Another session focused on the most pressing issue moving into this uncertain future: Can the more than 150,000 retail gas stations in the United States evolve to satisfy the emerging consumer or are they destined to be relics of the past? And how might the retail offer change to capitalize on changing market conditions?
In the past, I had been accused of looking at our future negatively, especially when writing about threats to our industry for CSP. But the threat is becoming more real.
In his presentation on c-store design, Joe Bona of Bona Design Lab, New York, argued that we should start thinking about that eventual and inevitable future today, as linear thinking has not addressed the disruption factor. One of his suggestions was to reconfigure the concepts of forecourt and backcourt, and place fuel at the back of the store, as liquid fuels become less of a draw.
Speaking of disruption, the final panel of the event, “Evolution of Mobility Solutions,” addressed the elephant in the room: Consumers are increasing their use of ride-hailing services and indicating their growing interest in on-demand, autonomous mobility. Keep in mind that about 80% of EV charging occurs at home, and there is nothing to stop nearly everyone who is not a c-store from offering that remaining 20% (which will decrease as battery life improves) as the entry cost is low. The bigger concern is autonomous ride-sharing, which will completely disrupt us as an industry.
As I tell my children, one should hope for the best but plan for the worst.
Photo courtesy of Dllu