The World's Unsexiest Business
adding a little sizzle to the convenience store industry
Over the past decade, lines have been blurred between the traditional convenience store, grocer, coffee house, and quick serve restaurant. In fact, many food and beverage focused retailers have started to offer higher margin convenience store products centered around their core product. Particularly, say in the case of Starbucks, notice how the snack SKU offering has grown over time. A decade ago it would have been less than 10 but now it’s upwards of 30. It was only a matter of time before most of these type of retailers, seeking to find creative ways augment top and bottom line, started to eat away at the convenience store market.
From a cross-industry standpoint, convenience retailing innovation seems to have been mostly reactive—taking cues from other industries and then seeking to replicate or even re-invent a tried business model.
Innovative can mean so many different things so an evaluation by category will be necessary. I’ll point out some examples of pushing the convenience retailing envelope. Some are truly innovative while others just exaggerate what we’ve been used to seeing. By no means is this list exhaustive.
Architecture / unique looking storefront
The largest convenience store in the world located in New Braunfels (Texas) belongs to the convenience store chain Buc-ee's.
Terrible Hearst locations in California and Nevada
JET Brand across Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Their new all glass design epitomizes convenience store minimalist modernism.
Check out the higher end and modern hotel convenience store. The larger footprint modern Las Vegas hotels tend to play with different models (larger kiosk, newsstand, full) all within the same property.
CIBO Express has taken many larger US airport hubs by storm jam packing each store full of thousands of well merchandised products.
The Japan based 7-Eleven and Family Mart stores get multiple deliveries throughout the day of fresh foods ranging from sushi to rice bowls to fresh fruit and vegetables. (The average US convenience store is still attempting to clumsily navigate the ‘fresh’ category)
I’d also consider UK based Pret a Manger the ultimate pairing of a QSR and convenience store. Nearly everything is made in-house and seasonal offerings tend to perform extremely well. A tremendous amount of thought has gone into branding and marketing.
The Amazon Go store needs no introduction or explanation