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Empire Petroleum Partners develops programs to boost sales for independent gas station operators.

By Tim O’Connor

Fuel distributor Empire Petroleum was founded in 1998, but today’s incarnation of the company truly started in 2011 when it merged with Quikway to create a larger customer network. Since then it has grown more than five fold. The company now supplies more than a billion gallons of fuel to 1,200 independent filling station operators annually, making it one of the top gasoline distributors in the United States.

The company primarily serves gas stations in southwest Texas, Midwest, mid-Atlantic and Southeast, but  brings its commitment to customer support to hundreds of new independent dealers every year. For many customers, Empire Petroleum is more than just a fuel seller. It is a partner who can support every facet of their business from store operation to credit card systems, insurance and equipment leasing.

Unlike some distributors, Empire Petroleum only operates a few of its own locations, which are mainly used as test sites for new programs and promotions. “We are 100 percent dedicated to servicing, supplying and interacting with independent dealers,” CEO Hank Heithaus says.

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Super King Markets provides next-level service by staying abreast of its customers’ demands and hiring knowledgeable personnel to help guide them through the shopping experience.

By Janice Hoppe-Spiers

Super King Markets is known as the go-to supermarket in southern California to find the largest variety of international foods and knowledgeable employees who help customers find exactly what they are looking for. “Southern California is a melting pot with tremendous ethnic diversity,” General Manager Daniel Barth explains. “All of those people shop in our stores. People from all over the world and from different ethnic backgrounds like our store for different reasons.”

The Los Angeles-based supermarket offers foods from customers’ home countries and unique offerings, as well as traditional supermarket items all in a bright, clean, well-staffed and stocked store with aggressive retail prices. Founded in 1993, Super King Markets remains a family owned and operated company. 

“We are learning about what our customers want all the time,” Barth notes. “We have a good idea up through today at noon, but we are learning all the time by listening, talking to our employees and talking to the shoppers. The promotional mix as well as the product mix is evolving all the time. We know what we know now.”

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Smoker Friendly creates a welcoming environment for smokers and vapers while it plans to grow its liquor locations and growler stations.

By Stephanie Crets

There can be a stigma to buying cigarettes in today’s world, but Smoker Friendly creates an open, pleasant environment that makes customers feel welcome. “We provide a very bright environment – one where you don’t feel ashamed coming in and buying your cigarettes,” Co-owner and Marketing Director Regan Bartley says. “If you’re a regular, our employees know what you want, and they’ll carry on and joke around with you. Our slogan is ‘clean, friendly, pleasant,’ but our employees make Smoker Friendly what it is.”

Smoker Friendly’s 41 locations are mainly dispersed across West Virginia, but it also has five stores in Ohio, one in Virginia and one in Maryland. The company has a couple acquisitions in the works and hopes to see some growth in its store numbers in 2017. In the meantime, Smoker Friendly is focusing on its rewards program for its loyal customer base. Launched at the beginning of October, the rewards program is free to sign up and allows customers to accumulate points for free products while also entering store sweepstakes.

“I’ve created one big program with so many benefits that the success rate has been seeing huge increases in sales,” Bartley says. “We’ve created a strong program to keep customers back in the stores.”

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Big Saver Foods tailors its products to all of its customers in each of its 14 California locations.

By Stephanie Crets

Catering to the communities it serves is Big Saver Foods’ focus. With only 14 locations in California, the company can easily tailor its stores and products to customers. “We can really custom-tailor the stores because we’re small,” Vice President of Marketing, Procurement and Strategy Jose Huerta says. “If we had 300 stores, we couldn’t do that, and it’s an advantage of being small.”

For example, its Santa Ana store is in a predominately Mexican-American neighborhood, so the store merchandises it in a way that appeals to those residents. On the other hand, its Rosemead store is in a neighborhood with a largely Asian-American population, so that store carries a different selection of products. 

Another advantage of being a smaller, neighborhood store is that Big Saver Foods’ employees can really get to know the clientele. They learn customers’ names, can recommend products to them more easily and even offer tips or recipe recommendations on how to cook something. This, in turn, creates a family atmosphere throughout all of Big Saver Foods’ stores.

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From the store sales floor to the behind-the-scenes technology, Kid to Kid is different from the typical resale store.

By Chris Petersen

Any parent will tell you that one of the most challenging things about kids growing up is keeping up with their wardrobes. When you consider how quickly a child can grow out of his or her entire closet, the prospect of having to buy all-new clothes every few months can be a daunting one, especially from a family budget perspective.

Although resale shops can provide a respite from high-priced new clothing, shopping at many of them can be confusing and time-consuming as parents sift through a selection that isn’t always great. That’s why Kid to Kid stands out in the children’s resale segment, owner Shauna Sloan says, because Kid to Kid offers families a shopping experience above and beyond the typical resale environment.

Kid to Kid is one of two resale franchises operated by Basecamp Franchising, a Salt Lake City-based company founded by Brent and Shauna Sloan. The inspiration for Kid to Kid came from a very simple place. “We had a lot of little kids,” Sloan says.

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TOPS Friendly Markets has served the Northeast for generations with supermarkets centered around customer service.

By Chris Petersen

For generations, TOPS Friendly Markets has been the local favorite throughout upstate New York and the surrounding area, and chairman and CEO Frank Curci says the company is committed to holding onto that position for many years to come. “As a New York state-owned and operated company, our vision is to be your friendly neighborhood store that has what you want while saving you time and money,” Curci says.

Keeping the promises it makes to its customers each and every day is paramount for TOPS and crucial for its continued success, and that has been the status quo for the company ever since before the first modern TOPS supermarket opened in 1962 in Niagara Falls, N.Y. The company’s roots date back even further, to the early 1920s when Ferrante Castellani moved his family to Niagara Falls from a small village in Italy. In Niagara Falls, Castellani opened his first grocery store, and his sons Armand and Alfred soon opened two more under the same name of Great Bear Market.

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Market Basket stands out from the crowd in east Texas and Louisiana by providing the selection and customer service that its shoppers are looking for.

By Eric Slack

Since opening its first location in 1961, Market Basket has focused on providing an extraordinary food shopping experience to its customers. Today, Market Basket remains a privately owned grocer serving the east Texas and Louisiana region with 34 full-service supermarkets.

“Service is what we hang our hat on, and that helps us compete against bigger chains by offering a community oriented and family atmosphere,” President Skylar Thompson says.

Currently, Market Basket employs more than 2,000 supermarket associates. Market Basket supermarkets aim to provide exceptional value on grocery foods while providing innovative supermarket solutions and a full assortment of grocery products. Its offerings include fresh produce, quality meats, bakery goods and floral arrangements, as well as pharmacy services in select grocery store locations.

“We are a conventional supermarket that prides itself on being the friendliest in town, providing fast service and making sure people don’t have to wait long in lines,” Thompson says.

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Candle-lite and PartyLite merge under the Luminex Home Décor and Fragrance name to bring unique products to a broader audience.

By Stephanie Crets

Understanding consumers’ needs and developing products that appeal to them is the focus of Luminex Home Décor and Fragrance Co. The company is well positioned to provide high-quality home fragrance and home décor products from its one-million-square-foot manufacturing and distribution facility, along with providing a high level of service to its customers.

Luminex HDF is a new company, representing the unification of two organizations with long-standing histories in the industry: Candle-lite Company and PartyLite. Candle-lite, which celebrated its 175th anniversary last year, is America’s oldest candle manufacturer and reaches more consumers through mass-market retailers than any other manufacturer. PartyLite, on the other hand, is a direct-to-consumer sales company with more than 45,000 sales consultants in 19 countries. Where pricing is concerned, Candle-lite competes primarily in the value segment, while PartyLite is tailored to the premium market.

What brought these two companies together was the vision set out by the executive team and private equity partners of both businesses. Candle-lite was acquired by the Centre Lane Partners back in January 2014, while the Carlyle Group acquired PartyLite in October 2015. What they recognized was a great opportunity to create operational synergies and gain significant benefits from bringing these two companies together, with the merger of Candle-lite and PartyLite under the umbrella of Luminex HDF, completed in May 2016.

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