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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -– E-Z Mart Stores Inc. is in the middle of a chainwide renovation process that includes upgrades to its offerings as well as its physical stores, according to an Arkansas Business report. This puts the Texarkana, Texas-based convenience store chain back into growth mode, according to E-Z Mart CEO Sonja Hubbard.
"We're still searching for that perfect design," Hubbard stated. "It seems every one we do, we go in and we tweak it and we amend it. But I think we're getting real close."
The company developed a "more impactful" design with the help of Little Rock-based architectural firm Williams & Dean. E-Z Mart is also looking to distinguish itself through its amenities, such as clean bathrooms.
Higher operating costs and the limit to how much expenses can be trimmed prompted the renovations, Hubbard told the news outlet. "There's only so much you can do to minimize [costs]," she said. "You also have to earn some revenue. So we need to generate more sales and more volume."
E-Z Mart has also been experimenting with healthier products such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Results have been mixed, but Hubbard noted that although it's true there is a difference between what people say they want and what they actually purchase, it will simply take time for healthier options to catch on. Campaigns that emphasize better food choices will likely take at least 10 years to have much effect, she said. "Maybe I'm an optimist, but I think it's beginning to catch on."
Part of the slow change comes from overcoming people's poor perceptions of the food available at c-stores and gas stations, which are sometimes warranted depending on how stores execute the category, Hubbard added.
Although E-Z Mart saw a 1.4-percent drop in revenue in 2013, the 302-store chain is looking at positive prospects for 2014 as it moves forward with renovations. It recently completed a loan agreement that will allow the company to expedite some upgrades.
"We've poured all the free cash flow for at least the last 15 years back into the company and have got now to the point I would say a good third of our stores — maybe half — are close to where we want them," Hubbard said.