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    Susser Speaks Out on Stripes and the Economy

    Same-store sales growth for the first half of 2010 was over 3 percent, he reported.

    CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas. -- Speaking out in an "In Focus" business segment with area television station KiiiTV Channel 3 in South Texas last week, Sam Susser, president and CEO of Susser Holdings Corp., reported Stripes convenience stores and South Texas are "recovering a little bit from the recession." After admitting to a "real softness in consumer demand in the fourth quarter of last year -- there was a real slowdown in Texas ... the first and second quarter of this year were definitely more positive. Our company reported a same-store sales growth of over 3 percent, which we're really grateful for," he said.

    However, in general, he believes the regional economy is improving. "Our company is participating in that, but I wouldn't say it's a boom -- it's still tough out there."

    When asked about gas prices, Susser explained neither the company -- nor the channel -- make more money when fuel prices go up. "It's counterintuitive," he said, but retailers "actually have our margins squeezed when prices go up and we make more than average when prices go down, in most circumstances." He explained the company makes, on average, 15 cents a gallon before credit card costs and labor costs over the course of a year, and before margins gets squeezed.

    "We appreciate that the economy is stretched and tough, and nobody likes high prices, but we don't either because our profitability gets squeezed when prices go up," he said in the report. "We understand consumers' concerns when that's happening."

    Susser reiterated the logic of the company's strategic decision made over a decade ago that "the beer or cigarette [convenience store] model wouldn't hold for the future." And so now, more than 300 of its 520-plus stores have a restaurant concept including Laredo Taco. "We made a commitment to bring delicious fresh tacos to our communities here in South Texas. We sell a lot of tacos and they are delicious," he said.

    Susser's words of wisdom to others in the business? "I do love the advice my grandfather and my dad gave me -- your reputation is everything, and always try to conduct yourself in a manner that you'd be proud for it to show up on the front page of the newspaper or here on Channel 3."

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