The layouts of convenience stores (c-stores) are changing. Much of this change in layout results from location constraints or desired changes in traditional c-store strategy.
Four new types of c-store layouts are gaining popularity: two-stories, food-focused, frictionless, and unstaffed micro-markets or micro-stores.
The two-story c-store allows for more space on smaller lots, and provides separate zones for different customers (e.g., truckers).
The food-focused c-store adds a focus on food. Many traditional c-stores are looking to add traffic and move towards a travel center or truck stop concept.
Frictionless c-stores take advantage of newer technologies to operate unstaffed except for restocking products. Customers enter the store and shop. Sensors with AI vision systems identify the items that are taken from shelves. In some cases, the customer can just walk out and their credit/debit card will be automatically billed.
The unstaffed micro-market or micro-store takes the frictionless checkout and incorporates it into a portable store. Originally envisioned for EV charging stations, its portability has made it attractive in a variety of other locations. The micro-store can be up and running in under 12 hours.
This post is based on the C-StoreDive article, 4 new c-store formats rolling out across the industry, by Jessica Loder, December 13, 2023, and the YouTube videos in the spotlight. Image source: Comstock Images / Alamy
1. When is each c-store layout most effective?
Guidance: The two-story format is best when the lot has limited space. For example, an urban area where land is difficult to obtain and/or expensive, or an existing location on a small lot that wants to expand. Two-story layouts can be used to create alternate services, such as a space for truckers.
The food-focused layout differentiates from a conventional c-store by allowing competition against Quick Serve Restaurants (QSRs). This fits in with the trend of traditional c-stores expanding into travel centers or truck stops.
Frictionless shops are good when speed is essential. These are popular at airports and college campuses.
Finally, the unstaffed micro-market or unstaffed micro-store was originally envisioned for EV charging stations. However, the ability to have a self-contained, portable, unstaffed store makes them very attractive. Micro-stores can be up and running quickly, which gives a low-stakes opportunity to try out a location.
2. Where would you locate an unstaffed micro-store?
Guidance: These were originally intended for EV charging stations. However, their portability, small footprint, and quick setup make them an ideal choice for almost any location with a level surface and electricity. Their portability allows them to be moved to a new location when demand moves.
Potential locations include college campuses, music festivals, unattended gas stations and car washes, or any place with a lack of retail stores to support the foot traffic.