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    A Day in the Life

    As other Big Oil companies exit the convenience retail side of the business, Valero Retail Holdings is doing quite the opposite.

    Operating 1,000 Corner Stores in nine states, Valero Retail continues to invest in its convenience store network by building more larger-format stores, aggressively growing its private label business, and expanding and refining its in-store foodservice offerings.

    "We've got a business that we think is strong and well positioned to be competitive for the long term. And as long as this business continues to generate a positive cash flow and an acceptable return for our shareholders, there is no reason for us not to stay in the business," said Gary Arthur, president of Valero Retail Holdings, the fifth largest U.S. c-store chain in terms of company-operated stores, and the subject of this year's installment of Convenience Store News' industry-exclusive Day in the Life series.

    Now in its fourth year, the purpose of CSNews' Day in the Life report is to provide readers a glimpse into the everyday challenges and tribulations of c-store industry people.

    This year, CSNews editors spent a day at Valero Retail headquarters shadowing seven corporate managers employed in various disciplines, including accounting, marketing, store maintenance, customer service, technology, fuel pricing and human resources.

    Being a separate division within a large company puts Valero Retail Holdings in a unique position within the industry. The division is unencumbered by bureaucracy, allowing it to be nimble and react quickly in the market, yet the group also benefits from being part of a big company, particularly when it comes to having access to capital.

    Two years into a restructuring that eliminated more than 130 jobs in the field and at corporate headquarters, and united all retail employees under one roof, Valero Retail is a focused and lean company positioned for long-term competitiveness, Arthur said.

    The numbers speak for themselves. Both 2007 and 2008 were record years for earnings. Valero Retail saw steady growth in fuel volume on a per-site basis, and strong growth in inside sales and gross profit dollars -- well above the planned budgets.

    These days, the retail division is not only attacking the business from the expense side, but also concentrating on increasing gross profits and sales. "We're not sitting on the sidelines," Arthur added. "We think we've got a great network of stores, many of which we've invested in to upgrade their quality. Now, our job is to determine how we can become more relevant to the customer, and how we can leverage these improvements to keep existing customers, attract new customers and increase the spend [of both]."

    Arthur is extremely confident in the abilities of Valero Retail's 8,000 employees to take the chain to new heights, and believes the company's culture of caring and sharing is why Valero consistently appears on Fortune's 2009 list of 100 Best Companies to Work For, and was named the 2009 No. 1 Best Big Company to Work For by the magazine.

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