Tom Thumb Wins CSD Extreme Makeover Contest

Florida chain will receive a complete brand audit, consulting services and an updating marketing strategy from Integrate and Convevo Partners.

By Greg Ehrlich and John Lofstock

One of the biggest differences between top convenience store operators and the rest of the industry is the strength of their brands and their clarity of purpose. Over the years, many stories have been written about improved business strategies or enhanced brand images, but never before has it been revealed how these corporate transformations are made. Thus was the genesis of Convenience Store Decisions’ extreme marketing makeover contest, C-Store Futurecast 2011.

More than 65 entries were submitted from companies throughout the country and as far away as Japan. Interviews and corporate evaluations were conducted to determine which company both needed a makeover and would benefit the most from an upgrade in their markets. After narrowing the field down to a handful of finalists that met the selection criteria Tom Thumb Food Stores, a third generation 16-store chain based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. emerged as the contest winner.

Jimmy McCarthy, vice president of operations for Tom Thumb, said his father started the company 47 years ago. While the company has been successful, it has focused on paying off debt rather than on regularly investing in store upgrades.

“Now the stores, which stretch from Fort Lauderdale to Key West, look old and tired,” McCarthy said. “My father retired last November. My job is to reinvigorate these stores as a whole–not piece meal. I need to come up with a core strategy, refresh our identity and remodel our stores.”

In spite of the tired look, Tom Thumb has remained a profitable company primarily because it had the foresight to acquire land and build new locations from the ground up. “Our company has a proud tradition of cleanliness, honor, loyalty and great customer service,” McCarthy said. “A strong rebranding and remodel would be extremely impactful.”

Tracking Progress
During the coming months, Convenience Store Decisions will report on the strategic planning and brand development processes that are employed to strengthen Tom Thumb’s market position. CSD will provide readers with an insider’s view of how c-store consulting firm, Convevo Partners, evaluates a company’s current operations, examines the market forces in which it competes and leads the creation of a new business strategy tailored to the marketer’s competitive landscape.

CSD will also examine the salient points of brand development by chronicling the execution of how Ohio-based brand design firm, Integrate, deploys its three-step branding process: investigation, imagination and implementation.

The investigation stage will include a brand audit, store visits and a brand strategy workshop. In the imagination phase, Tom Thumb will be presented with brand concepts from which to choose. The selected concept will be refined and presented for feedback and final approval. Once approved, the new look will be demonstrated on current Tom Thumb exteriors. At that point it will be up to Tom Thumb to decide if they want to implement their new brand identity.

“All of our stores are in appealing areas,” McCarthy said. “Some outside expertise would greatly impact our business for the future. We are currently working with architects to expand three stores this year, but I think our chain would be a great challenge for a contest like this.”

Watch out for the May issue of Convenience Store Decisions on the Extreme Makeover contest.

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