Wawa's Orlando Airport Store Triggers Gas Price 'War'

Published in CSP Daily News

Opens 25th Fla. site at $2.99; 7-Eleven, RaceTrac follow, but Sun Gas, Suncoast hold at $5.99

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Wawa's promotional gasoline price of $2.99 per gallon caused lines of cars dozens deep Thursday as the Pennsylvania-based chain opened its 25th location in Florida, just outside the Orlando International Airport. It also triggered a gas price war notable for who did not participate.

In response to Wawa, nearby 7-Eleven and RaceTrac locations lowered their price to $2.99, reported The Orlando Sentinel. But the two stations closest to the airport--Sun Gas and Suncoast Energys--remained high at their usual plateau of $5.95 and $5.99, drawing few customers, said the report. These stations are infamous for their high prices, which many tourists pay to quickly refill the tanks of their rental cars.

Neither City Hall, a court battle nor the news media could make the two central Florida stations with some of the highest prices in America change their ways. Fed up with frequent consumer complaints, the city even passed a law requiring the stations to post their prices on roadside signs. That sparked a lawsuit, and though the city ultimately won, the new signs are often concealed, the report said.

To celebrate the grand opening on Aug. 29 of its newest Orlando store, Wawa hosted an event "focused around providing the Orlando community with some much needed price relief at the pump," the retailer said.

Chris Gheysens, Wawa's president and CEO, spoke about the company's commitment to the community and about providing value pricing for fuel and all Wawa products at every Wawa location.

"Everyone who knows us, understands that our low prices are a big part of our convenience offer, and that we will always do our best to have the most competitive pricing around," said Chris Gheysens, Wawa's president and CEO. "As we've become a part of the Orlando community, we've also become keenly aware that Orlando residents have limited options, specifically around the Orlando airport, to find quality food and fuel at competitive prices, and that local gas stations have been in the spotlight several times for their price gouging and astronomical costs. We're thrilled to be able to help relieve this burden and help all Orlando community members fuel up fairly every time they are at the pump."

Also at the event, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer unveiled a fuel price sign and spoke about how Wawa's new store will give customers much needed price relief.

"Wawa continues to invest in our region, create new jobs and give back through charity work, grants and service projects," said Dyer. "And it doesn't stop there. Wawa has committed to ensure this station features a highly visible price sign and offers value pricing with no hidden fees for our residents and visitors traveling near the airport--an area that has been know for unfair business practices that take advantage of our consumers. I am grateful to have a partner like Wawa who truly values its partnership with Orlando."

But will Wawa succeed where others have failed? asked the Sentinel.

"At this point, we haven't made a decision," Sun Gas co-owner Larry Nieves told the newspaper. "We haven't decided what we're going to do."

On his many business trips to Orlando, Gheysens would shake his head as he passed the stations just outside the airport along Semoran Boulevard. "Every time I rode by there, I'd think to myself, 'Boy, we need to bring some competition to this corner'," Gheysens told the paper.

Dyer, who battled the stations in court, hopes competition will be the thing that finally convinces the stations to be more transparent with their pricing. "You think about the Orlando experience that we try to create … and then the last thing visitors have happen to them in Orlando is to be price-gouged," Dyer told the Sentinel. "I've had people say, 'I'll never come back' because of that."

Wawa officially entered the Sunshine State in July 2012 with its first store in Orlando. Since then, Wawa has created 1,000 new jobs, and with the grand opening of the new Orlando location, Wawa now has 25 stores open throughout the Tampa and Orlando markets, with nine more stores set to open in Orlando this year.

A ceremonial ribbon cutting kicked off the official opening of the new Orlando store, along with a hoagie-building contest between the Orlando Police Department and the Orlando Fire Department. Each team built as many hoagies as they could in the traditional Wawa way in three minutes. Each team received a $1,000 donation towards the charity of their choice.

Click here to view the full Sentinel report. And click here to view an image gallery of the new store.