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NEW YORK -- William J. Walljasper, senior vice president and chief financial officer of Casey’s General Stores, sat down with The Wall Street Journal for an interview, than delved into the company’s unique approach to the industry.
Starting with a single store in Iowa in 1968, the company now operates in nine states boasting over 1,450 locations. With the majority of the stores located in rural communities of 3,000 residents of less, Walljasper told the paper, "We serve not only as the gas station, but also, in many cases, the grocery store and restaurant." This is a two-fold strategy as it sets the stage for less competition from a convenience store perspective as well as a quick-serve restaurant perspective.
With a one-size-fits-all approach, Casey’s brand, explained Walljasper, is further defined by its food service offerings. "Some of the things that differentiate our company in the convenience store industry would be the fact that we do have a proprietary prepared food program. We make from scratch not only pizza, but donuts as well, and offer a wide variety of other products. In fact, we are a top 10 retailer of pizza and donuts in the nation."
In addition, the company also owns all its assets, "which is unique in the business," and it self-distributes approximately 90 percent of the grocery products in its stores, Walljasper said. "It comes out of our distribution center centrally located here at corporate headquarters," he told The Wall Street Journal.
In recent years the company cut down on its franchising initiatives. Walljasper explained that as of April 30, 2008, the company has 14 franchise locations compared to the approximate 200 locations it once had.
"We started franchising back in the 1970s as a way to grow critical mass. We didn't have the capital to grow at that point. We haven’t issued a new franchise since we went public back in 1983," he told the paper. "Since that point, we have purchased many of those stores back and converted them over to corporate locations, and we will be out of the franchise business at the end of this calendar year. All remaining franchise agreements will expire by the end of the calendar year."
As with all c-store retailers, escalating gas prices are causing problems and issues for Casey’s. Gasoline consumption, Walljasper said, is down by roughly two percent. "However, given that, coupled with a little more challenging economic time nationwide, our same-store customer count continues to be very solid," he continued. "People are still coming into our stores, they are still buying the soda or the cup of coffee or donut or a slice of pizza or whatever they are buying….They are filling up with fewer gallons per stop, which means they are coming back perhaps a little bit more often to our stores."