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ATLANTA — Decreasing cigarette volume has pushed convenience store retailers to find new in-store offerings. Similarly, a dip in fuel customers is leading them to rethink the design of their forecourts.
"If you start losing fuel customers, how do you make that up? How do you optimize your fuel?" John Eichberger, executive director of the Fuels Institute, asked at the opening of the "Fuel Island Design" educational session at the 2016 NACS Show, taking place this week in Atlanta.
One person who knows a few things about selling fuel is Scott Boorse, facilities senior external vendor manager for Wawa Inc., who was on the original team that started fuel sales at Wawa. The convenience store chain began adding gas to its stores approximately 20 years ago and since then, the forecourt has become a destination for Wawa customers, Boorse told NACS Show attendees.
However, echoing Eichberger's observation, he said with the decrease in liquid fuels sales, Wawa is now asking how it can attain those customers and get them into the stores.
One solution: placing a greater emphasis on forecourt design. "Ultimately, you want to have an inviting destination," Boorse noted, explaining that the design needs to announce your offer and drive customer enthusiasm.
He laid out several key aspects retailers should consider when designing their fuel island:
- Make it fresh and friendly.
- Add a customer service element.
- Satisfy customer cravings.
"You can have a great forecourt offering, but if you don't have the things inside the store [they want], they will come and fill up once or twice but eventually go somewhere else," Boorse cautioned.
Other elements to ensure are a good egress and ingress, and a proper traffic flow.
Retailers also need to design their fuel islands with an eye toward the future so they are able to quickly adapt to changes in the market and customer needs, according to the Wawa executive.
Fellow NACS Show presenter Joe Bona, president of MoseleyBona Retail, advised operators to look at the forecourt from 20,000 feet above and "reimagine" the forecourt experience.
Bona encouraged channel players to keep three main principles in mind:
1. Brand visibility. The one kilometer rule: From what distance can the brand be seen?
2. Brand perception. How does the design influence customers?
3. Brand experience. How can you turn transactional activity into a destination?
"You really want people to drive past your competitors and make your place a destination," he said.
The 2016 NACS Show, hosted by NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, continues at Atlanta's Georgia World Congress Center through Oct. 21.