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NORFOLK, Va. — Competition in the convenience store industry continues to increase, leading many operators to step up their game not only to stand out amongst the crowd, but also to meet the needs of customers and keep them coming through the doors. One of the ways they are doing this is through innovation, including rebranding, refreshing and remodeling their stores.
Norfolk-based Miller Oil Co. is one such operator. The chain of 26 convenience stores is in the midst of a complete rebranding, which was inspired by industry and customer research.
“The NACS/Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council did a study on how to evaluate your sites, and we took that study, did some surveys and came back with where we rated the lowest, which was customers’ perception of value,” Jeff Miller, president of Miller Oil, told Convenience Store News. “We knew we were competitive on prices, so we had to retool and create a better perception of value, going to market differently.”
Miller Oil management realized they were not doing the best job at promoting the brand. Being part of a study group, Jeff Miller brought in fellow group members to view some of his stores. Many suggestions were made about the image.
“Last time we did an overhaul and converted to Millers Neighborhood Markets was in 1998. If we are going to grow the business and not get out of it, then we have to be relevant and stay current,” Miller said, explaining that in addition to advice from his peers and industry research, he spoke with customers. The company sells Shell gasoline, and while on a university campus where one of the stores is located, he talked to a few graduates who they knew the store as the Shell station rather than Millers Neighborhood Market.
Deciding to take action, the chain has since shortened its name from Millers Neighborhood Markets to just Millers, while streamlining and modernizing the logo. The rebrand started at the forecourt —where Millers branded fuel is now offered — and will be moving inside the stores.
“The overall goal was to modernize our image because we were looking dated. To remain competitive, we had to modernize,” said Miller. “From our survey work, we also knew we had an issue with value, so that pushed us toward the Millers branded gasoline, and we have more competitive prices there, too.”
The new Millers store design inside is focused on refreshments, which has surpassed cigarettes and many other categories in terms of profitability, he said. There is a more extensive fountain offering, plus its placement is more prominent.
The chain is also partnering with nationally branded, quick-service restaurants, including Dunkin’ Donuts, and the color schemes and materials used are now different as well.
“The only thing we haven’t finished is the graphics package. Once that is done, we can adapt it to the rest of the chain,” Miller told CSNews.
Click on the image above to view the before and after transformation.
For more on how savvy c-store chains like Miller Oil are rebranding, remodeling and creating new store prototypes, check out the April issue of Convenience Store News.