Pétroles Alcasyna, based in Amos, QC, will soon celebrate its first quarter of a century in business. Back in 1993, Alain Lapointe, his brother Sylvain and his sisters Carole and Nathalie came together to create the family enterprise. Their first gas station and c-store site opened in 1994, followed by the construction of a new store shortly after. The expansion has continued, and in 2017, the business consists of 11 c-stores, six Petro-Canada service stations and 14 small Petro-Abitémis service stations. Business ownership comes naturally to these siblings; the Lapointe family had already been in business with another enterprise since 1954.
A family affair
Audrey Lapointe, President Alain Lapointe’s daughter, arrived in 2010 after her university training in public communications, marketing and management, as well as two years of experience in the festival organization and planning environment. She currently acts as the company’s Commercial Director. The fourth generation to join the family business, Audrey had previously worked in the hotel complex owned by her father while studying. When she started drawing the attention of various employers seven years ago, her father created a position tailored to her strengths to keep her skills in the family business.
Audrey took charge of standardizing procedures, of merchandising, of managing margins and profitability, as well as the negotiations with suppliers. “The big challenge is to distinguish ourselves from the competition. It forces us to innovate,” explains the young woman who is constantly searching for new products and ideas.
In Amos, community life is a big priority. “I love to get involved. It creates a great dynamic in the municipality. I love to give back and the adrenalin that comes with it,” she says. Vice-president on the board of Festival H2O, which is a family, sport and music event, Audrey is involved in the success of this July event that has been attracting people for more than 10 years. In 2016, the event welcomed 50,000 attendees. She also contributes to the children’s party of Amos, a free celebration at the end of the school year.
Already a franchisee for Petro-Canada in the area, the firm announced in 2016 that it had signed an agreement with the Canadian A&W banner to obtain all franchise rights to come in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. Their first restaurant opens at the end of this summer in La Sarre, and the next one, in November, in Val d’Or. Three more restaurants are scheduled by 2020. These restaurants, which will be attached to the Petro-Canada c-store locations, will be an important driver of traffic as foodservice continues its growing role in the successful c-store equation. In the press release announcing this development, President Alain Lapointe says that the quality of the ingredients used had convinced the enterprise to close this deal. “The A&W restaurants also hold good business values focused on the human aspect, values we share,” he added.
As Pétroles Alcasyna expands, so does the need for new employees. In addition to approximately 100 current employees, the management team plans to recruit 75 to 100 new people. This expansion made it necessary for the business to look into the recruitment of a Human Resources Director.
Racks and contests
“The challenge in 2017 is to stand out from the competition and we have invested a lot of money and energy into promotion through events, for example, and via Facebook and Instagram,” says Audrey. Concepts that work well are Rack à Broue and Rack à bonbons, which are in-store displays for merchandising their impressive selection of beer and candy, respectively.
Based on the growing interest for micro-beers, the idea of Rack à Broue turned into a fruitful concept. It works very well in association with events such as shows or festivals. When you walk into Relais Routier Petro-Canada on 6e Rue Ouest in Amos, the presentation of the various beers makes it pleasant to explore. Long horizontal blackboards above the displays introduce featured beers the way a bistro proudly advertises its menu. On Facebook, Rack à Broue uses attractive photos to announce new arrivals and events, such as Bières et Tapas that was organized last February to raise money for Festival H2O. This dynamic presence in different social media avenues has become an important marketing tool.
Rainbows of candies
Rack à bonbons was inaugurated in a small neighbourhood c-store. Le Relais des Pins, on 4e Rue Est in Amos, offers more than 300 varieties of candies. A wall of candies in all colours, shapes, sizes and flavours attracts people of all ages with a sweet tooth. Clients can obtain a loyalty card and a Facebook page announces new treats and contests to keep customers engaged and coming back to the store.
Several means are used to raise the awareness about the unique selection of candies that differ from the widely distributed brands. Bags of candies are prepared for parades and special platters are available for students involved in fundraising projects. “I’ve searched on the Internet to discover suppliers who sell candies from elsewhere, for example, I found very sour candies from Great Britain. I organised a contest on Facebook to capture people’s reactions when they eat these candies”.
When you ask her where these innovations come from, like Rack à Broue and Rack à bonbons or other ideas, Audrey replies: “It all comes out of my head and I discuss with people around me. The store managers where we launched Rack à bonbons and Rack à Broue are very dynamic and always looking for innovations as well, which helps me a lot. My father challenges me and it ends up being a realistic concept in the end.”
Alain Lapointe remembers that his daughter was worried about getting bored if she joined the family business; but it was not the case. The president reveals his pride when he talks about his daughter. “Her dynamism comes first. Then her sense of organisation.” The Lapointe family and their growing team keep moving forward.