RED DEER, Alberta, Canada—Sweet Market Esso lives up to its name, CBC News reports. The convenience store and gas station in Alberta, Canada, houses a wide selection of candy, including locally sourced chocolate. The store also has a toy train that rounds the perimeter of the store, which children—and adults—can send on its route by pressing a button.
“This is kind of the prototype station,” said Tim Anderson, manager. “The candy store wasn't supposed to be the attraction, it was supposed to be the bathrooms.” The restroom made the finals in the 2021 Canada’s Best Restroom Contest, along with the Surrey city park, the Toronto Zoo, Borden Park (Edmonton) and The Rooftop restaurant (Calgary).
The Sweet Market Esso opened in December 2018 and saw slow but steady growth. However, the coronavirus pandemic increased the store’s popularity given the hands-free, sparkling bathrooms. “It's kind of taken off this year,” said Anderson.
Pre-pandemic, much of the candy was dispensed via bulk bins, with customers choosing their options with a scoop and buying it by weight. To reduce contact, Anderson pivoted to pre-packed candy cups. “It started out as a COVID precaution, but turned out to be more successful than before,” he said.
Anderson plans to keep thinking up new ways to meet customer needs but said those plans will definitely keep the sweets front and center.
Sweet things most certainly bring consumers into the doors of c-stores, along with their salty counterparts. To learn more about these traffic drivers, read “The Power of Sweet and Salty” in NACS Magazine.