C-Stores Serve With Heart
From free coffee to cents-off at the pump, retailers continue to show love to their communities.
COVID-19 Resources

C-Stores Serve With Heart

April 8, 2020

From free coffee to cents-off at the pump, retailers continue to show love to their communities.

Convenience retailers are not slowing down when it comes to helping those who help others. Retailers and suppliers across the country are giving away coffee to first responders, providing extra pay to frontline employees, making generous donations to hospitals and simply serving in their communities.

BP and Amaco gas stations are offering 50-cent-per-gallon discounts on gasoline for hospital workers, nurses and first responders, The Indy Channel reports. To receive the discount, the customer must have his or her identity verified through ID.me, a digital identity verification system. In addition, this week ampm stores started giving free hot dogs, coffee or fountain drinks to emergency service workers and hospital staff who show an official ID inside the store.

RaceTrac is extending its free small fountain drink or coffee to essential workers through the end of April. The company will also continue its $3 an hour pay bump to hourly workers and $150 extra weekly pay to store general managers through April. “RaceTrac is committed to providing our communities with the essentials they need during this time of great uncertainty,” said Melanie Isbill, chief marketing officer, in a press release.

Global Partners LP’s convenience store brands, Alltown Fresh, Alltown, Jiffy Mart, XtraMart, T-Bird, and Honey Farms, also temporarily increased compensation for retail store employees by $2 an hour and is providing $50 monthly gift cards for each store employee. Store managers will receive a one-time bonus payment of $600.

Fleet Advantage’s foundation, Kids Around the Corner, made a $10,000 donation to the First Responders Children’s Foundation to aid in their emergency response fund. “Community involvement, charitable giving and support are a tenet of Fleet Advantage and essential to bringing our communities together as we are all deeply affected by this virus,” said John Flynn, CEO at Fleet Advantage.

QuickTrip (QT) launched an on-lot pickup service across the country. QT customers now have the option to have their items delivered to their vehicle almost anywhere on the lot upon arrival. “Our customers all have varying preferences and goals for their visits to QT, and we hope this option will accommodate many who aren’t able to come inside for a visit,” said QuikTrip Digital Marketing Manager Mattie Garrison, in a press release.

Pilot and Flying J travel centers continue to stay open to serve professional drivers and others working to support their communities. The company is taking extra precautions, such as following social distancing guidelines and disinfecting frequently used surfaces, including gas pumps, door handles, restrooms and showers. “We are extraordinarily grateful to the everyday heroes—from professional drivers to first responders and health care providers—who are working tirelessly to provide the care, services and supplies we need through this challenging time,” said Jimmy Haslam, CEO of Pilot Company, in a press release.

TA and Petro Shopping Centers are also staying open, with additional cleaning of the fuel pumps and pin pads, more frequent cleaning of showers and restrooms, and closing full-service restaurant dining. Its fitness centers and driver lounges have been closed until further notice.

The Goods Mart has created the Goods Surprise Snack Box, which is will be filled with snacks and shelf-stable beverages. Boxes come in three sizes and in vegan, gluten-free and paleo/low sugar varieties. Customers can donate a box to the Food Bank for New York or to the staff at Memorial Sloan Kettering and Mount Sinai. In addition, 10% of each box will benefit the Restaurant Worker’s Community Foundation. The New York c-store was featured in the 2019 Ideas 2 Go video.

Krispy Krunchy Chicken donated 50 cases of SaniPro wipes to Baton Rouge, La., health-care facilities. The company also gave meals to hospitals in the New Orleans area, WBRZ-TV reports. ExxonMobil also donated hand sanitizer.

Common Man Roadside has reduced its hours and turned its fresh foodservice into carryout only. “We have stepped up social media activity to encourage business and have been involved in reaching out to the community, providing some meals to area hospital health-care workers. We are also offering a 50% discount on takeout meals to health-care workers and first responders,” Bill Boynton with Common Man Roadside told NACS Daily. “Business is off, but we are pushing forward in this current environment, and [are] confident that this too shall pass.”

Marathon Petroleum Corporation donated 575,000 N95 respirator masks to 45 health-care facilities, while the Marathon Petroleum Foundation Inc., gave $1 million to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief. “We are incredibly grateful for the selfless actions of doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers on the front lines of this pandemic, and we are grateful that we can make this contribution to their safety,” said MPC President and CEO Michael J. Hennigan, in a press release.


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Posted on: April 8, 2020
Here are some feel-good stories about retailers serving their neighbors during the pandemic. From giving away goods to dedicated shopping hours for seniors, retailers are showing why they’re the heart of their communities. Here are some stories about convenience retailers and grocers who are going the extra mile to help customers during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. La Crosse, Wisconsin-based Kwik Trip is providing free delivery via EatStreet at more than 70 Wisconsin locations for items such as bread, eggs and toilet paper, Madison Magazine reports. “These are largely unprecedented times, and we want to make it as easy as possible for everyone to get the items they need without having to take on additional costs,” said David Jackson, Kwik Trip’s digital marketing and loyalty manager. “Whether you need bread and eggs, or some comfort food like our famous chicken sandwiches and a Big Buddy, we’re going to make sure you’re able to get what you need without having to leave home.” Choice Market in Denver is offering food pickup or takeout discounts to service industry employees who are hard hit by the sudden closure of in-store dining in bars and restaurants, plus emergency responders who are on the front lines of the public health crisis. “In an effort to support our fellow colleagues who have been the most impacted, Choice is offering a 20% discount on the entire bill for any employee in the service industry as well as any first responders and medical personnel,” Choice said in a notice to customers posted on its website. The hybrid c-store/fast-casual restaurant also is offering $5 off any UberEats delivery of $20 or more to help reduce the delivery expense to customers. Choice Market is featured in the 2019 Ideas 2 Go.  Across the Atlantic in Drylaw, Edinburgh, Day-Today convenience store has given away more than $6,000 in free products to seniors, as a way to help them prepare for quarantines, the Good News Network reports. Owner Zahid Iqbal packaged toilet paper, tissues, anti-inflammatories and antibacterial hand soap into “coronavirus kits” that he delivers for free to customers age 65 and older or to anyone with mobility problems. “We’ve given away more than a thousand now, that’s just over the weekend,” said Iqbal. “It’s a time when we need to stick together.” Meanwhile, some grocery stores and discount stores in the United States are setting aside special times reserved for elderly shoppers to help those most vulnerable to COVID-19 shop for essentials, CBS News reports. Foodtown, a grocery chain of about 30 locations in Texas, is opening its doors from 7 to 8 a.m. “to allow those ages 65 and older to shop in a less crowded environment,” the company announced on its website. Starting Thursday, Massachusetts-based Stop & Shop will open earlier to serve only customers who are age 60 and older from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., the company announced on its website. At Dollar General, the first hour stores are open will be for older shoppers only, USA Today reports. The chain is encouraging other customers to please shop “around this window of time to allow the most susceptible customers in our communities the ability to shop during the first hour that stores are open.” From NACS Read Full Article
Posted on: April 8, 2020
From California to Massachusetts, c-stores face varied circumstances as they put new protocols in place and rush to identify opportunities. As COVID-19 disrupts lives and businesses across the globe, U.S. convenience stores are experiencing different realities depending on their location, but many are already adapting by evaluating new opportunities to meet changing customer needs in the midst of chaos. At press time, California, Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington closed bars and restaurants beginning Monday, March 16, in effort to slow coronavirus, while internet rumors swirled — and which The National Security Council warned are “fake” — that a national lockdown could be imminent. As lockdowns emerge, tech-forward companies already offering order-ahead, pick-up at store and/or delivery may see an advantage as customers look for alternate ways to buy products while staying home. Amazon has seen such an uptick in delivery orders that it announced plans to hire an additional 100,000 temporary employees and raise wages. Convenience stores have an opportunity to also step up on delivery. C-Store Advantage C-stores have many advantages over other channels, Mel Kleiman, founder of Humetrics pointed out. For example, they don’t usually have the long lines grocery stores are known for, making them ideal stops for people concerned with social distancing. “Yes, there are going to be major disruptions in your operations, but let’s figure out how to make it a positive for growth, customer retention, employee involvement, as well as positive PR for your company and the industry as a whole,” he said. Savvy c-store retailers are looking for the opportunities, whether that means figuring out ways for customers to order at the pump, or passing out DIY hand sanitizer recipes or considering new ways to offer support to parents or communities. On March 16, Alltown Fresh, which operates four locations — two in Massachusetts and two in Connecticut — announced on Twitter that it was introducing order ahead and curbside pickup at its Massachusetts locations. Customers can call to place their order, and then call again when they arrive. The items are brought to the car, reducing social contact. “Stay tuned for the rollout to our (Connecticut) locations,” Alltown Fresh tweeted. Ashland, Ky.-based Clark’s Pump-N-Shop, with stores in Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and Florida, also took to Twitter to remind customers that its drive-throughs are an option for picking up supplies.The chain also announced that it’s hiring at ALL locations. Wawa, Pa.-based Wawa, which operates more than 860 c-stores in seven states, also posted on Twitter to educate customers about its delivery services. Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz, which operates 600 stores in six states, tweeted to remind customers about its mobile app, which has a mobile point-of-sale so customers can scan, pay and go quickly without worrying about lines. It also allows customers to order ahead made-to-order foodservice items and pick them up curbside or in-store. The View From California In California, despite slower store and gas volume on Monday, March, 16, Rotten Robbie Gas Stations saw an uptick in non-edible grocery and take-home water sales, said Reilly Robinson Musser, vice president of marketing and merchandising for Robinson Oil Corp. dba Rotten Robbie Gas Stations, which operates 34 c-stores in California. Most schools in the area are closed for at least three weeks, and tech companies, such as Apple, Google and Facebook are allowing employees to work from home. “Restaurants are empty and people seem to be taking things seriously,” Musser said. Robinson Oil sent guidance information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to all employees and provided extra hand sanitizers and gloves. It’s asked employees to take precautions as far as social distancing, etc. Employees are asked to stay home if they are feeling sick and area managers are keeping in touch with all employees. They’re asking people to be flexible with scheduling to help accommodate those who have to stay at home with kids or who are out sick. aymond Huff, president of Denver-based HJB Convenience Corp., which operates 19 Russell’s Convenience stores in four states, began to see the effect of COVID-19 last Wednesday, March 11.  “Our stores are in the central business districts of Los Angeles, Denver and San Francisco.  Sales were off 12% on Wednesday, 18% on Thursday and 22% on Friday. Prior to the crisis sales were trending up about 7%,” he said. While Russell’s is a tech forward company, offering frictionless checkout through the SKIP app, as well as two Russell’s Express micro marts, the buildings where the micro marts  operate have emptied, making identifying new opportunities more of a challenge. At its convenience stores employees are allowed to wear masks, if they choose and are washing hands every hour as well as when they touch surfaces, such as stainless steel.  “We are sanitizing all surfaces where customers touch hourly with the bleach and water mixture required by the health department,” Huff said. All Russell’s Convenience employees receive sick leave and vacation time. Huff added each area is implementing a plan of action. “In my opinion, the U.S. should just close everything down for two weeks, let this thing run its course and get us back to business,” Huff said. Silver Linings in Chicago Following news of the bar and restaurant ban in Chicago, The PRIDE Store’s Owner & CEO Mario Spina noted the chain’s brewery and tasting room would be closed but customers could still purchase the brand’s packaged beer inside its 15 Chicagoland PRIDE Convenience Stores, plus any other locations that sell 93 Octane.  The c-store chain’s restaurants — which include Urban Counter, Taco Urbano and Pride Café — will continue to offer carry-out and delivery through Uber Eats. “With many grocery stores being hit hard by consumers stocking up on products, our restaurants could continue to be busy because of the lack of options available,” Spina said. Stores were busy ahead of the lockdown.  “We have seen stores run out of dairy products, cleaning supplies and other miscellaneous home items. We are in the process of increasing the inventory carried at each store to be able to provide those core items to our customers,” Spina said. Protocols are changing too. Each cashier must wear plastic gloves during their shifts. The usually 24/7 stores are now closing from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. for a deep sanitation, although dispensers remain open for fueling. “We will also sanitize our dispensers (keypads and nozzles specifically) multiple times throughout the day. Luckily, a few years ago we installed hand sanitizers at each door for our customers,” Spina said. Managers are instructed to keep an eye out for team members showing flu-like symptoms. “Open communication regarding this is crucially important,” Spina said. Convenience stores across the country are beefing up their store sanitation and employee hygiene practices and alerting customers to the changes they are making to keep them safe. As CStore Decisions reported yesterday, Sheetz and Kum & Go both announced plans to extend paid sick leave to employees impacted by the virus. The c-store industry is no stranger to transformation in difficult times. It evolved from two-bay garages servicing cars to gas stations with “Cokes & smokes” shops to foodservice powerhouses offering frictionless checkout options. If there’s one thing this industry excels at it’s finding success by thinking outside the box amid changing circumstances. Humetric’s Kleiman pushed convenience retailers to think in terms of opportunities they can be building now when customers need them most. “The question to you is, what can you do to not only survive, but thrive?” From Convenience Store Decisions Read Full Article