Convenience Store Evolution: How to Become More Than a Filling Station


Convenience stores today are more than a place to stop at to top off the tank. Over the years, c-stores have evolved to provide more of exactly what the name implies—convenience. Not only can customers fill up on gasoline, but they can also oftentimes pick up a quick dinner, get a car wash, grab a few household items or even have a place to sit down and reconnect with friends.

In today’s fast-paced society, consumers are looking for a one-stop shop to satisfy all their needs in one visit. Now the question retailers might ask is, “How can I transform my c-store to be more than just a gas station?”

Store atmosphere helps. Cenex®, the energy brand of CHS, can help.

Thanks to the Cenex® LIFT initiative, a lighting, image and facilities transformation program, Cenex retailers can revamp their stores to be in the best interest of their community. Through a multitude of interior and exterior upgrades, Cenex store owners can become their community’s number one c-store destination. Best of all, store owners have the freedom to choose which renovations are best for their location—all with the resources and support from CHS.

As retailers think about ways to transform their c-store to meet the needs of today’s consumers, consider the benefits that come with partnering with Cenex.

Select local vendors and partners

C-store retailers understand the importance of shopping local. Cenex values the power of supporting local businesses, and because of that, they make it easy for retailers to partner with local business owners in their area.

Through LIFT, Cenex retailers can choose which local vendors they’d like to work with when building or revamping their store. For example, Synergy Cooperative in Cumberland, Wis., didn’t skip a beat when the opportunity to partner with local businesses presented itself. As part of their interior upgrades, the Synergy Cooperative team chose a total of four local vendors to provide various meats and cheeses in-store. But they didn’t stop there. Locally made honey and syrup are also offered at their location.

“We wanted to incorporate upgrades that not only benefit the store itself, but the Cumberland community as well,” said Kyle Knutson, CEO of Synergy Cooperative. “When we decided to partner with small businesses in the area, we were confident that we were doing our part in making a positive financial impact for our neighborhood.”

It’s important to embrace partnership rather than shying away from it. Joining forces with neighboring companies can be extremely important as it has the potential to provide towns the momentum they need to reach heights that never before imagined.

Attract customers through exterior upgrades

What stores looks like on the outside is arguably just as important as the offerings available inside. If the outside of a store isn’t appealing to a consumer, why would they come inside to see what else is being offered?

Knowing that the curb appeal is usually the first reason why a customer wants to stop by a store, the new Cenex image called Halo elevates the appearance of Cenex branded locations and drives consumer preference. Take Orton Oil Co. in Audubon, Minn. for instance. Just months after implementing the Halo image upgrade and finishing renovations, store owner Frank Orton saw a substantial increase in traffic and business at his location. The team at River Country Co-op in Merrill, Wis., also saw a difference after the Halo renovations were complete. Once the main entry way was modernized with stone siding and improved LED lighting from the canopy and forecourt was incorporated, they saw more than a 30% increase in in-store sales.

The Halo image upgrade helped us to create a more approachable, inviting atmosphere. The improved lighting in the forecourt and canopy have especially made a difference,” said Bruce Mlsna, general manager and CEO of River Country Co-op. “Thanks to the Halo image, customers are drawn in to see our many great features, like the beer cave and in-store bait shop.”

Incorporate features the community will appreciate

No one knows their community better than local retailers. So, when it comes to selecting the right upgrades for a store, the choice is personal. Whether that means partnering with a local restaurant chain or incorporating special offerings that align with the community’s interests, LIFT gives retailers the freedom to choose what items and features make the most sense for their store.

Several retailers, including the examples below, took it upon themselves to identify their customers’ needs and worked to satisfy them by adding various features throughout their stores.

  • Petro Serve USA in Harwood, N.D. went all in on in-store upgrades, focusing on the customers’ needs to expand their food and beverage offerings. Upgrades included new coolers with LED lighting, an assortment of refrigerated products, a walk-around deli counter and its Hot Stuff line of personal-sized pizzas, cheese bread, croissant sandwiches and more. The team at Petro Serve USA also knew that their location was a common meeting place for the community. So, they made sure to include an improved seating area where people could sit down and chat over their morning coffee.
  • Northern Star Coop in Grand Rapids, Minn., embarked on a new build, wanting to create a store that reflected the town’s rich history. This included a log cabin theme with log beams and hardwood flooring, along with four murals that represent significant Grand Rapids landmarks.
  • Sioux Valley Coop knew that Harrisburg, N.D. was a small but vastly growing town that had limited options for food. So, they partnered with Godfather’s Pizza, Flyboy Donuts and Caribou Coffee to give its community more food and beverage options.

“We encourage all of our retailers to go all in when deciding on which upgrades to include in their stores,” said Erin Wroge, senior director of energy marketing at CHS. “We know every community is different and has its own distinct needs. The store owner knows best, so we leave it up to them to decide what makes sense for their community.”

For retailers thinking about taking on a renovation project, Cenex provides the freedom to choose specific upgrades and the support needed to see the project come to fruition.

For more information or to join the Cenex family, visit cenex.com/lift.

This post is sponsored by Cenex®


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