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The move to electric cars forces convenience stores to rethink their purpose

Posted at 3:40 PM, Apr 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-09 20:52:58-04

Joe Aylor describes himself as a simple man, with simple convenience store needs.

”I don't have to have a lot of food. I don't have to have a lot of snacks. I just want gas,” he explained.

Convenience stores have changed to keep up with fast-moving Americans and even those in the slower lanes. They are not content to settle for "just gas."

”Every other customer that walks in. A lot of times we know them by name and that's just something I think that people thrive on,” said Jeff Januse, of Frank's Country store & BBQ in Bryan.

But big changes loom on the horizon for convenience stores as the auto business increasingly turns to electric cars.

”Look, I mean, electrification is gonna happen right? You got to support electrification as you grow. So gas stations are gonna have to have charging stations in the future as well,” said Sid Gaitonde of Temple's PDI, who heads logistics for the company that runs back-office operations for convenience stores and more.

He believes the convenience store business will boom.

”I think there's an opportunity right how many, how much time do you spend at a gas station when your fuel and got maybe 5-10 minutes when you charge a car. It can be 20 minutes so, you know your convenience stores are going to have to evolve,” he said.

And that evolution has lots of smart people thinking about their next steps.

So what will the convenience store of the future look like?

Will it look like a big Buc-ee's superstore, or more of the relaxed feel of a Starbucks?

Experts say we should expect a little of both.

Since cars take longer to charge than to fuel, Gaitonde expects a more social setting.

”I think there's more of an opportunity as their customers evolve to sell more stuff. Make it a place where people can hang out, happy to have that experience,” he said.

Because even lower tech, old-time businesses know, they have to evolve along with their customers.

”I think you're always having to find the next niche, the next thing that you can do in order to stay on top of the game, if you will,” said Januse.

It's a game where it gets harder every day to stay on top, and with a future that has everyone paying attention.