Midwestern chain Kum & Go is elevating the c-store experience from the traditional grab-and-go to destination retail with a new Marketplace concept.
When you think convenience store, do you think LEED-certified building, fresh food, warm and inviting interior, and growler bars? Nope. Well Kum & Go is trying to change that mindset with a new store concept—a market prototype dubbed Kum & Go Marketplace—that is setting a new standard for the c-store sector.
Established in 1959 in Hampton, Iowa, Kum & Go is a family-owned business and the fifth-largest privately held and company-operated convenience store chain in the United States. It currently employs 5,000 associates across 430 stores and has a presence in 11 states (Iowa, Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklaoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming).
“Kum & Go is an industry pioneer founded on providing exceptional service and delivering more than what customers expect,” says Chris Jones, senior vice president, marketing at Kum & Go. “The Marketplace concept was developed to align with our evolved brand promise and continued focus on fresh food options.”
New York-based brand agency and retail design consultancy CBX worked with Kum & Go on the design concept, while Missouri-based BRR Architects helped adapt the concept to the 6,000-sq.-ft. prototype store in Johnston, Iowa.
The innovation of the prototype comes with the prioritization of the food offering. An open kitchen serves as the store’s centerpiece, with a major objective of showcasing quality and freshness. This featured area uses materials that communicate a more sophisticated kitchen, such as white subway tile, marble-like countertops and stainless steel.
“This is an area that is typically not seen,” explains Todd Maute, a partner at CBX. “Kum & Go wanted to elevate the food offering, showing the great quality to the customer.”
Jones adds that the kitchen was a focus for the brand, because that is where the company sees the most potential for growth. “We’ve opened up the kitchen and put the food preparation area front and center, so customers can watch us prepare fresh, delicious food that they can eat right in our store or on the patio outside” he says.
Display units were lowered in order to create consistent sightlines throughout the store to simplify navigation, improve shopability and maintain the focus on the fresh food offerings from every angle. Express Checkouts adjacent to the entry were incorporated for customers who need to complete a fast transaction.
Just as the kitchen is the heart of the home, Kum & Go wanted to reiterate that family-owned commitment and invite customers in with that same sense of warmth and comfort. Architecture and design details draw on residential cues.
“The overhanging canopy on the exterior offers the appeal of a low-hanging prairie-style home, a simple, modern approach to the architecture that creates that residential scale and feel,” says Joseph Muscarella, design director at CBX.
Materials and finishes, such as the subway tile and marble-like surfaces, reinforce the residential cues. While these selections infuse a clean modern aesthetic, the use of wood adds warmth and texture. The lighting strategy was meant to accentuate the interior design, creating a moody and dramatic feel in contrast to the typically bright and glaringly overlit convenient store. Black details add a classic, sophisticated appeal, while red accents serve as highlights that speak to the Kum & Go brand.
In addition to the signature brand color, the brand story is clearly communicated using the iconic ampersand. From the exterior fascia and door hardware to halo light ceiling details and even donuts, the ampersand amplifies the brand experience. For Kum & Go, the ampersand truly represents what the company stands for, “Where & means more.” This detail reinforces the goal of the prototype communicating that Kum & Go offers more than a typical convenience store.
And the space does offer much more—from the open kitchen, indoor and outdoor seating and nicely articulated restrooms to elevated offerings such as complimentary Wi-Fi and charging stations, a walk-in cooler (or “beer cave”) and a growler station with locally brewed beers.
Creating a connection to the local community was important, as Kum & Go is dedicated to the communities it serves, including sharing 10 percent of its profits with charitable causes. An 8-ft.-tall, 7-ft.-wide ampersand sculpture brings the brand message curbside. A Des Moines-based artist, Sticks, integrated keywords and imagery that reflect area attractions and slogans as a way to pay tribute to the Johnston community on one side of the sculpture, with Kum & Go brand elements and core values on the other. The brand also demonstrates its commitment to the community and the environment through its sustainability standards. Material selections and initiatives like the water retention capture have earned this prototype store LEED recognition.
“The whole approach is such a dichotomy to the traditional convenience store,” Maute says. “Here, it is not grab what you need and go. Kum & Go invites you to stay and linger.” For Kum & Go, this store concept is a natural extension of their brand promise. Jones explains: “As our customers’ needs change and evolve, we want to keep up with them to provide everything they need and more from our convenience stores.”
The Kum & Go ampersand sculpture pays tribute to the community on one side and the essence of the store on the other.
Lowered display heights and enhanced signage create continuous sightless that help customers easily navigate the store.
The material applications and lighting strategy create a more modern and sophisticated approach to c-store design.
Dedicated innovation space, such as the growler bar, provides the opportunity to test out new ideas that elevate the customer experience.
Originally published in design:retail