by John Lofstock, Editor
Chevron Corp.’s North American Marketing Convention, which wrapped up in Denver on Saturday, gave Chevron and Texaco operators plenty to be excited about. In addition to announcing it’s dual branded fuel strategy was a rousing success, both in terms of sales and consumer satisfaction, the oil company reported it is ahead of industry standards in developing alternative fuels and that marketers would no longer have to pay a 75-cent up-front charge on gift cards sold.
But the big news came when Cary Knuth, general manager of western retail sales for Chevron Products Co. told an energized crowd the chain was developing a credit card solution that will have no processing costs for retailers.
Danny Roden, vice president of North America marketing for Chevron Products Co., told CSD, that the card is likely to be branded Visa or MasterCard and will incorporate a loyalty component for customers.
Such a program would be an enormous boost for Chevron and Texaco marketers. According to the National Association of Convenience Stores’ 2007 State of the Industry report, credit card fees cost the industry $6.6 billion last year, up from $5.4 billion in 2005.
“Loyalty, if not done right, can drive up the cost for everybody,” Roden said. “We are taking our time to refine a credit solution that will work for everyone involved that will be cost-effective for retailers and attractive for consumers. It won’t replace Chevron and Texaco’s proprietary credit cards, but rather compliment them.”
Aside from the credit processing news, the theme of this year’s Chevron show was “Beyond the Horizon.” Roden urged marketers to continue pushing a team effort by working with the oil company to provide outstanding service, in a clean, friendly environment. Pushing its desire to have “the top convenience store concept,” Chevron heavily promoted its ExtraMile brand. ExtraMile has invigorated the oil company and has helped give the company a dominant presence across the convenience landscape. Combined with the resurrection of the Texaco brand, the oil company’s dual strategy offers consumers premium and low-cost fuel options.
“It’s a powerful brand offering for an independent marketer, enabling them to compete effectively with other big brands in high-volume and rural markets,” Roden said. “Extra Mile is a chance to offer consistency with other Chevron stores and take advantage of our dry goods supply chain, merchandising planograms and core foodservice program. It’s an immediate upscale convenience offering.”
Many marketers are already sold on the retail concept.
“We are thrilled with ExtraMile and the level of commitment Chevron offers us,” said Wenda Lewis, vice president and CEO of Gainesville, Fla.-based Lewis Oil Co., one of the first companies to invest in the Image Refresh program after it expanded beyond its initial 40-store pilot in Seattle. “We made a significant investment in the brand and we are already seeing strong returns. We couldn’t be happier.”
Lewis among the more than 2,500 attendees at this year’s Global Marketing event, which attracted Chevron and Texaco marketers from around the country and dozens of suppliers, who exhibited their latest goods and services as part of the event’s vibrant trade show.
Among the highlights of Image Refresh are:
* A flexible image system that adapts to any site. * An array of choices regarding component selection and a variety of upgrades, “each designed to meet individual marketing needs,” Roden said. * Unique retail fixture components designed to improve the customer experience and differentiate the Chevron brand from the competition. * Financial incentives to help maintain and enhance the facility upgrade.
The major new elements of the program consists of a multicolored blue and white canopy that features a lit fascia with blue downlighting for a greater visual impact at night, new canopy returns with accent lighting, round canopy pole cladding, a new trash valet designed for improved customer convenience, a new Chevron logo and canopy hallmark and illuminated pump spanners and unlit valances that provide a more open feeling.
The Texaco brand is emerging as inspirational story. Essentially left for dead by Shell, Chevron acquired the brand in 2004. Since then, Chevron has resurrected the famed Texaco star, which now shines above 2,400 stations in 20 states in the U.S. And, according to Frank Herbst, Chevron’s general manager of eastern sales, deals are in place that could see that number approach 2,800 by year’s end. “We went from zero stores three years ago to build an entire network across 20 states,” he said. “How many big oil companies can say that?”