Grand Opening: Ricker's Builds 'The Right Store'

Consistent branding, customer needs shape new Ricker's site

By  Quinn Ricker, President & CEO, Ricker Oil

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Let me start by saying that no amount of architecture, materials, store layout or color pallet can make up for an environment in which employees are unhappy.

At Ricker’s, our main focus is on providing a great work environment for our family. That being said, a component of having a great work environment for our people, and a place that attracts our customers, is a great-looking store. Our upscale atmosphere is a differentiator that we spend a lot of energy focusing on.

This is evident at our latest store design in Indianapolis. When Ricker’s builds a new store, we focus on the right store for the property. We choose from four basic designs, depending on where the store is and what it has inside it. Is it urban/ suburban or is it a rural store? Will it have foodservice? Our new store fell into urban/ suburban with foodservice, but there’s a catch. We’ll get back to that in a minute.

The Power of Brand

When you first pull onto our store’s lot, you notice the two-story, French-inspired atrium that is clad in stone. We like to use not just brick but stone in our stores, because we really feel this gives us an upscale look. Once you walk inside the store, you are treated to the same level of materials. What you encounter is a warm, modern feel where all the colors are tied together. We use a rich wood laminate to cover all our cabinets, walls are covered in subway tile, and our store-within-a-store coffee area makes use of glass mosaic tile. This all sounds expensive, and it definitely adds cost. We have been very thoughtful about the cost of the materials we use and where we use them in store.

At the same time that our customers subconsciously notice how nice the store feels, they also notice the branding. Design and materials alone don’t make a store upscale. Ricker’s competes with very large operators, such as Circle K and Speedway. We are a 50-store operator, and it’s important we look bigger than we are to compete effectively.

This is particularly important because our rewards program requires a lot of trust from our members. They provide us access to their checking accounts to get a discount at the pump. To earn this kind of trust, we have to look like and be a professional organization. What we can’t have is a great-looking site with in-store marketing that appears as if it was printed from a Windows 98 computer with 1993 clip art.

Ricker’s started this in-store branding initiative about three years ago. One of our most important relationships is with Indianapolis company Three Sixty Group, which has helped us tie all the branding together.

The first facet that will catch a customer’s eye is most likely the Magna-Mount graphics system, which we can print on, that wraps the store. We use this system to convey our brand and the placement of products throughout the store. Everything from the top of the store down to the bottom of the newspaper stand and everything in between is branded Ricker’s wherever possible. Every font is the same and so are the colors. Consistency is critical; I see too many stores in our industry that have messages from multiple vendors and from the operator that are all dissimilar. There’s so much going on in some stores, it may make customers feel as if they’re on the verge of a seizure.

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