CRU Awards, Part 3: Charity

Parker's donates to local schools straight from its gasoline margins

Steve Holtz, Editor in Chief, CSP Daily News

[EDITOR'S NOTE: In January, CSP presented Convenience Retailing University Awards of Excellence to three retailers. The third of the three winners is 27-store chain Parker's for charity.]

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Most retailers do whatever they can to protect their gasoline margins. Parker's is giving it away--well, some of it.

The Savannah, Ga.-based chain of 27 convenience stores is in the second year of its Fueling the Community program, which, on the first Wednesday of every month, donates 1 penny for every gallon of gas pumped to a local school. It's a program that president and CEO Greg Parker said lets the communities know that Parker's is interested in their well-being.

"We don't think the retailer should just in an ivory tower and just take from our customers" he told CSP Daily News. "We live in an age of empathy; customers want to support companies that are giving back. So we think it's really important that we're going back in a profound way to the communities that are supporting us."

Launched in April 2011, Fueling the Community works in conjunction with Parker's PumpPal loyalty program, which drops the price of gasoline at the pump. While a donation is made for every gasoline customer, regardless of whether they're a loyalty-card holder or not, only those with a PumpPal card can log onto the Fueling the Community website and choose the school they'd like the funding to go to.

"We're giving the power to the people. We're letting the people decide how the money is allocated," Parker said. "We don't restrict anything with the schools; the schools can spend the money anyway that they want."

With an average 60,000 customers per day, it's a feel-good program that collectively has touched 100s of thousands of consumers over the past two year.

"We've raised about $50,000 … and we think that by supporting education we are doing everything we can to help a community," he said. "Education lessens crime, it raises the socioeconomic level, it raises property values, it helps with work-force training. So a rising tide floats all ships. So we want to give back in such a way that's really going to be meaningful."

And for the schools on the receiving end, there's no such thing as too much charity.

"It's really gratifying to see a successful local company invest in the community of the customer it serves," said Jim Foster, who accepted a check for $4,000 from Parker's on behalf of Beaufort County Schools in South Carolina. "That's a wonderful gesture on the part of Parker's."

Added Parker, "It's a great way to create stickiness with the consumer. People like supporting companies that support their communities, so this is a great way of brand building, it's a great way of saying, 'Hey community schools, teachers, parents, students: We're concerned about you; we want to give to you. And hopefully they're going to support us and give back."

For complete coverage of CSP's Convenience Retailing University, watch for the March issue of CSP magazine.

Steve Holtz, CSP/Winsight By Steve Holtz, Editor in Chief, CSP Daily News
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