The Aesthetic Imperative Comes to Convenience Stores
The trade magazine VMSD (for visual merchandising and store design) reports on a trend I noticed first in a couple of Dallas 7-Elevens. Under competitive pressure, convenience stores are getting aesthetic overhauls.
Pay-at-the-pump technology is making it easier for customers to buy gas without walking through the door. And higher gas prices are taking a more sizable bite out of each transaction, leaving less disposable money for that carton of milk, magazine or slushy. Besides, margins on such c-store staples as gasoline and tobacco have shrunk in recent years.
And as if those challenges to U.S. c-store operators are not enough, a brash – and big – new competitor will enter the fray this month, when British-based food retailing giant Tesco begins rolling out its first Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets in Southern California, Nevada and Arizona....
"People typically stop at a c-store because 'something's empty or something's full,' " says Tom Ertler, prototype director at retail design firm WD Partners (Dublin, Ohio), whose clients include TravelCenters of America's Goasis chain and The Home Depot Fuel c-stores. "They may stop because of competitive fuel prices, a convenient location or the need to use the restroom. But to get them to spend any time and money in the store itself, the retailers have got to make those spaces easy to shop, clean and visually appealing."
One goal of the overhauls is to bring in more female customers. The old functional aesthetic was good enough for the "smokes and cokes" blue-collar male crowd, but women apparently want something at least as inviting as a Target, if not a Starbucks.