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BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Customers in northwest Arkansas are looking for convenience and retailers are all too happy to give it to them, according to a City Wire report. Kum & Go LC, Casey's General Stores Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are all investing in Benton and Washington counties.
Over the last three years, Kum & Go built or remodeled 14 stores in the area, and Casey's has 19 stores, with more to come. Both chains have reported good results from their area investments. Meanwhile, Walmart is experimenting with the small-store format via its Walmart To Go in Bentonville, a Walmart Campus store at the University of Arkansas, and multiple miniature c-stores.
These stores combined with the nine White Oak Stations and several E-Z Mart sites and independent operators have created a high density of c-stores, with approximately one store for every 8,333 local consumers, according to the report. In all of Arkansas, the density is one c-store for every 1,600 people, tighter than the level of one store every 2,100 people across the United States, according to data from NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing. This means there is still room for c-store growth in northwest Arkansas.
Quality of food, beverage and service are important factors for c-store retailers these days, particularly when it comes to speeding up customer visits. Increasing that speed is a big reason why chains like Walmart and Target have focused on smaller stores, according to NACS spokesman Jeff Lenard.
"People want to get in and get out quickly most of the time," he said.
However, while Walmart uses its Bentonville c-store as a testing lab to see what customers want most, it is "too expensive to replicate on a mass scale." Lenard added that gas pumps are a key component to the success of Walmart Neighborhood Market stores due to them acting as traffic generators.