PS: We're Doing It Right

For PS Food Marts, having merely a good store wasn't good enough.

By  Dick Folk, President

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By most measurements, PS Food Mart 3008 was a successful location. On paper, strong fuel sales, inside sales and a recently remodeled Subway made the location a cash cow that should for the most part be left alone.

All this is true, but I had a different vision, one that admittedly would not come cheaply. But it also would promise far greater returns than any of our other 30 stores we operate in Michigan and Ohio.

Store 3008 is located in Battle Creek, Mich., situated on a busy rural road off exit 104 on I-94. A big part of the site’s success was the sale of diesel to independent truckers, a business that in our market is in decline. So while the store could easily justify its existence on a strict P&L benchmark, we saw greater potential.

Part of that potential is the surge in traffic predicted for the area due to significant infrastructure upgrades such as widening of roads, aimed at spurring greater economic development. We knew the current dated facility would not appeal to the traditional c-store customer or be able to handle the increased volume to our satisfaction. The building, at 3,000 square feet, was simply too small and too limited for this 1.5-acre site.

New Direction

So what did we do? I worked with our architect and our marketing department, and with Ed Heath, my vice president of operations, on how to drive this site to its maximum potential. We wanted to meet, if not exceed, the expectations customers would have both inside the store and at the fuel island.

The result is a fully loaded, 4,500-square-foot facility that features a drive-thru, one of four we operate. I know drive-thrus are pretty rare in our line of business, but rather than lose customers to other channels such as QSRs, I’d rather cater to them. And it’s working! Our average drivethru accounts for more than 25% of our inside sales.

At the fuel island, the store features the latest in fueling technology and offerings. Gilbarco Encore pumps with smart merchandising inform fueling customers of features and specials available inside the store. A programmable, full-motion color Watchfire sign makes sure motorists driving by know there is a lot going on.

Inside, the store is equally impressive. Aside from the drive-thru, highlights include a full-service espresso bar, expanded beverage bars and the aforementioned attached Subway restaurant.

Restrooms are another area to which PS Food Marts pays special attention. Because this is an expressway location, the restrooms receive extra TLC and are an important part of our success. Likewise, lighting is very state of the art, with an emphasis on energy conservation. All exterior lighting, including the canopy, building and yard lighting, is LED.

The lighting manager uses a solar timetable to make sure lights go on and off precisely when needed. Inside, sensors monitor ambient light and shut lights off around windows when the sunshine provides enough light. In bathrooms, hallways, back rooms and coolers, motion detectors turn lights on only when necessary.

Best of all, sales now tell us that our instincts were right. Despite economic challenges in our market, all areas of business—including fuel, merchandise and the Subway—have exceeded our expectations. Do we have room for improvement? Of course we do. But we believe we’ve come a long way and our customers have, too. 

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