High-Octane Conversion

Retailers start new brand engines with VP Racing Fuels concept.

By  Steve Dwyer, CSP Reporter

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Wisconsin marketer J.P. Remington appreciates the important role inside profit centers such as foodservice counters and fountain islands play in driving success at his nine central and northern Wisconsin c-stores.

This third-generation marketer, though, has a confession to make: The cash and profit cow that’s emblematic of inside sales might face some intramural competition of its own in the near future.

To many marketers, fuel is that lower-margin destination purchase that gets people inside the store, where those high-profit items sustain the business. When Remington and his father, Jerry, move forward on an ambitious rebranding initiative this fall, he believes fuel is going to do more of the driving. 

Scouting for about a year for new, profitable and “retailer-friendly” branding opportunities, Remington and his father stumbled upon VP Racing Fuels and its c-store prototype earlier this year. Liking the terms and conditions, they began a station conversion to the fledging brand—one that stresses, for starters, optimal fuel quality that many racing enthusiasts know well.

VP Racing Fuels—with a reputation that precedes it with hard-core racing participants—recently announced it was diving headlong into the branded retail business, in essence striving to create a “super-retail brand.” Backed by what it calls a “lean and mean” team of a half-dozen top execs plus regional sales managers, the initiative is propelled by two branded images: VP Racing Fuels canopies, dispensers and backlit signage outside the store; and c-store Winner’s Circle, a name that ties closely to VP’s racing motif.

Remington says the flexibility of the VP contract trumps what exists with his four current major brands. VP enables Remington to integrate the new VP station and Winner’s Circle store image—both of which he calls sharp and aesthetically appealing—but retain maximum control of what’s merchan­dised inside and outside the store. At the fueling islands or in a metal “Fuel Cube,” VP gives retailers the option to carry its array of street legal and off-road racing fuels, and inside the store VP’s portfolio of fuel additives and accessories. Retailers who rebrand with VP often view the conversion as a seamless transition to their existing business, both outside and inside the store, from the standpoint of the store plan-o-gram.

With the conversion slated to start last month at three of its family-owned company’s stores, the first of which is located in Antigo, Wis., Remington says he’s seriously considering switching more corporate stores to VP when contracts with the company’s existing fuel brands are up.

“We started buying racing fuel from VP three or four years ago, and that led to learning more this year about their new branded program,” he says. The jobber has since inked a 10-year contract wherein San Antonio-based VP fetches a half-cent-per-gallon royalty fee from Remington. VP also provides financial loan assistance for any branding or imaging costs Remington or other retail partners might require.

“This is really old school. It was a relationship forged on a handshake—that’s how my dad likes it. We hate those 10-page brand contracts,” says Remington. 

The brand image is sleek and sharp. Remington likens it to Shell from an aesthetic and “curb appeal” standpoint. While Remington flies the VP flags, the company is able to acquire fuel from its own existing wholesale sources because VP is not a refiner.

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