Designing Your Store to Stand Out

It’s competitive out there, and c-store retailers need to be the place of choice for consumers.

April 28, 2022

Cenex Convenience Store Forecourt

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—With competitors at every turn, how does your business stand out in the community? Sometimes you just need a “LIFT.”

“[The COVID-19 pandemic] spurred a lot of change in the minds of consumers,” said Akhtar Hussain, director of refined fuels marketing, Cenex, on this week’s NACS Convenience Matters podcast episode. “Consumers had to really decide where they were going to do their shopping, what stores they were going to rely on in a safe and convenient manner.”

Hussain said that Cenex research shows that consumers see their local convenience store as a place that they depend on.

“I think that dependence has grown in scope in terms of what the consumers expect or should expect from their local stores,” he said.

The Cenex brand is in the midst of a four-year initiative called LIFT—a lighting, image and facilities transformation process—designed to revamp Cenex-branded c-stores through a series of exterior and interior updates. Some of the most common interior improvements he has seen are adding self-checkouts, making sure retailers offer healthy and tasty foodservice options, digital menu boards, mobile ordering and delivery, as well as curbside service.

“All of these things are being melded together into a common consumer expectation, and that consumer expectation exists, whether they’re visiting a fast-food restaurant, a pharmacy, a convenience store, a grocery store,” said Hussain. “We need to make sure that we are evolving to meet that changing need.”

According to a recent NACS consumer sentiment survey, 64% of people would drive five minutes out of their way to save five cents a gallon, and 74% said they would drive five minutes out of their way to go to the store they like.

“It’s never happy when the price goes high; however, we need to continue to be delivering on those consumer expectations, even when they may not be thrilled about the price they’re paying at the pump,” said Hussain, adding that it’s incumbent upon c-stores retailers to be the place of choice.

“We need to make sure that the experience consumers are having at Cenex locations is a positive one,” he said. “[NACS research] shows that even amid price volatility and high fuel prices that the Cenex brand is going to continue to be the brand of choice.”

The LIFT initiative also includes an In-Store Loan Program, which offers optional zero-percent loan funding for qualifying in-store improvements aimed at enhancing customer experience and safety.

Listen to this week’s Convenience Matters episode No. 333 “Cultivating a Sense of Community by Design,” and hear how Cenex’s LIFT project renovations have navigated supply cost and chain issues and how they’ve issued over $80 million worth of loans in the first year and a half of the initiative.

NACS Magazine covered Cenex’s launch of the LIFT initiative in the May 2021 issue, and last month, NACS Magazine spotlighted a rural Wisconsin convenience store that needed a face “LIFT.”