<strong>Dan Munford, Insight managing director, <a href=”http:// http://bit.ly/SAXSzL. ” target=”_blank”>introduces Retail Vision viewers to Wawa’s Florida store</a>.</strong>
The millennial generation just don’t eat at home much any more, he says.
“Eating out is the new eating in and that presents a huge opportunity for convenience retail. Let’s take a look at one of the best in the US – Wawa.”
Wawa opened its first, new large store in Florida about one and a half years ago.
Customers clearly rate the store, praising its reasonable prices and very friendly staff.
Customers frequent Wawa regularly, visiting daily for breakfast and lunches, for example.
Shoppers Munford speaks to say they love the freshness of the offer versus pre-packed products at rivals. The coffee offer is a favourite too; while the store’s lay out is another bonus.
“You can find everything you need and it’s a place with everything in it, all in one shop,” customers tell Munford.
Munford notes that customers love the service but suggests that’s no accident and Wawa has done that by design because it puts so much effort into looking after its employees.
<strong>Investment in staff</strong>
Munford interviews a colleague, with a career in foodservice, who says he’s never worked in a better place and that Wawa is now paying and supporting him through college.
Todd Souders, director of operations at Wawa in Florida, provides insight into Wawa’s history. He has worked for the company for 14 years.
Wawa was founded in 1964 in Pennsylvania and is celebrating its 50th birthday this year.
When Souders joined the business in 2000, Wawa was just getting the fuel side of the business up and running.
Now Wawa has well over 300 fuel stores, up from 20 locations at the turn of the century.
Wawa has also been busy advancing its foodservice offer with fresh foods and more variety to cater for all the day parts.
<strong>The leap to Florida</strong>
Souders reveals why Wawa took the leap from Pennsylvania to Florida.
The company had put together a team and researched the market in a hunt for the best food and fuel potential. It decided Florida was the state to enter, Souders says.
The move introduced a step change in store design, which showcases the fresh food offer, with a more upscale, relaxing look and a calming exterior.
Souders tells Munford Wawa worked hard to develop a 5,600sq ft store format, which was able to accommodate the full offer but could be flexed, according to property lots.
Inside the store features a super sized customer service counter plus touch screens for ordering, delivering a highly efficient service.
Customers refer to the store as a restaurant with gas pumps rather than forecourt with food, Munford says.
According to Souders, that has been a clear aim – to get customers beyond the fuel pumps and to think about fresh food.
“The focus has been on fresh foods and convincing customers about the quality of the offer,” he says.
According to Munford, the industry is at a crossroads as gas stations strive (and succeed) in being famous for fresh food and reckons the future will see more stores emerging like Wawa.
<strong>Local store design</strong>
Joe Bona, president of branded environments at CBX, worked with Wawa on the Florida store format.
Bona thinks Wawa’s new store represents the state of the industry and that in future stores will have a more developed food offer. As a result, stores such as Wawa will be competing with retailers like Subway as well as traditional convenience chains.
Elevating the food experience within a convenient environment will be key going forward, Bona says.
Bona says Wawa’s entry into Florida was eased by making it look like a local retailer. The store design features a clapboard siding, pastel colours and an open porch, reflective of the local architecture. The aim was to “communicate from the street” that Wawa was a local retailer, he says.
CBX was able to be a collaborative partner with Wawa on the store project. According to Bona, Wawa doesn’t do anything casually. Attention to detail is paramount and the resulting store is a true test of Wawa’s expertise and knowledge to really make things work.
<strong>Future expansion plans</strong>
Munford questions Souders on Wawa’s expansion plans. Souders reveals the company built 27 stores last year, representing an investment of over $100m.
He praises the effort on the the ground in Florida and the teams back at Wawa’s HQ for the success of the opening.
“We are extremely happy about how it’s working out today,” he says.
Expansion beyond Florida is not ruled out but is not likely for five to 10 years, Souders says.
<strong>The immediate focus is firmly on Florida.</strong>
“Florida is a big state. We feel we could get hundreds of sites in Florida, which could be very profitable and accepting to the customers,” Souders says. “The focus is on making Florida successful and spreading as many Wawas as possible.”
Source: Global Convenience Store Focus, May 2014 issue