By Chris Blasinsky
LONDON—For nearly 100 years, the United States has pioneered the concept of convenience. While 2020 was a year like no other, some convenience retailers continued to innovate by opening new stores and rebranding their sites.
Dan Munford, host of Global Convenience Store Focus’s Shop Talk LIVE virtual series, was joined by two U.S.-based convenience retailers who haven’t stopped innovating: Kevin Smartt, CEO of Texas-based Kwik Chek/TXB, and Mike Fogarty, founder and CEO of Colorado-based Choice Market.
Innovating the Brand Experience
The learnings from the pandemic are far from over, but that’s not stopping NACS Chairman Kevin Smartt, CEO of Texas-based Kwik Chek/TXB, from setting his sight on the future. In 2020, the company began the three-year process to rebrand its 47 Kwik Chek locations in Texas and Oklahoma to Texas Born (TXB), a brand that gives homage to the company’s Texas roots and values.
A large part of the process to rebrand from Kwik Chek to TXB developed over time and from many conversations, of which Smartt said nobody advised against. The goal? Create a concept that authentically connects with customers and conveys a commitment to TXB’s fresh-food concept and private TXB brands. (Read more from Smartt on the TXB rebranding in Global Convenience Store Focus, plus NACS Magazine.)
“After 18 years, we really felt like it was time to examine our company, our values and the things that drive us, and we came up with a re-brand that is truly in line with who we are,” Smartt said in NACS Daily. “We value hospitality, authenticity and integrity. This company was born and raised in the great state of Texas, and quite simply, there’s nothing that could capture our message and our roots better than the TXB brand.”
Smartt, who is focusing on improving technology across that board at convenience stores during his chairmanship, has been an early adopter of innovative concepts like Skip, which allows customers to scan and pay for items via their smartphone without queuing in the checkout. The company’s loyalty program boasts more than 250,000 members who have access to cents-off per gallon at pump, promotions and giveaways on foodservice and in-store merchandise.
Among the technology projects Smartt has helped lead with NACS and Conexxus over the years is the new TruAge® digital age verification system, designed to improve compliance with ID checks, accuracy and transaction times.
With in-store sales of products like beer, wine, liquor and tobacco, the convenience retail industry is a leader in selling age-restricted products. “We know, better than anyone, how to do [ID checks] responsibly, but this is a necessary next step,” said Smartt of TruAge.
Bringing Choice to Customers
Based in Colorado, Choice Market has four stores that merge convenience, grocery and a quick-serve-restaurant with omni-channel innovations to engage customers and deliver a unique and streamlined shopping experience.
By delivering experiences around sustainability, merchandising and technology, founder and CEO Mike Fogarty says that the stores are positioned to attract millennials, which are the largest generation in the U.S. with 75 million people and make up 53% of the workforce.
Younger customers whom Choice Market attracts gravitate toward upscale healthier options made with natural and organic ingredients. The stores offer freshly prepared and packaged foods in recyclable and compostable packaging, a nod to the company’s sustainability efforts to sort and recycle food and merchandise packaging. NACS visited founder and CEO Mike Fogarty in 2019 for this Ideas 2 Go video, “Delivering Choice,” at his downtown Denver store located in a 350-unit apartment complex.
Since opening his first store in Denver in October 2017, Fogarty’s vision to advance innovative omni-channel experiences has taken off. The company will soon launch everything from a mobile app and e-commerce website, to same-day delivery via electric vehicles or e-bikes, plus fully-automated shipping container c-stores and a loyalty program, all as part of its growth strategy.
Fogarty opened his latest store this month at the Parq on Speer, a high-rise apartment building in Denver’s Creative District. The store features the proprietary One Choice shopping experience and is one of the world’s largest personalized and frictionless markets. Customers scan the Choice mobile app upon entry, select their merchandise and freshly prepared meals and then leave without stopping at a checkout line.
“A lot of moving pieces go into creating an omni-channel experience of this scale,” said Fogarty. “Choice is all about reinventing convenience, and I have no doubt that this innovative guest experience and disruptive business model will forever change how grocery shopping is done.”
Chris Blasinsky is the NACS content communications strategist; she can be reached at email@example.com, and on Twitter and LinkedIn.