W.Va. Chevron Stations Making Smooth Transitions

Association exec discusses pros, cons of branded vs. unbranded choice

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When Chevron announced late last year it was pulling out of West Virginia and surrounding states, it came as a shock, Jan Vineyard of the West Virginia Oil Marketers & Grocers Association (OMEGA) told The Charleston Gazette. Gas stations offering Chevron-brand gasoline had to either find a new brand of gasoline to sell or go unbranded by July 1, said the report.

Either way, these stations are transitioning smoothly, Vineyard said.

"Some are still in transition, but they have taken down their Chevron signs, and they're no longer [image-nocss] Chevrons," she said. "Some stations had relationships with other brands, and they were able to change to that brand."

Former Chevron stations could switch to other brands such as Shell, Exxon or Marathon, the report said.

Vineyard said each station had to determine what would work in its marketplace and take note of other local stations and the brands they offer. "You have to look at what would work for you," she said.

She added that switching brands or going unbranded does affect a station's profits. She said many people choose their gasoline based on name recognition, and if that gas station has some sort of perk, such as a credit card.

"People traveling through West Virginia on the interstate that have an Exxon card or Shell card may choose because of the credit card," Vineyard told the newspaper.

Each brand offers different additives in its gasoline, such as those that clean engines, Vineyard said. The additives each brand offers also can have an impact on whether people buy that brand. "Each brand does something different with their gasoline," she said. "Shell is a name brand. Exxon is a name brand. Their additives are good."

Stations that decided to go unbranded might face profit loss because they do not have that name recognition, Vineyard said.

"If you're unbranded and don't have a major brand or flag, sometimes supply might be difficult," she told the Gazette, "because you don't have a guarantee if you're not tied with someone."