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    Li'L Cricket Rebrands in Face of ConocoPhillips Exit

    Marathon, Valero and unbranded gas will be sold at the chain's stores.

    CHARLESTON, S.C. -- As of Aug. 3, ConocoPhillips completed its exit from the state when it moved out of the Charleston, S.C., market. Evidence of the change was seen at Li'L Cricket Food Stores in the Charleston area, where Phillips 66 banners were draped with cloth. Customers realized the change when unsuccessfully trying to pay with their Phillips 66 credit cards, which had been accepted for the past 16 years, the Post and Courier reported.

    "It was completely beyond our control," Terry Lehman, chief operating officer of the Spartanburg-based chain, told the paper. "They cut it off."
    As a result, Li'L Cricket, a Phillips 66's customer with 51 convenience stores in the state, plans to rebrand 12 upstate outlets to the Marathon banner, and get its fuel from a terminal in Belton, the report stated.

    A handful of stores will remain branded under the Valero name. Other stores including 14 in the metro Charleston area, will eventually sell gas under the Li'L Cricket brand, the report stated.

    "Obviously, we're not real happy with the change," said Lehman, noting the chain absorbed the cost of remodeling signs and other changes to remove the Phillips 66 name from its stations. The conversion has taken a few months to complete, the newspaper reported.

    "There's no way we could change (every store) the first day," he added.

    ConocoPhillips' exit from South Carolina was part of a continued portfolio rationalization strategy, which called for the transition out of branded gasoline and diesel sales in Minnesota, North Carolina and certain portions of Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Arizona and Nevada, CSNews Online reported in early February.

    The transition reduced the number of Phillips 66, Conoco and 76 branded locations by about 850 -- approximately 8.5 percent of ConocoPhillips' branded outlet network. The remaining approximately 9,150 branded outlets are centered in markets where ConocoPhillips can capitalize on market efficiencies and stronger competitive positions.

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