New c-store concept is high-tech inside and out

Discussion
Rendering: Choice Market
Oct 17, 2018
Matthew Stern

Convenience stores and gas stations are changing fast, and those retailers that do both may be facing a very different consumer landscape in a short period of time. Small Denver-based convenience store and natural grocer Choice Market is one retailer that’s trying to get ahead of the game with a concept that incorporates new payment technology on the inside and new transportation technology outside.

Choice Market is planning to launch the new concept in the second half of 2019, according to Convenience Store Decisions. Inside, the 2,700-square-foot store will feature a natural grocery selection as well as a fast-casual restaurant and will allow customers to order and pay ahead via an app to avoid checking out conventionally. Outside, the concept will feature fuel pumps, electric vehicle superchargers, a bike share terminal, electric scooter chargers and solar energy collection.   

Choice Market’s introduction of a mobile pay/pickup model within the store is in line with many industry-wide experiments in streamlining the checkout process and minimizing the time customers spend in line. And on the outside, the proposed offerings address numerous trends in personal and green transportation growing popular with customers, some of which may define the future of convenience stores that offer fuel. 

The advent of the electric car has gotten gas stations and adjacent convenience stores looking ahead to what their role may be if electric vehicles match or surpass gas-powered ones in popularity. With electric car batteries requiring a longer time to charge than a traditional gas station fill-up, some have suggested that there is potential for fuel station convenience stores to focus on services that can leverage the increased customer dwell time.

Choice Market’s other charging solutions suggest that the chain is reconceptualizing the convenience store to act as a hub for other personal transportation and green energy needs.

Bike shares, for instance, have grown in popularity in major U.S. cities in recent years. The number of bike share doubled year-over-year in 2017, according to statistics by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is the new Choice Market concept in line with the needs of today’s consumers or a too far ahead of its time to take hold? What features of the concept do you think will become commonplace within the convenience channel in the years ahead?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Wow! What I love the most about this concept is that the strategists and designers so clearly approached it from a service mindset. "
"I don’t believe that many local people will intentionally make their shopping trip longer so their car will charge. My excitement level on this one — moderate."
"Our society needs to keep pushing toward greener communities, and concepts like these help both normalize green behaviors and make it easier to adopt them."

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20 Comments on "New c-store concept is high-tech inside and out"


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Jon Polin
BrainTrust

Like any good concept, this is not intended for everyone. It’s intended for a younger, health conscious, environmentally concerned consumer. For that audience, this sounds great. It could probably only work in a small number of cities for now, and Denver is one. I am excited to keep any eye on this.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Sounds like Choice Market is giving itself the opportunity to succeed along several avenues of commerce and service. It can flex the space allocation over time based on individual market conditions. Different markets will utilize bikes, electric vehicles and gas vehicles. Some locations will support a fast-casual restaurant and some won’t. All with current and emerging payment methodology. Sounds like they are building in the intent and ability to evolve. Smart!

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

It is interesting that these innovations are undertaken by a relatively small and maybe independent convenience chain. Choice Market’s owners appear to be trying to cut a bigger slice of the market pie for themselves simply by leapfrogging the technology and offerings of well-established national chains. Maybe by so doing, they can establish themselves as the influencer for an entire segment of the retail industry. It may be ahead of its time or right on time! It will be interesting to watch this one.

Laura Davis-Taylor
BrainTrust

Wow! What I love the most about this concept is that the strategists and designers so clearly approached it from a service mindset. Every relevant trend likely to be meaningful to the local market has been considered, supported and, I’m suspecting, streamlined for maximum ease.

It’s exciting to see stories like this emerging at greater frequency in our industry. It’s not a “me too” Amazon Go concept, it’s a “me uniquely” for a brand and their channel. That’s the ticket — hold true to your brand, but bring it to life uniquely. Fingers crossed that as more shining lights like this emerge, more of the old guard will open their minds to thinking differently.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

I completely agree, Laura – not an Amazon Go knockoff but rather a unique expression of their brand as reflected through the needs and aspirations of their particular target customers.

Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

Paying via app is here to stay and will be a positive aspect of this chain as well as c-stores more broadly. I visited an Amazon Go in Chicago yesterday and was very pleased with the selection, assortment and experience overall. This is not going away folks.

Accommodating electric cars, and scooters is also a trend that will continue to increase and must be planned for especially in congested cities like New York, Chicago and DC to name just a few. As was pointed out, Electric cars take significantly longer to charge than filling your tank with gas and therefore the real estate that the c-store sits on becomes an important consideration. With cars being charged, cars being fueled, scooters being charged, bikes being pulled out and so on, unless these things are planned it will be chaotic and even dangerous.

Kudos to the small chain for being an innovator. I hope they succeed in a big way.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

I applaud Choice Market for their forward-looking concept. Stores like these likely have potential in places like Denver and Austin, and I hope they succeed. Our society needs to keep pushing toward greener communities, and concepts like these help both normalize green behaviors and make it easier to adopt them.

David Weinand
BrainTrust

I don’t see this as particularly revolutionary, more like evolutionary. Electric cars (and other things like bikes and scooters) will grow in popularity and with them, the need for charging. Smart that they are thinking about creative ways for customers to spend time in-store and the move to fresh is just a continuation of a trend the likes of Wawa and others are jumping on.

Art Suriano
BrainTrust
I’m all for new ideas and concepts, and there are some good ones here, but many are already in the works elsewhere such as an app to order and pay in advance. Using it for gas purchases would be smart, and if the company provides rewards for purchase, it would be nice to have everything in one place. However, investing in electric car chargers and providing services for customers while they wait for their car to charge, I think is not wise. For starters, we have had electric vehicles on the market for many years, and they still haven’t caught on as the next big thing. Distance is the biggest problem, and the length of time for charging is the second. Developers realize it’s not a bigger battery but a different way to charge the car and many are experimenting with dual batteries allowing one to charge while the other is in use. If electric cars are the cars of the future, we would have to assume that a dual-battery system would be the way… Read more »
Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

There is a dangerous difference between leading edge and bleeding edge. The Choice Market concept is far closer to the bleeding edge than the leading edge.

The average c-store customer is in and out of the store in three minutes or less. True having to wait for their vehicle to charge will lengthen this time but a 2,700 square foot location does not offer much space for sit down dining. Nor does it offer the room to have the selections of natural foods of Mr. Varsames’ previous employers.

Can it work? Possibly but only in select markets and neighborhoods within those markets such as the dense part of Denver described in the article.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

I think any new store concept that pushes beyond the age-old traditional store format, regardless of product category, is a GREAT thing. Department stores, supermarkets, etc. really still look the same way they did 100 years ago. And that’s no exaggeration. Just look at old movies and photos. We still have cans of beans and racks of apparel lines up and down aisles. I love when an operator challenges the status quo.

Adrian Weidmann
BrainTrust

Choice Market presents a concept to address services that will be required as shopper expectations and their needs continue to evolve. The future of c-stores and transportation technology if you will. It’s Amazon Go repurposed for the transportation/petroleum and food service industry. Congratulations to Choice Market for getting in front of this in a bold way. I look forward to seeing and experiencing this design.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust
Ken Morris
Retail industry thought leader
1 year 1 month ago

I believe Choice market is spot on with their innovation. The consumer is shifting to a demographic that cares about the environment, is inclined to make healthy food choices and is wired.

In addition to providing made-from-scratch meals, which will make it a destination location, Choice Market offers consumers multiple choices for ordering, paying, pick-up and even delivery. Consumers like to have options and choices — Choice Market says it all.

The convergence of these trends lines up well with the Denver market but might not play in rural Mississippi. This may not be a situation in which one concept works universally and may need to roll out geographically to match the demographics of the markets.

If you haven’t seen their website, I encourage you to check it out (WARNING: it might make you hungry).

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

Like everyone here, I too am all-in on innovation. This technology and concept is not new but will, in time, be mandatory as we move on. I have noticed that half way to Detroit from Chicago there is a charging station. At that location two or three restaurants can be found, because every car that stops to charge will be there for approximately forty five minutes. They do not have an option at that point. That is great for those food outlets. But a charging station in a metro marketplace? For emergencies, yes. I think most people would rather get home on the charge remaining and invest those 45 minutes doing something more enjoyable while their car sits in the garage charging. I don’t believe that many local people will intentionally make their shopping trip longer so their car will charge. My excitement level on this one — moderate.

Cate Trotter
BrainTrust

I like that Choice Market is thinking about the future. The concept it’s proposing may not change the world, but it’s certainly ahead of what it’s got now. And probably its competitors. At this point if you have an electric car and a choice of forecourt charging places, you’d surely prefer to go to the one where you can go and sit down and get a coffee or something to eat over the one without anything to occupy you, no? This could help to make Choice Market a preferred choice.

One thing to bear in mind is that I’m sure the amount of time it takes to charge an electric car will go down and down as more and more people move to these types of vehicles simply because people won’t want to wait that long. So while it is smart for Choice Market to be thinking about services it can offer to help occupy people, it needs to be careful not to cripple itself in the future.

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

Choice Market is making the right convenience choices. Whether or not the concepts are in adoption mode, still innovation stage, or even further out to the mainstream, almost all of the decisions they are making here are spot on with where customers will be a few years out. Getting a jump on their competition — in many cases who are languishing — will give them an edge. With the franchise nature of convenience stores, and the challenges to push out standard innovation formats of this magnitude, the steps they are implementing will be accretive. Many of these are already proven hits for chains like Dunkin’ Brands et. al. Based on location, other innovations like bike sharing (>344k bikes shared in 2017 in Denver) and Evs will continue to become popular. Regardless, it’s a Denver based company and it’s mapping perfectly to the Denver consumer.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

There are many individual elements here that sound quite excellent. I’m fearful for them that they’re changing too much, too fast.

Research shows that too many innovations at once lose customers — leave them in the dust and unsure what the concept stands for.

So, for example, the all natural convenience store is a major attempt. Focusing on that might be enough.

Intriguing idea but a year from now, it will be interesting to see what has stayed out of the concept because I can’t see any way that they won’t have to drop a few items.

Michael La Kier
BrainTrust

One thing is for certain: retail is changing at a radical pace and retailers must test and learn to keep up. Will this concept be a success? The only way is to put it out there and see what sticks. Kudos to Choice Market for putting themselves out there!

John McIndoe
BrainTrust

Perhaps more than any other CPG retail environment, convenience store management teams have the opportunity to ask and answer the question of what business are they really in.

Younger consumers more focused on “good for me” snacking are less likely to reach for the chips and candy prominently displayed in convenience stores today and more likely to look for fresh fruit and kombucha. Electric cars with longer charge times than traditional cars create the opportunity to shift from QSR to fast casual environments.

Whether consumers will give convenience stores “brand permission” to offer expanded service is one of the many debates that will take place. It is positive to see Choice Market experimenting with new formats and strategies.

Susan Viamari
BrainTrust

Consumers are ready for change. We seek excitement, convenience and variety in retail experiences and Choice Market’s concept appeals to all of the above. Even consumers who don’t use its targeted services like electric charging, bike shares and electric scooters will appreciate faster checkout processes and less time in line. Consumer education and offers will be key to getting people to understand and try the newer services. And Denver is the perfect market to trial this concept.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Wow! What I love the most about this concept is that the strategists and designers so clearly approached it from a service mindset. "
"I don’t believe that many local people will intentionally make their shopping trip longer so their car will charge. My excitement level on this one — moderate."
"Our society needs to keep pushing toward greener communities, and concepts like these help both normalize green behaviors and make it easier to adopt them."

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