By Sara Counihan
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The biggest celebration in the convenience store industry is 24/7 Day, which is when convenience retailers around the U.S. honor first responders, medical and emergency professionals and American Red Cross volunteers on July 24. These members of our society work around the clock, 24/7, to serve our communities to ensure people don’t face emergencies alone.
What has become a day dedicated to honoring those who support their communities started as a way to pivot some of the negative perceptions of 24/7 operations.
“What if instead of playing defense, we took an opportunity to say, ‘think of all the great things that happen and thank goodness that we’re available 24/7,’ and enter response relief, disaster relief with first responders,” said Stephanie Sikorski, NACS vice president of marketing and executive director of the NACS Foundation, on this week’s NACS Convenience Matters podcast episode.
Derek Gaskins, chief marketing officer at Yesway, said that some of the company’s Allsup’s stores in New Mexico were impacted by the recent wildfires.
“Even though those stores have been really close to fires and have been the last thing to close prior to that, we were the only source of water, the only source to refuel fire trucks and engines, a place to get a meal,” Gaskins said. “For us, the 24/7 is a commitment. It’s a brand pillar.”
Sikorski says that the power of 24/7 Day is that it’s not a one-size-fits-all celebration— retailers who participate can tailor their recognition of these individuals.
“It’s about showing up and doing it in a way that’s true to who you are as a brand, as a company, how your employees show up, but really important, what it means to the community,” she said.
Now in its fourth year, 24/7 Day has evolved over the years. While first responders are the focal point, c-store employees also are honored as frontline workers and were deemed essential during the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Over the last four years when we first started [24/7 Day], we talked about it being about celebrating and recognizing and saying, ‘I see you to first responders.’ That definition has absolutely evolved because it was our employees on the front lines who allowed us to be deemed essential by showing up every day,” said Sikorski.
Yesway gives to first responders throughout the year with free beverages or donations during new store openings. But Yesway leadership also recognized the evolution of c-stores as front-line workers and created a program to honor them called Hospitality Heroes. Corporate leadership visits stores with cash, and employees are spotted modeling behaviors that Yesway honors, they are awarded with bonuses on the spot.
“We put $100 in someone’s hand, a $50 bill in someone’s hand. And it wasn’t the cash. It was the fact that they were recognized,” said Gaskins. “People would ask ‘may I hug you’ and be moved to tears and say, ‘I didn’t think that anyone cared,’” he said.
“We wanted to recognize our people also because they were heroes,” Gaskins said.
Don’t miss this week’s NACS Convenience Matters podcast episode, “How Retailers Support Local Heroes Around the Clock,” to learn more about how convenience stores care for their community on July 24, as well as every other day of the year.
Here’s where you can find more information on NACS 24/7 Day and how to get involved.
Sara Counihan is contributing editor of NACS Magazine and NACS Daily. She can be reached at [email protected].