retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times had a story over the weekend about the unusual passions that drive shoppers in Pennsylvania to one of two convenience store chains - Sheetz and Wawa - despite the fact that "convenience stores are supposed to be interchangeable, selling low-priced gas and self-serve coffee based on the proposition that when you need a pit stop, you turn in to the first you see, right there."

Both companies, the story says, have gone beyond the traditional gas-and-tobacco-and beef jerky model to offer a broader selection of food and beverages that is designed to foster loyalty from their shoppers.

And, they brim with personality:

"Sheetz is the slightly smaller chain," the Times writes, "with 226 stores in Pennsylvania and a total of 435 in the region. Wawa has 216 in-state stores and 607 over all, as far south as Tampa, Fla., and north to Parsippany, N.J.

"There are clear differences. Sheetz has neon colors, pumps loud country music and is overly fond of the alliterative use of its name in products. It sells Sheetz Shweetz, a CinnaShmonster and Shmuffins. Near its corporate headquarters in Altoona, it offers employees a Shwellness Center.

"To Sheetz’s country mouse, Wawa is a more suburban creature. Its décor features muted browns and blonds, and a central island of healthy food includes diced mangoes and apple slices."

You can the entire story here.
KC's View:
It just goes to show how retailers, even if they are in the business of selling other people's brands, can develop brand equity for themselves that serve as a foundation on which to build and expand.