Purple Cow Stores may be new to the convenience store scene, but the chain has already established itself as the Southeast’s upscale option. With five stores in the Slidell, La., area, eight in Montgomery, Ala., two on the Mississippi coast and one store in Mobile, Ala., and plans to expand, the one-and-a-half-year-old company has moved quickly to gain this foothold. Now it’s time to focus on the details.
“You can’t go from zero to 100 too fast but you can go from zero to 80 quickly,” says Jack Parker, general manager. “It’s the last 20 that takes more time.”
Purple Cow is the convenience retailer arm of its parent company, Slidell Oil, which also owns Montgomery, Ala-based Interstate Oil. Slidell Oil is in the fuel distribution business, representing ExxonMobil, Shell and Valero brands. Slidell and Purple Cow together make the classic gas station/convenience store duo but with a new twist.
If “refined” can be used to describe a convenience store, then Purple Cow strives to make sure that characteristic is synonymous with its name. Beginning with the stores themselves, Parker says each maintains a clean, non-cluttered appearance. The merchandise is organized to achieve product adjacencies. The aisles have break points so you don’t have to walk all the way up and down each aisle before crossing over.
The employees are the other core component to its in-store experience. Parker says they are crucial to establishing customer loyalty.
“Store cleanliness, image and keeping things in stock are all important, but the experience at the sales counter is what makes it a great experience for our customers,” he says.
Purple Cow is building on its superior store appearance and employees so that its name and the products it sells will also convey the upscale image. Items in Purple Cow’s prepared food section are ordered and cooked fresh. Its menu includes Southern favorites such as fried catfish and jambalaya. It also includes a chicken dinner menu with three poultry items and a fourth to be introduced soon. It also boasts self-serve milkshake and soft drink fountains.
Purple Cow stays abreast of consumer trends to make sure it has the right product mix at all times. Through PDI Enterprise and Focal Point software, it can track individual purchases and use this information to determine what to stock.
Among Purple Cow’s diverse offerings is its own in-house brand available in many product categories, such as water and beverage, lighters, clothing and ice chests that are inked with the Purple Cow logo. “We want to see people walking around in Purple Cow t-shirts and drinking Purple Cow sodas and Purple Cow water,” Parker explains. “This is about us branding our name and getting our name out there. These are also quality products that by and large, we can sell for less so it helps the customers out with a lower retail price point.”
Another opportunity that Purple Cow is investing in is a rewards system. It is developing a proprietary gas rewards card for individuals and fleet operations. Parker says that it will introduce the card in the next few months. It also is working on increasing its store count with one new store each in Slidell and Mobile. It just completed a remodel of a store acquired from Interstate Oil in Selma, Ala., and will remodel one store and rebuild another in Montgomery.
“We definitely want to grow and wouldn’t mind doubling the amount of stores, but we want to still operate upscale,” Parker says. “We are not averse to having 100 stores but it has to be at a high level or there is no point at all. If we can do as much in the next 500 days as we did in the first 500, we’ll be in pretty good shape.”