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    The Art of Convenience

    Entrepreneurial Parker's embodies what's still good about c-store retailing.

    After reading Senior Editor Barb Grondin Francella's cover story on Parker's Convenience Stores and Market, I am once again reminded of the rich diversity and entrepreneurial nature of the convenience store industry.

    "Our brand starts with the architecture, which I believe is our greatest art form," said CEO Greg Parker, who studied botany in college, built his first store 33 years ago, worked seven-day weeks including Christmas, and built Parker Cos. into a multi-million dollar firm that runs super-efficiently with just 11 people at its corporate office. Today the Savannah, Ga.-based firm operates 25 Parker's Convenience Stores, a Parker's Market gourmet store, a wholesale company that distributes BP, Chevron and Parker's own Supron brand gasoline, three Laundromats, a self-storage facility and a real estate business.

    Francella (who has covered the industry for Convenience Store News for more than 20 years) remarked after her interview that she was most impressed with Parker's long-term ability to profit by giving customers more than they initially expect, then deliver on those high expectations again and again. "Although Parker's team is very efficient and acutely aware of expenses, the company's success," said Francella, "stems from outstanding, above-the-industry-standard, food, service and environment."

    Most importantly, especially at a time when the economy is staggering, Parker doesn't try to cut his way to profits. "He uses his instinct and experience to smartly spend his way to happy customers and healthy sales," noted Francella.

    For all his instincts and experience, though, Parker -- like many of today's best independent c-store retailers -- also relies on state-of-the-art technology and sophisticated financial analysis to guide his business decisions, such as an unrelenting focus on gross dollar margin contribution.

    I wrote it before, but it bears repeating: a difficult economy is not the time for being timid and fearful. Smart retailers are using these times to expand their market share, increase total sales and position themselves as the customer's preferred choice so that they will be even stronger when the economy improves -- as it surely will.

    On a separate note: I want to congratulate three key members of our editorial team -- Tammy Mastroberte, Linda Lisanti and Mehgan Belanger -- for their recent promotions. They form the core of the best editorial staff covering the c-store industry, and I am very proud of their accomplishments.

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