CHICAGO — A largely rural Midwest chain, a multistate food-and-fuel brand and the second-largest convenience retailer in the United States all had something to say about tobacco in their recent earnings calls, revealing both disparities and common threads in the highly volatile category.
Alimentation Couche-Tard, Laval, Quebec, the parent of the Circle K chain; Casey’s General Stores, Ankeny, Iowa; and Murphy USA, El Dorado, Ark., all had noteworthy points to make about the category this past fall.
All three talked about technology—whether it was a loyalty program or an upselling system—as well as the status of e-cigarettes at their stores.
Here’s a quick rundown of those insights …
Alimentation Couche-Tard’s Circle K
For Couche-Tard, the parent of Circle K convenience stores, the tobacco category turned in a stable performance for the chain’s second fiscal quarter, with cigarettes showing zero growth but vaping and “white nicotine,” or nicotine pouches, showing promise.
Brian Hannasch, president and CEO of Couche-Tard, reported a number of tobacco insights, ranging from his view on underage vaping to the company’s Lift digital upselling program that uses display screens at the register to encourage additional sales.
Couche-Tard and its Circle K chain ranked No. 2 in CSP’s 2019 Top 202 list of convenience chains by store count.
Casey’s General Stores
Casey’s General Stores, one of the convenience channel’s largest chains, weighed in on the tobacco category during its recent earnings call, touching on multiple topics, including its e-cigarette business and the new tobacco tax in Illinois.
Officials also said the company would soon integrate the tobacco category with its new price-optimization technology, which began rolling out several months ago to center-store products, said Darren Rebelez, president and CEO of Casey’s, during the Dec. 10 earnings call.
The Murphy Drive Rewards program is growing in sophistication, with Murphy USA officials describing the newfound ability to “target very discrete customer behaviors.”
The loyalty technology allows the convenience retailer to “focus marketing dollars only on behaviors we want to change, and not overreward other changes,” said Andrew Clyde, president and CEO of the El Dorado, Ark.-based convenience-store chain, during the company’s Oct. 31 investor call. “There’s a lot more upside to come from that as we learn how to do that better and better and with scale and more automation.”