Circle K spruces up as competition intensifies - East Valley Tribune: Business

Circle K spruces up as competition intensifies

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Posted: Thursday, July 26, 2007 6:11 am | Updated: 6:30 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Circle K stores are making it possible for time crunched customers to gas up their cars and eat a meal in one stop. The Phoenix-based company is in the midst of overhauling most of its 550 Arizona stores.

Changes include architectural improvements, interior renovations as well as a wider product selection to include ready-to-eat foods like sandwiches, fruit cups and salads. The classic red and white logo will remain unchanged, officials said.

Larry Brueggemier, the company’s director of marketing, said the changes are necessary to stay competitive.

“This is a thriving market,” he said.

“If we’re going to remain competitive, we have to invest.”

He said that about 80 percent of the company’s stores will incorporate the new look and format and expects to finish the overhauls in about four years.

Company officials would not disclose the amount of money they are investing into the upgrades, but Brueggemier said they have implemented the changes at about 180 stores.

Mindy McBain, a writer for the industry trade journal the Shelby Report, said its necessary for gas stations to evolve with the shifting demands of the public, which now wants more convenient and healthy foods among other things.

McBain said one major catalyst behind this trend is the coming of Tesco.

“They may not say that, but I think it is,” she said.

The United Kingdom-based retailer plans to start carpeting the Valley with its Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets later this year.

Adding to the pressure for convenience markets are higher gas prices, dwindling revenue from tobacco sales, as well as stiff competition from dollar stores and major drug store chains, which are beginning to offer more groceries.

“So the next best thing to do is to go to the higher-margin items,” she said.

That’s food and beverages.

McBain said Circle K officials may have to work to overcome some initial resistance from customers who are turned off by the thought of eating fresh food from a convenience store or gas station.

Cassie Shay, a Gilbert resident refueling at the Circle K on Val Vista Drive and Ray Road in Gilbert, said she doubts she would buy lunch there.

“Probably not because I don’t think that gas station food is something that would appeal to me,” she said.

That store offers everything from burritos to hardboiled eggs and sandwiches. It also has a large walk-in beer refrigerator and frozen drinks as well as flavor and energy supplements for its fountain beverages.

Lamar Jones, who was washing his vehicle’s windows at the same store, said he doesn’t go to Circle K to get groceries or food, but he may reconsider if more of the company’s stores started offering them.

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