Should You Expand Your Gas Station/Convenience Store?
The gas station/convenience store market has become increasingly competitive over the past few years. At least a thousand of these businesses are added every year across the US, raking in more money than supermarkets and possibly even restaurants.
According to The Florida Times-Union, 70% of the average convenience store’s revenue comes from gas but the pumps account for just 40% of the store’s profit. The rest comes from the items sold inside the store, which are the main focus of business owners looking to rapidly evolve. Several big chains are planning on opening dozens more locations in certain states and featuring a significantly larger selection of food and beverages.
In Minnesota, fourteen BP gas stations were recently converted into SuperAmericas, a franchise offering a bakery and deli. The latest Daily’s stores to be set up in Florida boast made-to-order sandwiches and a grab-and-go case with everything from yogurt to string cheese to hard-boiled eggs. Circle K based its new strategy on the discovery that half of all gas station/convenience store customers enter the store for beverages. As of earlier this year, you can get a fountain drink of any size at Circle K for just 79 cents.
The main takeaway here is that these businesses are now selling more than just the basics, and for three reasons.
Demand Is On The Rise
Before expanding their selections, gas station/convenience store operators were frequently visited by travelers looking for the nearest source of sufficient sustenance, like a deli or 7-Eleven. The customers had unexpectedly found themselves in a “food desert,” or a major highway or neighborhood void of noticeable supermarkets and restaurants. Wisconsin-based Kwik Trip has added 35-40 stores per year over the last decade, most of which are located along the same, central US roadways, such as Highway 10 or Interstate 94.
The second reason stems from the fact that gas station/convenience stores aren’t just competing with each other. They are also competing with CVS, Walgreens, Best Buy, Home Depot and any store that sells candy and drinks at the cash register. Supermarket customers may have noticed that more and more convenience-related items are now being sold up front.
Your Best Customers, Version 2.0
Approximately ten years ago, America began experiencing a dramatic drop in the sale of gas and tobacco, two of the highest-selling items at gas station/convenience stores. But alongside these declines came the emergence of the most reliable of customers, one who places a much higher value on convenience stores than previous generations.
Jeff Lenard, spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores, confirmed to the Florida Times-Union last March that “Millennials are the convenience stores’ best customers and [are] transforming how everyone serves them.” About 70 years ago, 55% of households consisted of married couples with children. “By the 2000s, “ Lenard continued, “married households were down to 28 percent and singles were up to 20 percent. When you’re single, there’s less tendency to rush home and cook dinner by yourself.”
It’s Now Or Never
Each of these three observations poses a different reason to contact an alternative lender about a small business loan. The first suggests that, much like the restaurant industry, the quickest way for owners of gas station/convenience stores is to add more stores throughout any area that is deprived of traditional sources of food. If there is a new ramp being built for a major highway near you, it’s up to you to capitalize on this opportunity before someone else does.
Lucky for you, alternative business financing companies like United Capital Source are able to approve small business loans in 24-48 hours. This allows you to quickly secure that new location with a down payment while covering monthly expenses for your existing location. And instead of wasting time gathering and worrying about money, you can conduct research on the area, scout for new hires, and simply dedicate 100% of your focus towards perfecting this investment.
It’s already been established that the adoption of extensive food options is vital for survival, but you need to step up your game even further if your store is located within a close proximity of one of the aforementioned, non-convenience competitors and/or a massive millennial population. In these two scenarios, your store can never have enough items or “convenience.” For example, the “Grab-and-Go” cooler at Daily’s has seen immense success simply because it doesn’t have a door. Others are experimenting with tables for eating, a wider variety of ready-to-eat food, and of course, free Wi-Fi.
A Program Tailored For This Exact Situation
Expanding or installing a selection food and beverages takes time. You’ve got to buy a grill, refrigerators, ventilation, cooking utensils, and hire more staff to run the area. Traditional funding programs require you to make monthly payments immediately after funding is distributed but clients of United Capital Source can avoid this stress by receiving a Merchant Cash Advance. This program provides a lump sum in exchange for a percentage of future credit card sales, and since most gas station transactions are conducted via credit card, your debt will be erased by the middle of the busy season.
Demand has undoubtedly increased for food items in gas station/convenience stores, and business owners are realizing that there is always something more they could offer customers. The current mentality is to expand your reach as far as possible, so it’d be wise to jump on the bandwagon now before someone else steals your potential traffic. Besides, at this point, if you choose not to expand, you will literally be known as “the only store without ____.”
Introducing Business Loans To Your Gas Station/Convenience Store
About an hour into your long drive home, you realize two things: Your car needs fuel and so do you. Human fuel, that is. Thankfully, you’re on a busy highway, which means you are bound to run into several gas stations just a few miles ahead. So, which one do you visit? Pondering this question can help the average person understand why access to small business loans for gas stations is so crucial in 2018. As if cutthroat competition and rising standards weren’t financially challenging enough, a little research will reveal that gasoline sales has some of the lowest profit margins out of all retail businesses.
According to data reported earlier this month, once debit/credit card fees and other operating costs have been applied, the net profit for gasoline sales is approximately 3 cents a gallon. You’d think this number would go up when gas prices do the same, but this is not true. A remotely substantial increase in price is actually more likely to decrease profits for station owners. Drivers have a natural tendency to attribute higher prices to individual greed and look for the best prices in the area. Station owners are therefore more likely to lose money, partially because charging more for gas leaves less money to be spent at the station’s convenience store.
Surface Area Is Your Friend
So, if higher prices aren’t going to raise profits, what else can gas stations do? The idea is to increase appeal for passing drivers in a way that logistically improves profitability at the same time. Let’s get back to that drive home. Think about which features make you more or less likely to choose one gas station over another, or simply stop at the first one you see. The most obvious answer is particularly relevant for gas stations that are located on highly congested roads where drivers are too stressed out to be selective.
In such situations, it’s safe to say that drivers are naturally drawn to gas stations with an above average amount of pumps. The very sight of a large pumping area is comparable to a breath of fresh air. There is a guarantee that you’ll be able to pull right up to a pump without having to maneuver your car or wait for someone else to finish.
What Really Sets Two Stations Apart
Additional pumps are one of many characteristics of gas stations that are adapting to a changing market. These stations also understand the importance of appearance, which can easily overshadow competitive prices. One station might charge less than another gas station just down the street. The second station, however, has a much more up-to-date appearance.
Its elevated sign might be bigger, or maybe its convenience store does a better job of seeming like a legitimate shop, as opposed to a last resort for sustenance. The pumps have been upgraded as well and now play the news on small screens. An up-to-date appearance suggests that the station’s convenience store doesn’t just sell junk food, which is not exactly conducive for long drives in which you must remain comfortable and alert.
Selections Worth Remembering
The items you choose to sell at your gas station’s convenience store should be based on the other food service businesses in your immediate vicinity along with your target demographic. Some gas stations are located in “food deserts,” or areas that lack supermarkets or restaurants. Others might be in busier areas that lack a more specific kind of item, like breakfast food or cold cuts. The addition of a deli counter or equipment for cooking eggs could dramatically increase customer activity by making the need for gas less of an inconvenience.
When people know that gasoline is the only thing they’ll be getting at your gas station, they will only stop by when their tanks are almost empty. Knowing they can also grab a turkey sandwich or bacon, egg and cheese, on the other hand, makes people more likely to stop by more often.
The Right Business Loan For You
United Capital Source offers numerous types of small business loans for gas stations looking to upgrade their services and/or appearance. Since most gas station customers pay via debit or credit card, we typically recommend a merchant cash advance, aka business loan against credit card sales. Instead of having to manually make fixed payments every month, payments are deducted from debit and credit transactions. This system is very advantageous for long-term investments, or changes to your business that do not immediately increase revenue.
If business is slow or stagnant, payments wouldn’t be high enough to damage profits. The majority of the debt would instead be paid off when sales volume increases. And since the purpose of adding pumps and expanding convenience store options is to boost daily revenue, profits will have at least begun to rise by this time. It’s important to note that we are well-aware that in order to operate more pumps and/or a cooking station, you’re going to need more staff. The cost of part-time employees can most certainly be factored in to the borrowing amount and terms of your small business loan.
New Standards? No Problem!
The standards for a successful gas station and convenience store are changing. But station owners should be thankful that unlike other industries, most of the changes required for success are pretty clear: bigger is better. The funding experts at United Capital Source keep this in mind when they design our gas station business loans. Terms can be customized to suit these goals, and we are fully capable of approving multiple rounds of funding for each improvement on the horizon. As long as revenue remains steady, there is virtually nothing your competitors have that you can’t.
We Know Our Way Around Business Loans For Gas Stations With Convenience Stores
A great deal of gas station visitors pay via debit or credit card, which makes them perfect candidates for a merchant cash advance, a.k.a credit card factoring. This type of working capital loan supplies a lump sum in exchange for an agreed-upon percentage of future debit and credit card sales. Rather than making fixed payments every month no matter what, substantial payments are only made when sales volume is on the rise.
Merchant cash advances are therefore highly advantageous for long-term investments, or changes to your business that might take a few months to increase revenue.
One of our clients owns and operates a gas station and convenience store in upstate New York. He came to UCS after realizing that his customers would often ask for directions to the nearest deli. If he was able to supply the items they were looking for, these customers would have bought from him instead of leaving.
With the help of a merchant cash advance, our client removed a section of auto accessories and installed a 12-foot deli counter with a multi-purpose grill. We made sure he received enough funds to not only purchase the required equipment but also hire an experienced cook to serve his frequently-hungry customers. The same logic would likely be applied for a client who wanted to add more pumps, which might require more workers to operate them.
Payment plans that actually make sense
Another reason merchant cash advance may be the right business loan for your gas station is the industry’s seasonal nature. Gas stations do a lot more business when driving conditions are favorable. But in order to ensure a strong busy period, you must prepare in the months beforehand. A merchant cash advance takes negligible payments during slow months. Borrowers can therefore make investments when business is slow and then pay off the majority of the debt when there are more cars on the road the following season.
This is just one of many business loans that could work for your gas station. In fact, gas stations may be suited for multiple options because the funds are usually used to increase or stabilize daily revenue. When there is a high likelihood of this outcome, making payments will not prevent profits from increasing as well. Apply now to see how much you qualify for!