Welcome to our new blog series, where we'll be sharing the news and trends that are shaping the convenience store industry! In this week's Koupon News Update, learn about the fastest growing c-store chains of 2017, new driverless delivery services from Kroger, and the new California privacy bill.
C-Store Retailer Trends
Which Chains Grew the Most in 2017?
- For a second year in a row, Laval, Quebec-based Alimentation Couche-Tard acquired more c-stores than any other chain in the United States, most notably through its purchase of Holiday Stationstores in July 2017 and its purchase of CST Brands Inc. in June 2017. In total, Couche-Tard gained 1,114 new stores by the end of the year and held on to its No. 2 slot in the Top 202.
- For a short time during the end of 2017, Alimentation Couche-Tard technically owned more locations in the United States than 7-Eleven. It was only after 7-Eleven’s purchase of Sunoco closed in 2018 that the chain regained its No. 1 position as the largest c-store chain in the country. Counting the Sunoco purchase, divestitures and other deals through the year, 7-Eleven came out of 2017 with 774 additional locations.
- Insight: 7-Eleven and Alimentation Couche-Tard were the two fastest growing c-store chains in 2017. M&A was the main driver for both companies.
Retailers Disappointed in Supreme Court's American Express Ruling
- The case centered around the legality of American Express rules that prevent retailers from offering consumers benefits, including discounts, for using credit cards with lower fees. On June 25, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of American Express, reported The Associated Press. "In this case, we must decide whether AmEx's anti-steering provisions violate federal antitrust law. We conclude they do not," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in an opinion.
- Retailers had argued that the rules were anticompetitive and denied consumers accurate information about their credit cards and prevented customers from receiving benefits that retailers might offer in the absence of those rules, according to the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA).
- "By denying merchants the right to simply ask for another card or offer an incentive for using a preferred card, the Supreme Court has undermined the principle of free markets where one company should not be allowed to dictate the practices of an entire industry in order to protect its business model," Martz said. "This misguided decision represents a missed opportunity to take a stand in favor of free markets and bring soaring credit card fees under control."
- Insight: The Supreme Court ruled in favor of American Express. Retailers still cannot encourage shoppers to use lower-fee payment options.
BP's Latest U.K. Acquisition Marks Big Push Into EV Charging
- BP is making a big push into electric vehicle (EV) charging in the United Kingdom with its latest acquisition of Chargemaster.
- The largest EV charging company in the U.K., Chargemaster operates more than 6,500 charging points across the country. Upon completion of the deal, the company will be renamed BP Chargemaster, combining Chargemaster's EV charging network with BP's 1,200 service stations, in a move that will widen access to electric vehicle charging in the U.K., according to BP.
- Insight: BP is getting into the EV charging business. C-store retailers should start to consider the addition of EV charging stations to sites.
10 Top Companies Working on Food-Tracking Blockchain
- Ten top food companies have formed the Food Trust group to develop and launch a blockchain in an effort to avoid crises such as the recent E. coli bacteria contamination of romaine lettuce that reportedly killed five people and made 197 more ill, according to the Wall Street Journal.
- A blockchain is a digitized, public ledger that was originally created to record cryptocurrency transactions. When the concept is used to capture and record real-time data about individual food products, it can identify issues quickly, improve the speed of recalls and shorten the time that consumers could be affected.
- For decades, no retailer, food producer, industry organization or government agency has known exactly how food moves from farm or field to the consumer’s fork. Today’s federal regulations require that anyone in the supply chain—from food processor to trucking company—maintain accurate records about how food came to them and where it went afterwards. Traditionally, this information has been kept on paper.
- Insight: Retailers should start considering how to implement blockchain technology into supply chains.
Facebook, Twitter ramp up ad transparency efforts
- Twitter and Facebook's transparency rules clearly have political advertising in mind, but they will also affect brand marketers in various ways. While most brands and companies that buy ads on the social media platforms are legitimate, those marketers have their own concerns about brand safety and don't want to be associated with media companies that invite controversy and user hostility.
- Facebook Pages now show an "Info and Ads" button on the upper right corner that when clicked will show the page's history, such as name changes and every advertisement it's currently running on Facebook, Instagram or the company's ad network. The platform's advertisers have experienced delays in posting ads in the U.S. because of the social network's new system to verify ads, COO Sheryl Sandberg said, per The Wall Street Journal.
- Twitter is launching its previously announced Ad Transparency Center to let users see the creative for all ad campaigns that have run within the last seven days from a specified handle. Further details, such as billing information, ad spend, impression data per tweet and demographic targeting data, will be shown for U.S. political advertisers that fall under the company's previously announced Political Campaigning Policy.
- Insight: Social media companies are implementing new processes to protect consumers.
California Unanimously Passes Historic Privacy Bill
- California lawmakers unanimously passed a new privacy bill on Thursday that would give residents of the state more control over the information businesses collect on them and impose new penalties on businesses that don’t comply. It is the first law of its kind in the United States.
- The new legislation gives Californians the right to see what information businesses collect on them, request that it be deleted, get access to information on the types of companies their data has been sold to, and direct businesses to stop selling that information to third parties. It’s similar to the General Data Protection Regulation that went into effect in the European Union last month, but adds to it in crucial ways.
- Insight: The new California law passed, but nothing is changing yet. There's no telling how the law may evolve before it goes into effect in 2020. Koupon Media is keeping an eye on the requirements!
Kroger and Robomart to Pilot Driverless Delivery
- Kroger will test a no-driver delivery service in partnership with Nuro, a Silicon Valley tech company, in yet-to-be-announced cities, according to USA Today. Customers participating in the test program will be able to order groceries through the Kroger ClickList ordering system and the Nuro app. They’ll receive same-day delivery from an electric vehicle that is about the size of an SUV and able to carry up to 20 bags of groceries.
- Robomart, a driverless grocery store startup, will begin tests in Santa Clara, California, in a few months, reports Venturebeat.com. The Robomarts will be teleoperated throughout the test, which will be conducted at the company’s private facility instead of on public streets.
- Insight: Driverless delivery was inevitable given the trends we have been tracking for the past few months.
Dollar General testing mobile checkout in 10 stores
- Dollar General is piloting a scan-and-go shopping app, called DG GO!, in 10 Tennessee stores in the Nashville area, CEO Todd Vasos said during a first quarter earnings conference call, as transcribed by Seeking Alpha. The discount variety store chain began testing the mobile checkout program in May when the app became available on Google Play and the Apple App Store.
- The retailer plans to roll the program out to an additional 100 stores during the second quarter, Vasos said. The chain operates nearly 15,000 stores in 44 states and plans to open 900 more in 2018.
- Like other mobile checkout apps, Dollar General’s allows shoppers to scan items with their phones as they shop, view a running total of their baskets, and then use the self checkout to bypass the line, according to the app listing on the Google Play store. The shoppers receive alerts about potential savings on the items they have scanned.
- Insight: Dollar General is testing Amazon Go-like experiences for customers.