Fundamentals Over Flash

By  Mitch Morrison, Vice President & Group Editor

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Imagine taking a pill that lets your doctor know you are taking your medicine at the right time with the proper dosage.

Don’t get heartburn over this—your physician will surely find out.

This Orwellian drug store is coming faster than you think. A recent issue of The Economist reports that pharmaceutical titan Novartis has entered into an exclusive licensing and drug-delivery agreement with startup Proteus Biomedical, a California company developing such a pill. It sends wireless signals through the body to another chip embedded under the skin and ultimately relays info to your doctor via a smart phone or the internet.

Novartis is hardly alone. The article says Dutch company Philips is forming a commercial group to promote its “intelligent pill” that delivers drugs to the precise spot in the digestive tract. And there are more companies soon to invade your body. How about that for ODing on data?

And data is hot and heavy these days. No more so than at Speedway Super- America, the focus of our exclusive cover story.

“We try to drive the math really hard.” “It’s about the math.” “We look at the math.”

Math. Math. Math. Data. Data. Data. This isn’t some algebra professor talking. It’s Speedway’s executive offensive line: vice president of operations Glenn Plumby, vice president of marketing Grant Heminger, and its star quarterback, president Tony Kenney.

They are the retail front for Midwest oil giant Marathon Petroleum and direct a 1,600-store chain, whose ubiquity in its home state of Ohio is akin to Dunkin’ Donuts presence on the East Coast. Speedway is not likely to remind readers of Wawa or QuikTrip. And that’s fine. The company is not interested in mimicking any of the elite retailers. Rather, Speedway has tailored its own suit, one that is unique and a proper fit for its profile. (For more on Speedway, read Samantha Oller’s cover story feature on p. 30.) In an era of retail divestitures by virtually every major oil company, Marathon embraces a hand-held approach. So while it brands Marathon fuel to dealers across a Midwestern swath, it is likewise invested in strengthening its own convenience brand. In many ways, Speedway is more old-school, more business suit than designer. Its retail model is steeped in steady growth, not surges. Its newer stores are thoughtful, not flashy; its redesigns are modest, not pretentious. It’s this Brooks Brothers approach, though, that is Speedway’s brilliance. If I were to describe Speedway in one word it would be this: prudent. Promotions, such as the yearlong two-for-$2.22 Hershey king-size, are well-thought-out and proven winners for both customer and corporate bottom line. That’s where we really run the math,” says Plumby. “Every promotion we do, we run the math on. That way we know the success rate. And if a vendor comes back to us and wants to do again, I know if it’s a win for me and a win for him.

The Speedy Rewards loyalty program is arguably the finest in the c-store channel and subtly transforms the store into a treasure hunt. One customer says she searches the foodservice section for the product with the most loyalty points. A month with a decent amount of trips to the store earns her a $50 gas card. The Speedy signage, card and redemption kiosk are more impressive for their content than their visuals. And that, perhaps, is the message of this historically low-key chain. Speedway SuperAmerica has no pretensions of being the 40-yard sprinter. It is here for the long haul, catering to a predominantly working-class population carefully watching its pennies.

Flashy? No. Prudent? Absolutely.

And for the fine folks on Speedway’s course, that’s exactly what the doctor’s ordered.

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