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Convenience stores, or c-stores, provide speedy services to shoppers who are typically pressed for time. The industry is marked by accessible locations, longer hours of operation, one-stop shopping, and variety. C-store services and products include food, snacks, beverages, alcohol, tobacco, and other merchandise. Yet, at Mark VII, we also understand that you have a lot to manage as a gas station or c-store owner.
Craig Ochs, our Dallas/Fort Worth sales manager, has personal experience in this industry. Some of his biggest challenges included dealing with squeezed profit margins and consolidation. But, he also knows that you can increase that margin and attract new customers as an independent owner by adding a car wash.
Craig Ochs and his c-store experience
Craig Ochs was part of a family-owned, Colorado Springs based oil and gas company called Acorn Petroleum. Founded by his grandfather in the 1950s, Acorn Petroleum included: a trucking fleet that sold diesel and lubricants, c-stores, and truck stops. The family-owned business eventually went through consolidation. Craig has since transitioned to Mark VII, bringing his industry knowledge and experience, working with c-store owners across the region.
C-store owner challenges: consolidation and squeezed profit margins
Currently, there are close to 150,000 convenience stores in the U.S. The largest include 7-Eleven, Alimentation Couche-Tard, and Casey’s General Stores. Yet over 60% of all convenience stores are independent, single-store owners. Nevertheless, small regional chains are fewer and farther between than they once were; there’s been a decline in single-store operators year after year.
Like so many industries, c-stores have gone through much consolidation. “I remember when Kum & Go became aggressive when they came into the industry,” Craig recalls. “Here in Texas, we’ve got numerous 7-Elevens, Racetracs, and QuikTrips that have also become really aggressive.“
Mom-and-pop locations were much more common 20 or 30 years ago. But mergers and decreased profit margins have impacted independent c-store owners across the country. Craig explains, “Everyone assumes that because you’re selling $4.00 gas, you must be doing great. Well, that isn’t the case anymore.”
Among the highest expenses of running a gas station or c-store include the following:
From a profit standpoint, independent owners depend on the inside sales piece, which can even get tight. As a result, investing in a car wash still represents the most significant potential opportunity for increased profits for a c-store.
Car washes as part of the greater convenience picture
As a c-store owner, what are you really in the business of? You might think, “I sell gas, coffee, and cigarettes,” viewing car washes as a different market altogether. But that thought process limits your growth and opportunity.
Craig maintains, “You’re part of the convenience industry, and part of that convenience is the ability for someone to pump their fuel and get their car washed at the same location.”
At a gas station, customers realize, “I had no intention of using a car wash, but when I filled my car up, it dawned on me that I could really use that. “This is considered an impulse buy," Craig adds, “It’s a common thing I think we all do. Sure, it’s $8.00 - $9.00 to make your car look nice, but that’s worth it, so let’s go ahead and do it.”
How car washes can become your ultimate profit center
If you’ve already invested money and resources to make your store clean and efficient, doing everything right to attract the perfect customer, adding a car wash is the missing piece to take your c-store to the next level.
Adding car wash equipment to your c-store is a great choice if you want to:
1. Create an extra stream of income.
While the foundation of your business is snacks and fuel, adding a 24-hour profit center creates higher, consistent income.
2. Attract new customers.
Convenience is essential because people want to get things done quickly. An express car wash creates a one-stop shop that can help bring in more customers.
3. Simplify solutions.
In-bay automatics and smaller tunnels are often “backseat” to the c-store, but they shouldn’t be. Prioritizing site maintenance and wash quality will pay off, and we’ll show you how at Mark VII.
Efficiency is also critical in a long-term investment like a car wash. At Mark VII, our equipment is the most efficient in the car wash manufacturing industry. You’ll not only save on consumption costs like electricity and water, but you’ll maximize your overall savings.
Becoming more competitive
You'll more easily retain your customers if you have a car wash and your competitor doesn’t. Better yet is if you add a valuable loyalty program, like a discount program, subscription wash club, or car wash promotion. Click here to learn how to promote a car wash.
Even if there are a few tunnel car wash systems close by, those competitors serve a different customer base. A tunnel is almost its own errand because you’re committing a significant amount of time. Comparatively, at a c-store, customers are filling their cars and maybe grabbing a cup of coffee. They might only have an extra five minutes, thinking, “I'll do the car wash rollover because it’s right here." So it’s a different customer experience altogether.
But what if you already have a car wash?
Maybe you already own a car wash, but you’re considering upgrading, analyzing cost savings, or identifying ways to increase your car wash business revenue. Our Carwash Calculator can help with decision-making, planning, and development, no matter where you are in the car wash purchase cycle. Click here to discover which car wash machines and equipment best align with your and your customers’ needs.
An investment to take your c-store to the next level
The c-store market is highly developed yet saturated. Furthermore, there's only so much you can control internally, like cutting fuel costs, and externally amidst today's uncertain economy. Further, at Mark VII, we understand that there is an investment with any car wash, and these are big, critical decisions that you can’t get wrong.
It’s common, especially with new c-store owners, to be focused on the financial bottom line. Yet, it’s an investment that will one day pay for itself, bolstering your long-term profit.
We offer years of experience in the car wash industry at Mark VII. We’ll show you how to start a car wash business, taking the worry out of car wash planning, financing, installation, marketing, and maintenance. We’ll help establish your ultimate profit center.