High-Octane Conversion

Retailers start new brand engines with VP Racing Fuels concept.

Steve Dwyer, CSP Reporter

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“Sheetz and Wawa have deli and foodservice as a draw. We ask, ‘How do you want your car to really run?’ The fuel is our thing. Retailers need to be competitive, and they need unbranded fuel to compete with the super-retailers,” says Matt Schuster, regional manager of branded wholesale business development for VP Racing Fuels. “There’s a hole for us to fill, and that’s appealing to folks who are performance enthusiasts, who are seeking better gas mileage and optimal horsepower.”

Like Remington, other retailers are catching the VP wave. Petromark Inc., Harrison, Ark., which owns and operates 40 locations and has dealer accounts with another 160, is in the process of rebranding three units in northwest Arkansas to VP, and 12 more will be up and running by the end of the year, according to Steve Turner, co-owner of Petromark.

“This was not an overnight decision by our company,” Turner says. “At the NACS [Show] last year, we saw a synergy and an energy with VP and said, ‘Why try and reinvent the wheel when they already did it?’ The image, the credit card and the fact we can buy fuel wherever we desire are all keys. They did the upfront legwork, plus our dealers can get financing to enhance their fortunes as well.”

There’s a lot to like about the branding initiative, Remington says—so much so that his company is thinking about becoming 100% VP branded in time.

Remington’s company was started in 1968 by his grandfather, and then his dad jumped on board. In 10 years, Remington has doubled its annual gallons to 40 million to 45 million per year. The jobber has supply agreements with 30 to 40 dealers and Indian casinos in the area. Remington dealers will be supplied VP fueling products, but most are unbranded and won’t become VP-branded retailers. Remington says the conversion cost per location is about $30,000 to $35,000.

“Surprisingly, this is a known brand to racers in our world, so brand recognition is not going to be a hard sell to the public,” says Turner of Petromark, who says the company is absorbing costs of about $27,000 per store for the conversion.

Turner says the company will “stay diversified” with its retail brand outlay: “We are about 50% on the unbranded side, which accounts for 32% of our volume. We’re hoping the VP image will allow us to have higher volume at these sites, which have the potential to step up their throughput.”

Cerwick, who joined VP two years ago, coming from Valero, says VP’s goal is to “put the entrepreneur on a level playing field, and be a lifeline for them to achieve rapid growth.”

“I see Sheetz and Wawa as competitors, not Valero or ExxonMobil,” Cerwick says. “We provide the retailer the tools to compete vs. the super-retailer. As an entrepreneur at heart, I want to see entrepreneurs survive.” 

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