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    Wawa CEO: "We're Doing OK"

    Howard Stoeckel credits providing value to the convenience chain's success during tough economic times.

    WAWA, Pa. -- Last year's growth rate for Wawa's merchandise sales was down, though sales grew. Despite this, Wawa CEO Howard Stoeckel said the company is "doing OK," in a Philadelphia Inquirer, and detailed several efforts the convenience store chain is undertaking to survive in the tough economic times.

    "We're not up to historic averages, but we're performing better than the vast majority of retailers," he said.

    Stoeckel attributed a focus on value and efforts to make the store experience a departure from consumers' economic trouble. "People want to feel good," he told the paper. "Even if it's for four or five minutes a day when they're on their way to work."

    Another strategy Wawa is employing is focusing on the basics: "If there's anything we're doing through these challenging times, it's digging deeper into the soul of the brand." He added: "We've got to do what we're known for that much better."

    Convenient in-and-out visits and affordable prices are other tactics, such as $3.99 flatbread sandwiches, 99-cent fountain drinks and $2.99 Hoagiefest promotions, the report stated.

    Wawa's most durable competitive advantage is the friendly service store associates provide.

    "A lot of people can sell coffee. A lot of people can sell hoagies. A lot of people can sell gas. But no one sells it in the same fashion," Stoeckel told the paper. "That has sustained us during these difficult times."

    He continued: "That is priceless at a time when people have pangs of anxiety about the economy, about their jobs, about their retirement."

    The company's employee stock ownership program also ensures happy associates, according to Stoeckel.

    "They have an emotional attachment to the brand, but they also have a financial attachment," he told the paper. "They want to see this company survive over the long term."

    Despite the economy, Wawa will continue to roll out line extensions, such as the flatbread sandwiches, which are in stores, as well as smoothies and frozen cappuccinos that are now being test-marketed.

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