Sponsored by Oregon Business

The c-store paradox

| Print |  Email
Articles - October 2013
Monday, September 30, 2013

BY JONATHAN FROCHTZWAJG

1013 CStore 03
Above: Kizer Couch tends bar at his Bend mini-mart, which boasts 47 taps of beer and other beverages.
Below: Couch plans to sell franchises of the “Growler Guys” portion of his store.
// Photos by Joe Kline
1013 CStore 04

Soda Shaq, the new line of cream sodas from Shaquille O’Neal and iced tea maker AriZona, is a health nut’s nightmare. Each Shaq-emblazoned, 23.5-ounce can contains 72 grams of sugar — the equivalent of 17 teaspoons. In health-conscious Portland, one would think the sodas, sold primarily through retail partner 7-Eleven, would go over like a lead balloon. But one month after the product release this summer, Portland sales weren’t just good — the city’s 7-Eleven stores were selling more Soda Shaqs per location each day than any other store group in the country.

To hear the New York Times tell it, Portland is a foodie’s land of (organic) milk and (local) honey where every denizen shops at a co-op, tends a garden and contemplates buying a goat. Evidently, though, more than a few of us don’t fit into that paradisaical portrait; instead, we patronize 7-Eleven and sneak swigs of sugary soda. There is a disconnect here, and perhaps nowhere is this gap more visible than through the lens of that ubiquitous peddler of instant gratification: the convenience store.

Nationally, the convenience store industry is a powerhouse. The 149,000 “c-stores” in the United States handle 160 million transactions per day. They grossed sales of $700 billion in 2012 — more than either grocery stores or restaurants. Both the number of stores and total sales increased, albeit modestly, last year.

Despite the state’s slow-food reputation, Oregon’s c-store industry is no exception to national trends. Our store count went up every year between 2009 and 2012, and our homegrown chain, Plaid Pantry, was among the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the country last year, according to Inc. magazine. As the media portrays us — and as we collectively see ourselves — Portlanders wouldn’t be caught dead at a convenience store. The status of Oregon’s c-store industry, its strengths and the hurdles ahead, however, complicate the Portlandia picture.

Despite strong performance in Oregon and around the country, the c-store sector faces several challenges. Health consciousness is rising. Gas profits are falling. More and more businesses are encroaching on c-stores’ primary proposition, selling convenience in the form of a self-checkout stand or an express espresso. Though it may be an unexpected source for convenience store innovation, our idiosyncratic state offers the industry some distinctly Oregon solutions.



 

Comments   

 
Guest
-1 #1 it takes all kindsGuest 2013-10-02 17:54:59
This is a good object lesson for "progressive" (or substitute your favorite label) thought leaders and media darlings who are just sure everyone really agrees with them. What real diversity actually looks like...
Quote | Report to administrator
 
 
Guest
0 #2 Happy to See The Growler GuysGuest 2013-10-15 23:43:57
This summer I was reentering the east side of Bend after a camping trip, which is where I discovered the the Growler Guys as nestled inside a gas station. The idea was interesting, despite the questionable pairing of beer and driving. I was delighted to see nods to nondrinkers like myself, in the form of Townshend's Kombucha and Rogue Root Beer, with free samples flowing. The Stop 'n' Go the Growler Guys shop was attached to had an old-timey service station feel, with uniformed employees carefully cleaning windshields wearing fresh uniforms (complete with hats!) and asking to take our trash. Everyone at the shop was really friendly and the whole outfit seemed very service oriented. To me, those aspects are what I'd like to see in the convenience store of the future, more than the ability to get a growler filled.
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

On the Brink

March 2015
Friday, February 20, 2015
BY APRIL STREETER | OB CONTRIBUTOR

Leslie Carlson channels the big idea.


Read more...

4 highlights of the MLS labor deal

The Latest
Wednesday, March 04, 2015
timbersthumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

On Wednesday night, a couple days ahead of the 2015 season kickoff, Major League Soccer and the Players Union reached an agreement.


Read more...

10 Twitter highlights from #OR100Best

The Latest
Friday, February 27, 2015
100bestBY OB STAFF

Oregon Business held its  22nd annual 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon celebration Thursday night in the Oregon Convention Center.


Read more...

Downtime with the executive director of Greater Portland Inc.

April 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015

Janet LaBar, Executive director, Greater Portland Inc.


Read more...

Are wolves good for business?

Contributed Blogs
Friday, March 06, 2015
030615-wolf-thumbBY JEFF DELKIN | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

As a local business owner, I believe it’s important to build our economy on a platform of conservation values.  


Read more...

Game On

March 2015
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

The big news at Oregon Business is we’re getting a ping pong table. After reading the descriptions of the 2015 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon, a disproportionate number of which feature table tennis in the office, I decided it was time to bring our own workplace into the 21st century. It was a tough call, but it’s lonely at the top, and someone has to make the hard decisions.


Read more...

Power Players

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY ROBERT MULLIN

A new energy-sharing agreement sparks concerns about independence and collaboration in the region's utility industry.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS