Where To Get The Most Value From Your Convenience Store Renovation
According to the National Association of Convenience stores, the average American convenience store will undergo a remodeling or renovation every 10 years. Based on 2015 figures, the average cost to renovate a store in the US was $409,582.
While similar numbers were not available for Canada, Devin Mahaffey, a principal with Calgary-based CTM Design and Architecture pegs the typical estimated cost for full tenant improvement interior package is currently around $125 to $150/sq. ft. This is based on a 1,500 to 2,500 sq. ft. space in major markets.
Mahaffey is careful to note that these costs can vary due to a number of factors, such as the extent of the renovation, building layout, and labour & material costs. He adds that pricing will typically range from region to region, and can be higher in more remote locations.
While the price tag can be intimidating, Mahaffey says stores that neglect regular upkeep and updates risk losing business to the competition.
“Today’s consumers don’t choose a C-store strictly based on convenience. Cleanliness, aesthetics, safety and a diverse, modern product offering largely guides their decision,” Mahaffey says.
This is why convenience stores need to continually meet their customers’ high standards and expectations, and why it is important to regularly inspect, remodel and repair the interior to compete.
Mahaffey says the key is to set a budget and spend your money wisely. Based on his experience working on hundreds of C-Store renovations across Ontario and Western Canada, here are Devin Mahaffey’s tips on getting the best ROI for your renovation dollar.
Updating/Modernizing the Interior
“Old and dated stores can look dirty and uncared for, which can turn away customers. Fortunately, a simple renovation can transform the appearance of your store and make it more appealing to today’s consumers,” Mahaffey says. He points out five easy updates.
This is one area where the quality of the product matters. That does not mean it needs to cost a fortune, but some research is required to find a product that will withstand the wear and tear of high traffic areas, mud, snow, grease, and gasoline. Neutral tones should be considered to ensure the flooring doesn’t become outdated within a year or two.
Porcelain tile is the most commonly used flooring material. It is strong, easy to clean, and comes in hundreds of colors, styles shapes, and sizes. Today, you can get tiles that resemble, wood, concrete, terrazzo and more. Choosing large format tiles reduces the number of grout lines, which increases ease of maintenance. Make sure to discuss the quality and technical characteristics of your tile with the tile rep or your designer, as not all tile can be used in a commercial application.
Vinyl Flooring is another option if budget is a concern. It too comes in a variety of looks and colors – including wood plank, stone, and concrete – and can even be printed with custom graphics. Vinyl flooring is easy to install and maintain. Plus, individual tiles can be replaced if damaged.
A fresh coat of paint can do wonders in terms of brightening and improving the look of your c-store for a very minimal cost.
Paint has come a long way in recent years. At one time, the only choice for washable paint was a high gloss finish. We are now seeing scrub-able matte paints. There are also many options that are scratch resistant, for improved durability.
Why limit yourself to paint? Wall tile, wallpaper, decals, laminates, and composite materials can all be used to update the look and create a clean, modern aesthetic.
Counters and Cabinets:
This is another relatively simple fix. Again, wipe-ability is key (so avoid textured surfaces). There are endless options that will provide a great look at a modest price tag. Choose materials that resist (or hide) scratches. This includes powder coated countertops. Mahaffey says CTM’s designers advise against glossy surfaces, which tend to show scratches more than a non-gloss surface.
Wherever possible, use doors to hide equipment, service lines, and supplies for a tidier, more professional look.
Display signage can fade and wear over time. Certain typefaces and designs can also start to feel dated. There may be an opportunity to introduce or update directional signage (such as category titles above coolers) to help with wayfinding. New technologies, including LED lighting, make backlit signs more economical, more attention-grabbing and more energy efficient than ever.
Middle of the store shelving: After years of use, product shelving can start to look its age. Shelving can be easily replaced with modern units to complement the rest of the redesign.
Beautify Your Bathroom
“Make your bathrooms a priority,” Mahaffey recommends.
According to GasBuddy’s 2018 Summer Travel Survey, 37% of respondents said the biggest concern while traveling was knowing where to find a clean washroom. No wonder this is a deciding factor in which gas stations/convenience stores people choose to visit.
When renovating a bathroom, touchless technology helps provide a more sanitary environment. Be sure to choose durable, easy-to-clean surfaces. If there is damage or graffiti following the renovation, repair it as soon as possible before it becomes a problem. (Learn More).
Make Your Store and Property Feel Safe.
Here’s another interesting stat from GasBuddy, this time from their 2017 Foot Traffic Report. They found that between 9 pm to 5 am, gas stations located on interstates that had outdoor lighting considered “above average” had 50% more visits than stations with “below average” lighting. The safer a customer feels, the more likely they’ll be to visit your property.
Introducing/Expanding Your Hot Food Offering
CTM’s Devin Mahaffey says introducing hot food service is a more significant investment, but one that can offer a higher return on investment.
According to a 2018 National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) publication, 22.5% of in-store product-related revenue can be attributed to Foodservice†. Prepared food accounts for 67.1% of total food-service sales. Hot food offerings such as hot-dogs, pizza, chicken and sandwiches represent a lion’s share of this revenue. So convenience stores that do not yet have a hot food program in place are losing out on a significant source of revenue.
Mahaffey notes that new mechanical systems may or may not be necessary depending on what type of hot food preparation is being planned. There may be a need to upgrade or install additional HVAC equipment – such as exhaust hoods, and ventilation to ensure fresh air circulation.
Food service does involve certain health code requirements, such as a three-compartment (scullery) sink, sneeze guards or hand sanitation stations. Specialized finishes may be needed: such as non-slip flooring for food preparation and FRP panels. A grease interceptor is another piece of equipment that may need to be installed.
Sure there will be upfront equipment and installation costs, but the revenue opportunities outweigh the expenditures.
† Not including the sale of fuel and services that generate fees: car wash, lottery, ATM, etc.
You’re Ready to Renovate!
With these ideas in mind, you’re ready to contact an engineering design and architecture firm to help put your plan into action. As your partner, they can provide further recommendations to make your renovation experience profitable and painless.