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    CSNews' Future Forum Begins with a Bang

    On the first day of Convenience Store News' Future Forum, retailers get educated on cutting edge store design.

    ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Retailers attending Convenience Store News' Future Forum event, which began yesterday and will run until Wednesday, March 28, at The Renaissance Vinoy Resort in St. Petersburg, Fla., caught a glimpse of some of the latest and greatest the Florida c-store market has to offer on a guided store tour.

    Attendees had the chance to tour four convenience stores in the southern Florida region, starting with Circle K's latest concept for the Gulf Coast region in Lutz, Fla. There, black ceilings and shelving were accented by silver walls and focused lighting, making the products in the store stand out. A wall of 2-liter sodas and an extensive offering of grab-n-go foodservice interested retailers. One regional favorite, boiled peanuts, intrigued retailers that had never seen it before.

    The store is designed with hot beverages and prepared foods separate from one another, to help drive traffic to specific areas with increased speed. In addition, registers have LCD displays that showcase various products available at the store. A walk-in beer cave and wine also attract customers.

    The black ceilings and focused lighting were of interest to one guest, Mike Zielinski of Royal Buying Group. "I've never seen that," he said, noting that the black made the colorful products noticeable.

    The second store was Coast-to-Coast, operated by Amer Hawatmeh. The independent is the first in what will be a chain of stores in the future. The store offers an upscale environment with a Quick Cafe, allowing customers to purchase salads, soups, and restaurant-quality fare with the convenience of carry-out as well as the ability to sit down and eat in the store.

    Coast-to-Coast also offers no-touch bathrooms, 20 cooler doors, a car wash and a wine selection with wood shelves and armchairs on either side of the display.

    The last two stores were Rally Stores in Largo, Fla. and Clearwater, Fla. These offered a soup and salad bar, car wash, walk-in beer caves, wireless Internet access and a sit down eating area. Foodservice included freshly made sandwiches at its Big Daddy Fresh Grill and a Perks coffee offering with flavored syrups.

    Immediately following the tour, attendees were treated to a session on store design, featuring a variety of design firms as well as retailers who shared their latest designs and explained the ideas behind them, including Home Depot Fuel and Gaubert Oil Co., based in Louisiana with 12 company operated stores and a dealer network of 70 stores.

    Look for more information on the store tour and full Future Forum coverage in the May 7 issue of Convenience Store News.

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