A Dash In Performance

Maryland chain celebrates growth, eyes new stores in 2012

Mitch Morrison, Vice President of Retailer Relations

LA PLATA, Md. -- When Dash In executives are talking about climbing their chain in the industry through prudence and profit, it is easy to forget that this 85-year-old jobber rolled out its c-store vision less than a decade ago.

Yet, from the wellsprings of 2003, when parent company, The Wills Group, recruited several members from outside their organization, the business has spurred consistent growth and accolades from observers in a Mid-Atlantic market many insist is the industry's most competitive with such stalwarts as Wawa, Sheetz, Royal Farms and 7-Eleven all in the fray.

This week was no different. Celebrating a year of accomplishment before a throng of franchisees, Dash In's top executives ticked off a litany of achievements in fiscal-year 2011, followed by a set of opportunities for 2012.

First, the achievements:

  • Same-store merchandise sales spiked 7%.
  • Fuel gallons sold climbed 4%.
  • Company converted three dealer stores to Dash In and razed and rebuilt 2 units.
  • Safety scores soared an impressive 6%.
  • Customer count per store, per day increased by 33.
  • Car washes are growing and in-store performance is being buoyed by a growing foodservice menu and 99-cent value-price fountain offer. The 44-ounce fountain drink earned the chain's top-selling SKU this fiscal year.

"This was a good year for Dash In," Larry Derrow, general manager and vice president of operations, told a crowd of nearly 150 operators. "And we plan to continue our store growth. We're looking at 10 to 12 new stores for next year."

The Wills Group, La Plata, Md., is one of the largest privately held Shell distributors in the United States. As part of its portfolio, it operates nearly 50 Dash In stores, units ranging 1,100 to 4,000 square feet and run mostly by franchisees. Additionally, the company supplies fuel to a 300-dealer network.

Dash In will continue a conversion strategy to transition some of its unbranded backcourt dealer sites into Dash In locations.

Click here to see photos of Dash In's latest prototype store. And see related story in this issue of CSP Daily Newson Dash In's vendor of the year awards.

Going into next year, Dash In is ratcheting up its coffee and bakery program, expanding customer intelligence from its carwash operation, Splash In, expanding its chicken and deli offering, tapping more into social networking, eyeing potential acquisitions, and further rolling out its new prototype c-store.

"It's very exciting to see your ideas come to fruition," Tim Grossi, a senior Dash In leader, said in a private interview. "The Wills family is very supportive. They have certain expectations but they're also very supportive."

Larry Bullis, a Dash In executive who wears many hats and who was named employee of the year, loves the competitive market in which it plays. "A Wawa opened up this year near one of our newer sites. Some of us were pretty nervous at first, but we see this as a great challenge for Dash In, to see how we measure up against one of the best."

And by all accounts, the company is holding its own, banking on an alignment that rewards vendors, franchisees and customers through a strategic partnership.

Mitch Morrison Winsight CSP By Mitch Morrison, Vice President of Retailer Relations
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