The Convenience Scene Is Thriving in Berlin

NACS Ideas 2 Go took Convenience Summit Europe attendees on a journey of fresh food, private-label goods and energy.

June 01, 2022

Sprint Store

By Kim Stewart

BERLIN, Germany—More than a hundred convenience industry retailer and supplier partners gathered in Berlin yesterday for the NACS Ideas 2 Go store tours sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company to view firsthand the thriving convenience retail channel in the lively German city. The store tours are a cherished highlight of NACS Convenience Summit Europe, which is taking place this week through Thursday. The general sessions began today.

Quoting 18th-century German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Christian Warning said, “You have only really been where you have walked.” Warning, who is based in Hamburg, is a NACS relationship partner for the European region.

“My personal highlight is the store tours during the global NACS events—a perfect start to the NACS Convenience Summit Europe on my home ground,” said Warning, who led one of the seven bus tour groups around the sprawling city. The day’s itinerary included visits to seven convenience stores and two supermarkets—Edeka Sapphire and Lidl.

Several of convenience retail sites on the tour showcased fresh prepared food—and treated tour-goers to fresh baguette sandwiches, scones and sausages, among other offers. Sandwiches and pastries were featured in glass display cases sans plastic wrappings, letting eye-appeal alone sway purchase decisions.

The store tours also featured car washes and on-site EV charging, high-end bean-to-cup coffee machines (but no soda fountains and only one slushie machine spotted), wine, fresh flowers, inviting seating—and some interesting approaches to restrooms.

Although tobacco still drives more than half of in-store convenience sales in Germany, cigarettes and other tobacco products are downplayed in Shell’s new Shell Café concept in favor of food and beverages. In fact, the tobacco back bar in this city-center location is tucked around the corner from the main purchase area instead of being front and center. In its place was freshly prepared food made on-site daily. There’s also a solid selection of wines and a humidor stocked with cigars.

At Total—Margarete-Sommer-Strabe, cigarettes are dispensed from a behind-the-counter touchscreen “Zigaretten” vending machine, where clerks scan their employee badge to activate the machine, dispensing one pack at a time. Adjacent is a clerk-poured “kaffee schwarz” machine offering coffee, espresso, lattes and macchiatos, among other hot drinks. Meanwhile, the restrooms have high-end tile and fixtures, and the entire building itself features clean lines and a sleek, modern design.

TotalEnergies’ latest concept is on display at Total—Prenzlauer Allee. This site offers a German first—the integration of shop concepts from the Swiss Valora Group into a TotalEnergies station. Customers have access to an extended kiosk and convenience selection from k kiosk, including freshly baked goods and snacks from BackWerk, in addition to a classic service station with fuel.

At Star, a clever assortment of private-label goods caught the eye of some tour goers. Items included Star Energy drinks, gum, whole bean espresso and potato chips. That’s not to mention the fresh sandwiches, pastries, pretzels, croissants and other goods on display. Star is the German brand of the Polish PKN Orlen company. Not to be missed at this site: The mural of the Berlin cityscape on the wall of the men’s bathroom makes for a unique visit to the urinals. The ladies restroom is decorated with a more demure mural of a townhome.

The bp-owned brand Aral site on the tour features a food partnership with REWE to Go, a German grocery chain. REWE customers can pick up their online food orders from on-site lockers. The forecourt is a mobility hub, offering petrol, diesel, LPG, CNG, hydrogen and 320kw superchargers. There’s also access to electric scooter rentals and a battery exchange for e-bikes.

Jet was the smallest store on the tour, and at this P66-owned site, it’s all about the car wash. Customers deliver their car to the tunnel wash, then follow their car in a well-lit side tunnel with floor to ceiling windows, watching every step of the cleaning journey. The pedestrian tunnel ends in the store, where customers are encouraged to purchase snacks and drinks, as well as coffee to go before exiting the store and reclaiming their vehicle.

Sprint was perhaps the most cheerful of the stops, both in the décor and the warmth of the staff. The store’s design is a nod to Berlin’s industrial heritage. Inside, a living wall of moss creates a natural wall tapestry to liven up the hip, modern lounge area, where customers can linger over coffee and food. Sprint was voted the friendliest store in Berlin, and the tagline “Guten Tag” is used prominently in the store branding. Outside, space is rented to a courier company, DPD, to store and recharge their electric delivery vehicles.

To cap off the day, CSE attendees enjoyed a welcome reception at the Borchardt Restaurant, co-hosted by Shell, a NACS Global Supplier Council Advantage member.

“We always hear from our NACS members around the globe about how important it is for them to not only experience new ideas and best practices but also have the opportunity to share this with peers to get different perspectives on what they see,” said Mark Wohltmann, director of NACS global. “And the vibrant discussions on the store-tour buses and during the debrief afterwards clearly showed that this opportunity was given once again.”

NACS director of global Mark Wohltmann discussed how German retailers are redefining and adapting to new consumer behaviors in the NACS Convenience Matters podcast “Berlin’s Thriving Convenience Retail Future.”

Look for more CSE coverage in this week’s NACS Daily.

Kim Stewart is editor-in-chief of NACS Magazine and editorial director of NACS. She can be reached at