [location].” Our uniqueness shows every time we open a new Maverik and have 5,000 people show up to our open-house events. We recently had customers tailgate at an open house.
Q: Tell us about the forecourt and store exterior.
A: We even theme our fuel islands. The bottom of the fuel canopy isn’t a fuel canopy—it’s blue sky. The rest of the canopy is themed with outdoor adventure scenes. I think we’ve done a much better job of making our storefronts capture that motif over the last couple of years. The timber look is now our standard and reinforces Adventure’s First Stop. Even our corporate headquarters—we call it Base Camp—embodies the same feel.
Q: How would you describe today’s Maverik? Are you still a convenience store, or something else?
A: My prior boss used to say, “We’re not a gas station; we’re more than a convenience store. I’m not sure exactly how to describe us.” A lot of us have a hard time describing exactly what we are as the industry continues to evolve. I think the best way to describe today’s Maverik is Adventure’s First Stop.
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