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Chris Gheysens, CEO of Wawa Inc., headquartered in Wawa, Pa., shared his predictions for 2015, including upcoming plans for his company that operates more than 645 c-stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and central Florida.
Do you believe the overall economy in 2015 will be better, worse or the same as in 2014?
I believe the overall economy will continue to improve in 2015 at a similar pace as 2014, with possible upside. Job growth is generally improving in many areas where Wawa operates, and with unemployment sub 6 percent, pressure should begin to mount on wages, leading to more disposable income. Upside exists if low fuel prices sustain and housing starts to improve at a faster pace.
Do you believe the c-store industry (sales and profits) will perform better, worse or the same in 2015 compared to 2014?
Better! Consumer confidence is growing and low fuel prices have the ability to jumpstart 2015 spending. The industry is also delivering better stores, offers and customer experience, which will help continue to grow sales and take share. Our business, and as I?ve heard from others in the industry, has experienced a ?tick-up? in growth rates since the late summer, which looks sustainable into early 2015.
Do you believe your company (sales and profits) will perform better, worse or the same in 2015 compared to 2014?
We are planning for continued growth in profits and sales, led by fresh food and beverage sales. Contributions from recently opened new stores and new markets, along with mid-single-digit, same-store sales growth, support our 2015 expectations. Optimism for better winter weather and increased consumer spending, along with the launching of new products with emphasis on more advertising, will also aid 2015 growth.
What do you foresee as the three major factors/ trends that will impact the overall economy in 2015?
The greatest sustained economic impacts will be from changes to consumer confidence, real wage growth and housing starts. However, I believe these will continue on their nominal-to-slow pace of improvement. Sustained low fuel prices, changes to interest rates (late in the year), and more volatility in the equity markets are top of mind for me as economic headlines in 2015.
What do you foresee as the three major factors/ trends that will impact the c-store business in 2015?
I expect the consolidation story to continue to prevail in 2015, along with continued innovation in fresh food and beverages driving further acceptance of our channel from consumers for these offers. I also expect the passing of even more aggressive local regulations, like minimum wage increases.
What are your company?s most important initiatives for 2015?
We have several initiatives planned for 2015 that will connect us with our customers, communities and associates; help perfect our offer and experience; and enhance our stores. Our mobile app will launch, new food and beverage products will be introduced and along with continued new store openings, we will begin a more robust remodel program for our existing stores.