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    Certified Getting an Image Update

    New design will create more consistent, welcoming look for venerable Ohio c-store retailer, says COO Greg Ehrlich.

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Certified Oil Co., a leading operator of gas stations and convenience stores, will re-image 10 of its company-operated stores here in its headquarters city by the end of this year.

    This effort is part of a larger plan to re-image approximately 40 Certified units over the next two years. Greg Ehrlich, chief operating officer, told CSNews Online the nearly 70-year old company has been working for almost a year on the plan, which also includes developing a new prototype design for future brand-new Certified convenience stores. The company operates or supplies more than 140 locations in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky, 85 of which are company-operated, Certified-branded stores. Ehrlich said the new imaging applies only to the company-operated, Certified-branded stores.

    "Without question, it was time to refresh our brand and, in the process, make a stronger connection with our customers," he said. "We believe we’ve come up with a look that takes advantage of our heritage and combines it with an attractive modern accent. This will ultimately make our stores more welcoming and reposition Certified as a more upscale regional brand."

    While Ehrlich said the company expects the new look to generate across-the-board sales improvements, he was especially excited about the opportunities in foodservice, such as roller grills and fountain businesses, and the introduction of a new private label coffee brand dubbed Carlyle’s Cup, named after the company founder, Carlyle Baker. The interior of the stores will be more inviting, presenting an upscale image that will be more appealing to female shoppers—a consumer group that Ehrlich acknowledged has been a challenge for traditional convenience stores to attract.

    The re-imaged and new stores will feature a new logo, utilizing a unique to the industry pallet of red, white and blue color tones to differentiate it from other gas stations/c-stores. The new logo will appear on the fuel brand identification sign, canopy, building and fuel dispensers. The interior of the store will be uniquely branded with modern "lifestyle" photography. The new design elements will also be incorporated into the company’s letterhead, uniforms, Web site and marketing material creating a holistic and unified presence for Certified.

    In an effort to leverage Certified's long history, wall coverings illustrating scenes from the company’s early days of operation will be incorporated into the interior image package. The design prototype for new stores will incorporate a larger footprint, expanded fast-food areas, and better-defined coffee and soda foundation areas.

    Certified enlisted the services of Columbus-based marketing communications firm, Integrate Inc., as a partner in the project. Steve Quinn, principal and co-founder of Integrate, said Certified was very clear about the image it wanted to convey.

    "Certified insisted that its new image stand for three primary attributes: consistency, honesty and professionalism," he said. "From a physical standpoint, the company also needed to re-emphasize its convenience store business without detracting from its fuel business. By re-designing the logo and the supporting signage package, we were able to create a more sophisticated color scheme for the stores that embraced the heritage of Certified and announced to existing and potential customers ‘we’re new.’ We’re excited for the results and are confident that we have achieved all of Certified's branding and operational objectives."

    Ehrlich also said 2009 capital budgets haven’t been finalized yet so no decision has yet been made on the number of new Certified stores that will be opened next year.

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