The Customer Experience Starts at the Forecourt

An attractive forecourt not only brings in new customers but also lifts the spirits of employees and the community.

January 19, 2022

CENEX Convenience Store Forecourt

By Sara Counihan

Convenience stores have been defined in the past by an easy, right-hand turn on a customer’s drive home, but now, those same customers will take a less convenient route to get to a store they prefer—and many times, it’s because they feel welcomed into the store with friendly customer service and great products. This week’s Convenience Matters podcast episode talks about how the customer experience starts at the forecourt and extends to the inside of the store.

Akhtar Hussain, director of refined fuels marketing at CHS, is responsible for Cenex brand marketing, retail development and retail imaging and equipment for Cenex. Hussain is helping implement the company’s LIFT initiative, which stands for lighting image and facilities transformation.

“[A convenience store] has to be inviting outside or that consumer is going to drive right by … It’s not just about improving the forecourt image. It’s also again about providing resources, capital and expertise to help our Cenex marketers improve the in-store experience for their consumers,” said Hussain.

According to Hussain, a key component of a welcoming forecourt is exterior lighting.

“We’ve incorporated a whole suite of LED illumination to both the canopy and the price sign to really give that attractive, modern look to our forecourt,” said Hussain. “Part of the LIFT initiative is refurbishing all 1,400 forecourts with new canopy fascia, a three-dimensional light bar that goes around the canopy, our blue arch back-lit portion of our logo, as well as our LED illuminated logo signs.”

Hussain even suggests that newly “LIFT-ed” stores lift the spirits of the employees who work there, which is invaluable during the current labor market.

The other part of the LIFT initiative is support for in-store improvements and in-store remodels. Hussain says that the initiative helps those c-store owners who are reluctant to change their stores, including big and small changes.

“I think really that’s where our LIFT program differentiates from other programs that are out there. We offer 0% financing for qualified interior improvements in our c-stores, and that has generated a variety of different projects,” said Hussain.

Hussain said that some projects are complete store rebuilds, where they’re knocking the previous store to the ground and constructing an entirely new building, to more minor upgrades such as a bathroom remodel or installing reach-in coolers.

C-store owners can’t just have a nice-looking, modern store, however, to attract and retain customers. “You have to follow that up with a solid in-store experience,” said Hussain.

Listen to this week’s Convenience Matters podcast episode to hear real examples of stores that have implemented LIFT, how a c-store’s design should be tailored to the community it’s in and how LIFT sets its stores up to evolve as customer demands evolve.

Listen and download this week’s episode now. You can also listen to the podcast, read the transcript and learn more about our guests at

Each week a new Convenience Matters episode is released. With more than 300 episodes to choose from, the podcast can be heard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and other podcast apps and YouTube and at Episodes have been downloaded more than a quarter million times by listeners around the world.

Sara Counihan is contributing editor of NACS Daily and NACS Magazine. Contact her at