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Electric car sales climb in wake of new $5,000 federal rebate program

EV Charging Sign_Sm_071219Canada’s new rebate program to help make electric cars cheaper appears to be showing early signs of stimulating sales but mostly in the two provinces that require a minimum number of electric car sales.

On May 1, Ottawa began offering rebates of up to $5,000 on the purchase of some electric vehicles in a bid to bring the cost of lower-end models closer to that of their gas-powered cousins.

Announced in the March budget, the incentives are part of Ottawa’s goal to increase sales of electric cars to 10% of all vehicles sold by 2025, 30% by 2030 and 100% by 2040.

Last year, electric and plug-in hybrids accounted for about 2% of total vehicle sales.

Matthew Klippenstein, an engineer who began tracking electric vehicle sales a few years ago on his website Canada EV Sales, said they accounted for 4% of all vehicle sales in May and June.

It’s still a tiny share _ the Ford F-series pickup trucks alone accounted for 7% of all vehicle sales _ but it is rising. And Klippenstein said the federal rebate “has definitely increased sales in the past couple of months.”

Transport Canada reports that more than 14,000 electric cars and minivans were bought nationwide using the rebate since May 1. The department, which is overseeing the rebate program, also said overall electric vehicle sales were up 30% between January and June, compared to the year before.

But Klippenstein said there is one caveat to the data. More than eight in 10 of the electric vehicles sold in May and June, were sold in British Columbia and Quebec. Those are the only two provinces that have a provincial rebate – Ontario did until last year when Premier Doug Ford cancelled it after being elected – and both allow their rebate to be combined with the federal one for even greater savings.

Even more important to the sales distribution is that both B.C. and Quebec require dealerships to sell a certain percentage of electric cars, Klippenstein said. If they don’t meet the quotas they have to either pay a fine or buy credits from competitors who exceeded their quotas.

Klippenstein said there is still a limited supply of electric cars and those the automakers are sending to Canada are going to B.C. and Quebec first to make sure dealerships hit their quotas.

Dan Woynillowicz, policy director at Clean Energy Canada, said there is still work to do to install public charging stations in the provinces that have never had a rebate. The lack of that infrastructure is contributing to lower sales there.

Transport Canada hasn’t yet been able to provide further details about what kinds of cars were the most popular purchases or sales numbers by province.

The federal rebates are available for fully electric vehicles whose lowest-end model retails for less than $45,000, or $55,000 for vehicles that have seven or more seats like minivans. Up to $5,000 is available, with fully electric vehicles bought outright or leased for at least four years eligible for the maximum. Shorter-range plug-in hybrids or fully electric cars leased for shorter times are eligible for rebates between $625 and $3,750 depending on the length of the lease and the type of vehicle.

Couche-Tard closes investment in cannabis retailer

Couche-Tard LogoAlimentation Couche-Tard Inc.officially entered the cannabis retailing sector with the closing of its investment in Fire & Flower Holdings Corp., an independent cannabis retailer.

Based in Edmonton, Alberta, Fire & Flower Holdings Corp. operates or licenses 23 cannabis retail stores in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario; a wholesale distribution division in Saskatchewan; and the HiFyre digital retail platform.

Last month, Couche-Tard announced it would make a strategic investment in Fire & Flower, providing the latter with additional capital to further accelerate its expansion strategy.

Key points of the deal include:

  • Couche-Tard invested approximately $26 million in the form of unsecured convertible debentures to obtain a 9.9% ownership interest in Fire & Flower on a fully diluted basis.
  • Couche-Tard has also been issued common share purchase warrants that, if exercised in full, would subsequently increase its ownership interest to 50.1 percent on a fully diluted basis.

Following the closing of the transaction, Fire & Flower appointed Jeremy Bergeron to the company’s board of directors.

“Through this strategic investment, we reinforce our intention to become a key player in North America’s cannabis industry,” said Brian Hannasch, president and CEO of Couche-Tard. “We are excited to see what we can achieve together with Fire & Flower, as we further expand in Canada and look to leverage our presence in the United States and beyond.”

Additionally, the common shares in the capital of Fire & Flower commenced trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange as of Aug. 7.

“Combining Couche-Tard’s expertise in scaling retail stores with Fire & Flower’s retail experience and proprietary Hifyre digital platform positions our company extremely well to capitalize on new cannabis markets as they emerge,” commented Trevor Fencott, CEO, Fire & Flower.

Based in Laval, Couche-Tard’s worldwide total network includes more than 16,000 convenience stores, which primarily operate under the Circle K banner.

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 

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CrossAmerica exiting retail operations as Circle K takes over

Screen Shot 2019-08-13 at 3.04.52 PMCrossAmerica Partners LP is making good on its strategic initiatives, moving closer to exiting direct retail operations and according to President and CEO Gerardo Valencia, the company is confident about delivering on its goals for the future.

In May, CrossAmerica and Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. completed the first in a series of asset swaps.

“We completed our first tranche of the asset exchange with Circle K on May 21 in which we received 60 sites,” Valencia said during CrossAmerica’s second-quarter earnings call on Aug. 6.

The sites are now under CrossAmerica’s wholesale fuel segment.

“We are now working on our second one and we have signed contracts with dealer for 65 additional sites. Most of which will be part of the second tranche of assets to be exchanged,” he explained.

According to the chief executive, the company is completing its final due diligence and expect to the transactions finalized before the end of the third quarter.

Based on the current timeline CrossAmerica expects the final assets to change hands by the first quarter of 2020.

As part of the overall exchange agreement, CrossAmerica will receive 192 company-operated convenience and retail fuel stores in the United States. Of the sites, 162 are fee-based and 30 are leased. The transaction is valued at $184.5 million, as Convenience Store News previously reported.

CrossAmerica’s general partner, CrossAmerica GP LLC, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Couche-Tard.

For its part, Couche-Tard’s Circle K division will receive the real estate property for 56 U.S. company-operated convenience and retail fuel stores currently leased and operated by Couche-Tard/Circle K.

In addition, Circle K will receive 17 company-operated stores in the upper Midwest region of the U.S. Fourteen of the sites are fee-based and three are leased. All of the 17 sites are currently part of CrossAmerica’s retail segment.

Those assets also have an aggregate value of approximately $184.5 million.

In addition to the asset swap pact with Couche-Tard, CrossAmerica has been making progress on its rebranding efforts at the former Jet-Pep sites in Alabama. CrossAmerica acquired the sites in late 2017.

“Over half of the 90 sites have now been hard branded and reimagined through the Marathon brand, and we have changed dispensers in over half of the network,” Valencia said.

“As we improve the network quality, we’re seeing the benefits as we planned, optimizing the volume and profitability of the network, with an increase of 47%t over the first half of 2018,” he explained. “As we complete the work by the third quarter of the year, we expect further growth from these networks.”

In addition, as the second quarter was coming to a close, CrossAmerica entered into a master fuel supply and lease agreement with Applegreen plc. Under the terms of the agreement, Applegreen will run 46 company-operated retail stores in the Upper Midwest.

“We are very excited to expand our relationship with them. They are very strong operator and we expect to finish the year with over 100 sites by the end of 2019,” Valencia said.


In the second quarter, CrossAmerica reported $13.9 million in operating income and $6.4 million in net income. This compares to an operating loss of $1.6 million and a net loss of $6.9 million for the second quarter of 2018.

This resulted in adjusted EBITDA growth and strong distributable cash flow, Valencia noted. Specifically, adjusted EBITDA was $27.7 million and distributable cash flow was $22.3 million.

“As previously mentioned, we plan to exceed our direct retail operations to focus on working what we do best. We expect that as we do this, our adjusted EBITDA will actually grow as we generate efficiencies in this process,” he said.

In addition, CrossAmerica will continue to assess other opportunities whether that is third party acquisitions or current assets at Circle K, according to Valencia.

“All of these will continue to be with discipline to continue to deliver growth. We are growing and delivering on our plan,” he said.

Allentown-based CrossAmerica is a wholesale distributor of motor fuels and owner and lessee of real estate used in the retail distribution of motor fuels. Formed in 2012, CrossAmerica Partners LP is a distributor of branded and unbranded petroleum for motor vehicles in the United States and distributes fuel to approximately 1,300 locations and owns or leases nearly 1,000 sites. With a geographic footprint covering 31 states, the partnership has relationships with several major oil brands, including ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Chevron, Sunoco, Valero, Gulf, CITGO, Marathon and Phillips 66.

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 


Wash operators share 5 strategies to reduce staff turnover

Good hiring practices set the stage for employee retention

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Staff turnover is expensive. Operators who fail to hire and keep good employees can run heavy costs for recruitment, training and supports. According to Peoplekeep, a US-based benefits provider, the cost of replacing an employee is about 16% of annual salary in high-turnover, low-paying jobs where employees earn less than $30,000 a year. For instance, the cost to replace a full-time worker earning $10/hour is more than $3,300. 

Here are five tips to help stay on the right side of employment challenges.


  1. Thoughtful recruitment

    Have a solid hiring plan and stick to it. This includes a formal interview and hiring process. Go beyond simple basics—‘Can you wipe a car window?’ or ‘Can you work the POS system?’—and look for soft skills that will make a difference in customer experience. Is the applicant energetic? Does the applicant have good social skills? 


At Valet Car Wash, an Ontario-based multi unit operator, compliance and training manager Karen Smith sees recruiting as an ongoing process. “Even if you don’t have a position available, be prepared to find something if a ‘perfect’ applicant comes along.” She recruits through organizations, such as Second Chance in Guelph, Ont. and the YMCA, while using federal government programs to assist with training. 

Valet Car Wash also relies on Indeed, Facebook and word of mouth. “Friends tell friends if the employment environment is good,” she says adding that the company looks for employees with similar core values. “When the fit is there, retention is high. During our interview I tell applicants about Valet’s values and ask them to give two examples of core values they possess.”

Valet also works with local universities and colleges to post job openings on online career pages and the company has had some success with local high school co-op programs, resulting in hiring after the co-op term finished. “This includes students with disabilities, who have developed into valuable employees,” says Smith.


  1. Show, don’t tell

    When workers see management creating positive interactions with customers this goes a long way toward connecting the dots in an operation. The same is true of simple tasks that need to be done well. As part of an effort to get everyone on the same service page, management must be prepared to clean floors to demonstrate standards and techniques.

At Tony Heembrock’s Dreams Eco XPress Car Wash in Okotoks, AB, new staff participate in three four-hour introductory shifts to shadow a co-worker. “Then, new workers do a full shift with a supervisor. You can’t just let new people take on a roll in the business without meaningful supports. There is too much at stake,” says Heembrock, adding his company’s HR process has earned respect from workers, many of whom have been with the company since the beginning. 


  1. Set high standards for training

    Don’t wing it, instead be prepared with a full training and intake program that includes manuals and expectations regarding the job itself, as well as how workers should behave with one another: Negative employee interaction stands out as a leading cause of staff turnover. 

As well, your training program should take applicants to higher levels of understanding. Create a culture of success and support, and then follow through with on-going training to keep staff up-to-date regarding industry innovations, such as new chemicals and systems.

Heembrock uses a substantial employee handbook to clearly outline the job, performance expectations and details about the company. Dreams Eco Wash relies on suppliers to provide added information on new products and technical data for items, such as waxes. All the information is shared with staff.


  1. Think benefits

    It’s a competitive world and businesses that offer more to employees experience lower turnover. A good wage is a starting place, but benefits, including monthly prizes and recognition, as well as health plans, go a long way toward keeping workers happy at work. 


  1. Communicate with workers

    If you don’t ask, you don’t know. Conduct exit interviews to gather valuable information and help management get on the right track. Take this one step further by talking to satisfied workers to find out why they stay. Take the information and fine tune it as part of your employee retention plan. 


While Valet doesn’t do exit interviews with general labourers, they do so for managers and supervisors. Smith says this offers tremendous insight and helps shape how the company operates: “The goal is continuous improvement in everything we do.”


Four steps to make your c-store a foodservice destination

IMG_2526-teaserCustomization, freshness and bold flavors — these are qualities that an increasing number of consumers, particularly younger ones who have growing buying power, say they most want in the food they buy from convenience stores and other foodservice operators.

This makes a strong case for offering made-to-order foodservice programs, but some existing c-stores don’t have the in-store space to fit a full made-to-order program, while other c-stores might not be able to support or staff one based on the local market.

C-store retailers without made-to-order foodservice programs are not doomed to fail; they can still be competitive — if they invest in and execute high-quality grab-and-go programs.

Even chains that do lean in hard on made-to-order are leaving money on the table if they do not maintain a grab-and-go offering and put effort into keeping it strong.

Here are four ways to make a grab-and-go foodservice program shine:


Customization gives customers the opportunity to get “what I want, how I want it” — but what many want is simply to get in and out as quickly as possible.

“I think that speed trumps customization,” said Paul Servais, retail foodservice director at Kwik Trip Inc. He noted that while the La Crosse, Wis.-based chain still offers some self-serve customization options, such as its sandwich toppings bar, the lack of full-service customization has never been a deal-breaker for its customers.

Being able to make a quick food purchase is a big part of “convenience” for busy consumers who are eating more meals and snacks on the go than ever before. At certain times of the day, customers are more willing to wait as their customized order is prepared. At other times, customers may not have a choice if they have somewhere to be or a limited break from work.


Gaining customers’ trust in your grab-and-go food quality is important, but just as important is making sure product is always available to buy. That means retailers must know what customers will want, and how much of it they will want, hour by hour.

At Kwik Trip, homegrown data analytics and production plans have been developed and perfected over a period of years. By calculating what is likely to sell on a particular day and at a particular time, store employees can stock the hot and cold holding cases accordingly and avoid running out or having too much of something.

Hiring smart and skilled employees can make a difference, too, as their in-store experience will allow them to gauge what their store’s specific customers will want and when.

“We found that creating as many options as you can on the hot grab-and-go and allowing stores to decide which sellers are best for them [yields good results],” said Ryan Krebs, director of foodservice at York, Pa.-based Rutter’s, which has more than 85 items that could be stocked in the hot hold. “Stores can customize their offering for their consumer base.”


It’s not enough to just have a quality grab-and-go program at your stores. Retailers must get the word out and get customers to try it if they haven’t already done so.

In addition to marketing via billboards, social media, radio or TV, there’s a lot that can be done through in-store promotions and loyalty program deals.

“The largest opportunity is to take advantage of the opportunities once the guest is already on-site — inside or outside,” said Jeff Keune, senior vice president of foodservice and innovation at West Des Moines, Iowa-based Yesway. “We take a lot of time to develop the engagement points in the shopper cycle.”

Loyalty program deals and regular discount days on specific foodservice items can encourage customers to return and make repeat grab-and-go purchases.

“Loyalty is a fantastic and impactful tool to drive frequent users to visit even more often (for the food), as well as encourage new behaviors through cross-selling and innovation,” Keune said.


Limited-time offerings (LTO) can be used to create buzz and encourage trial, but a schedule is important. Retailers should know in advance how long a LTO will run, and have a long-term plan in mind for its rate of new ones. For example, Kwik Trip does LTOs quarterly.

By offering regular LTOs — particularly those based on seasons, events or holidays — c-store operators can prompt their customers to look forward to something new, and capitalize on the sense that they need to get it before it’s gone.

LTOs can work against a program, though, if they detract from the consistency that consumers demand, industry experts caution.

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 

5 things to know about consumer attitudes towards grab-and-go foods

fresh-fruit-grab-and-goConsumers increasingly want food that is fresh and convenient to their lifestyles, but capitalizing on this opportunity requires foodservice operators to have a plan.

Culinary Visions’ new Fresh Perspectives Study identifies five things operators should know about consumers’ cravings for fresh, convenient food they can eat on the go.

“Modern consumers’ lives are getting faster, and they expect their fuel to be able to keep up,” said Sharon Olson, executive director of Culinary Visions. “We found that many consumers are struggling to strike a balance between fresh versus fast, healthful versus convenient and global versus local. Fortunately, the food industry has picked up their pace, meaning consumers won’t have to compromise-or slow down.”

Five key findings from the study include:

1) Younger consumers lead the way. The study found that they show the most interest in grab-and-go foods and consistently express the most interest in concepts across the convenience, deli, prepared foods and foodservice markets: 68% of consumers ages 18-34 said that they were likely to purchase grab-and-go sandwiches from a deli vs. 57% of consumers ages 35-54 and 44% of those ages 55 and older. The division between age groups is even wider when it comes to convenience stores. Fifty-two% of those ages 18-34 say they enjoy eating food from c-stores vs. 40% of those ages 35-54 and 20% of those ages 55 and up.

2) Fresh amps up the appeal of healthful and indulgent offerings. A whopping 85% of consumers say that transparent packaging is important when it comes to defining fresh food. However, the healthfulness of ingredients might not matter as much as the fact that food inside the packaging is fresh. Consumers were split when choosing between healthfulness and indulgence, as 48% agree that they do not care about healthfulness when it comes to snacking on the go. Fresh is important, but consumers do not necessarily view fresh and healthfulness as one and the same, according to the Culinary Visions.

3) When grab-and-go beats delivery. Food delivery apps have grown very popular in recent years, but when it comes to freshness, grab and go wins: 58% of consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 agree that delivered food is rarely fresh, while 64% say that refrigerated prepared foods do taste fresh.

4) Loving local while relying on favorite brands. Consumers consider locally sourced ingredients to be one of the top indicators of freshness, with 84% agreeing that locally sourced food is the freshest food. Despite this, trusted brands continue to appeal to consumers. Brand loyalty might play an even bigger role in evaluating freshness, as 88% of consumers agree that there are certain brands they trust to be fresh.

5) More fresh produce, please. Fresh produce is one of the most highly desired grab-and-go concepts, as 75% of consumers say they would be likely to purchase raw fruits and vegetables they can eat on the go and 75% say they would be likely to purchase fresh food from a salad bar. Still, 66% agree that it is difficult to find fresh snacks on the go, which suggests that plenty of opportunities remain for prepared fruits, vegetable and salad options to grow, the firm noted.

Chicago-based Culinary Visions is a food-focused insights and trends forecasting practice that studies a wide range of culinary topics important to consumers and food industry professionals. It is a division and registered trademark of Olson Communications Inc.

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 

Kathy Perrotta

Kathy Perrotta to deliver keynote at Star Women in Convenience event

Kathy PerrottaConvenience Store News Canada is delighted to announce that Kathy Perrotta, Vice-President, Ipsos, will deliver the keynote address at the Star Women in Convenience Awards Breakfast event on October 8th.

In her keynote – Food Forward: Canadians Want Convenience Without Compromise – Perrotta will offer insights and explore the key socio-economic and macro trends shaping consumers’ consumption choices. Attendees will garner valuable information designed to help them capitalize on these trends to deliver solid foodservice programs, grab-and-go options and snacking solutions.

Perrotta, who also leads the Ipsos FIVE Food and Beverage tracking service, started her research career more than 40 years ago in the law libraries of Davies, Ward & Beck as a Law Clerk compelled by a curious need to know to why.  Over time, it became clear to Perrotta that the people in the case law were decidedly more interesting than the law itself.  In 2001, curiosity finally spawned a paradigm shift into a new career focused in consumer research.  Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles focused on bringing the voice, habits and beliefs of diverse Canadian Consumers to her clients.

For more information about Perrotta’s keynote, Star Women panelists, the winners and the event, visit the Star Women website.

The event will take place at the International Centre in Mississauga, Ont. from 7:30 am to 10:30 am – and tickets are now on sale. Space is limited.

Canadian food supplies at risk if climate change not slowed: UN report

Canada will not be spared the impact of food shortages and price shocks if global warming is not kept below 2 degrees Celsius, a new report on land use and climate change suggests.

The report, released this month by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, delivers stark warnings about the need for drastic changes to agricultural practices, human consumption habits and forestry management to prevent an escalation in the climate-change-related floods and forest fires that could lead to a global famine.

The Paris climate change agreement is straining to keep global warming below 2 C and as close to 1.5 C as possible, and Thursday’s report is the third in 10 months to lay bare the consequences if it fails. It also comes a week after the planet experienced its hottest month ever in July, following the warmest April, May and June on record.

At warming above 1.5 C, the report predicts periodic food shocks, significant and widespread melting of permafrost and an increase in the length of wildfire seasons.

Above 2 C, there will be sustained disruptions in food supplies all around the world, widespread increases in wildfire damage and detectable losses of soil and vegetation that can be attributed to climate change.

It is projected that for every degree of global warming, the world’s yield of wheat will fall 6%, corn by 7.4%, and rice and soybeans both by a little more than three per cent each. Together those four crops account for two-thirds of the calories consumed by people, and with the population growing by 80 million people each year on average, the world needs to produce more food, not less.

Werner Kurz, a senior research scientist at Natural Resources Canada and one of two Canadians among 108 scientists who co-authored the report, said he doesn’t think most people understand the magnitude and pace of climate change, but he also said he believes reports like Thursday’s must be used to deliver potential solutions, not just nightmares.

“As scientists we need to be careful in sort of communicating doomsday scenarios because if we create a fearful world, then inaction will be the consequence,” he said. “People will be paralyzed and fearful.

“What instead this report is trying to do – and I hope is successful in achieving – is to, yes, lay out the consequences of inaction, but also then highlight the many opportunities we have for action and the co-benefits this has for livelihoods, for water.”

Kurz said to slow global warming, people need to burn fewer fossil fuels and improve how land is used, so that it not only contributes fewer greenhouse emissions, but also absorbs more of them.

The report suggests agriculture, forestry and other land use activities contributed almost one-quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activity between 2007 and 2016.

That includes changing human diets to be more plant-based and less meat-based, because plant-based proteins require less farmland.

It also means diversifying the kinds of trees being planted in forests rather than focusing entirely on coniferous trees, which burn differently than deciduous trees. Using more wood to build things like houses and buildings and replanting with more diverse species can help regenerate forests, which become bigger risks for fires when they are old, he said.

But Kurz, whose job for Natural Resources Canada is to track the contributions forests make to Canada’s emissions, said there is a vicious cycle in play where climate change has made more forests vulnerable to burning, but that burning is then contributing to more climate change.

Catherine Abreu, executive director of the Climate Action Network Canada, said the idea of diversifying forests is critical to improving their management.

“Canadians and Canadian governments tend to think of our forests as carbon sinks rather than sources of emissions, but we know that has been false now for a couple of years,” she said.

Kurz acknowledged that the changes needed likely won’t come easily for many people, but he said understanding the implications of not doing it should help.

“What we need to realize is that how we choose to live will have an impact on future climate.”


Fuel and wash sites embrace digital solutions

Screen Shot 2019-08-01 at 11.00.52 PMGlobal market analysts at Accenture recently looked at forecourt and the retail fuel sector to determine leading forces of change in the industry. Key among the discoveries is that digital systems provide the tools necessary to navigate the considerable changes impacting the forecourt and related services, such as car wash. 

Disruption is accelerating

In Fuel Retail Digital Survey 2018, authors Neale Johnson, managing director of Fuel Retail Europe, and Brian Gray, managing director of Retail Fuel North America, found that disruption to the market, from electric vehicles (EV), consumer behaviours and other factors, are accelerating.

Here in Canada, EV sales are moving forward at breakneck speed. In fact, sales have increased by more than 66% every year for the previous five years. These days about 8% of vehicle sales in Canada are electric.

The provinces and federal government are helping drive this change. For example, Quebec uses a quota system to push EV that requires auto dealers to sell a minimum percentage of EV or pay a penalty. British Columbia has recently expanded its zero emission vehicle policy to ensure that no gas-powered vehicles be sold in the province after 2040. Also, The federal government has increased its rebate program for electric vehicles.

Here, opportunities exist to develop more charging sites alongside traditional fueling centres.  Canada sports just 5850 EV charging stations, a number that shows fewer than one charging station for every 100-km of road across the country. The uptick is that with chargers taking about 30 minutes to juice electric vehicles, fuel centres have longer periods during which to sell convenience and culinary products.    

Commitments to digital investments

In the survey, 80% of respondents said they planned to make significant investments in digital solutions during the next five years. Operators said that these investments would allow them to better engage with customers and improve services. Investments include apps and POS systems to boost speed of service and enhance loyalty. Already we are seeing wash-site operators take up the digital challenge and run with it.

 For instance, Ontario-based operators such as Valet Car Wash and Klassic Car Wash have developed their own apps that are available via the App Store, Google Play and other sites. Users can load cash, activate washes, earn loyalty bonuses and explore other features. In the App store alone, there are more than 100 wash and fuel site operators, including Shell, McEwan Oil and Co-Op.

According to Mike Black of Valet Car Wash, Canada is more advanced than the U.S. when it comes to digital payment systems. He says that in the U.S. the wash business is 70% cash, with operators using coin boxes, while sites in Canada are exploring contactless payment, cards and apps.

At fueling sites, the coming fifth generation of Internet connectivity (5G) will bring huge enhancements to marketing and convenience at the pumps. Already auto manufacturers, such as Honda and Land Rover, have are installing features so that vehicles can facilitate payments for gas and other items. In Canada, our systems are not prepped for this activity and gas apps, including Shell and others, are not ready yet to perform purchase functions at the pumps. With 5G, however, everything is on the table, such as beacon technology delivering marketing messages to onboard visual displays and digital payment portals effortlessly taking payment.

Analytics enhances performance

With the increase in digital investment comes the ability to enhance analysis. Operators are now better able to predict customer behaviour thanks to sales tracking made easier through apps and POS tools. In wash systems, for instance, sensors now measure and work with electronic dispensers to more accurately deliver chemicals and water to the wash process. Operators are able to examine every stage of the system and fine tune for performance that can increase profits, as well as customer satisfaction.

At the forecourt, digital analytics creates greater efficiency in fuel delivery, margin control and staffing. And, the tools are all accessible remotely, allowing management to review and input from anywhere at anytime.


Digital maturity is the goal

The report emphasizes the need to continue investments in skills training, automation and partnerships. The authors say these are essential for operators to realize their digital aspirations. Already 42% of fuel operators report they are digital savvy and have launched systems to take advantage of the shifts in technology.

Better foundations needed to realize digital value

Fuel retailers may only be at the start of their journey, but they know where they are headed,says Accentures Brian Gray, adding that 75% of retailers surveyed saw digital systems as a major benefit to their business.   


Sobeys to remove plastic bags from all stores next year as retailers go green

Screen Shot 2019-08-01 at 10.08.06 PMShoppers at Sobeys Inc. grocery stores will soon need to bring their own totes or lug their purchases home in paper bags as the chain moves to phase out plastic bags by February 2020.

Canadians go through hundreds of millions of single-use plastic bags at grocery stores each year, and the chains – most of which charge a nominal fee for plastic bags – are facing pressure from increasingly eco-conscious consumers to do more to eliminate their plastic-centric packaging.

Sobeys said it is making the move to phase out plastic bags as a response to calls from customers and employees to use less plastic. The retailer also committed to launch programs to reduce plastic in other areas of the stores.

“We really felt that the amount of avoidable plastic in grocery stores is shocking,” said Vittoria Varalli, the company’s vice-president of sustainability. The change will eliminate 225 million bags used annually at Sobeys 255 stores.

The company, which is owned by Stellarton, N.S.-based Empire Co. Ltd, will phase out plastic bags and introduce paper bags at its other banners soon after. Sobeys also operates Safeway, Thrifty Foods, IGA, Foodland, Freshco and Farm Boy. It boasts more than 1,500 stores across all its chains.

“The ultimate goal,” said Varalli, is to eliminate plastic bags from the produce aisle as well. It plans to introduce a line of reusable mesh alternatives made from recycled bottles in August.

Food companies have been on a mission to reduce plastic from their operations recently as consumers push for more sustainable practices. Some are taking initiatives to change ahead of the federal government’s announced ban on single-use plastics by 2021, which would force them to find non-plastic alternatives.

Last year, restaurants responded to pressure to eliminate plastic straws after a video showing someone removing a straw stuck up a turtle’s nose went viral.

Starbucks, A&W and other chains made promises to remove the item from their eateries, and some have already done so.

But the trend toward sustainability didn’t stop at straws. Many fast-food giants started experimenting with other green packaging. In June, McDonald’s Canada announced it would test wooden cutlery and other recycling-friendly containers at two restaurants.

“I think they’re trying to respond to popular concern,” said Vito Buonsante, plastics program manager at the advocacy organization Environmental Defence, of grocers’ efforts to reduce plastic waste by targeting plastic bags.

In coastal regions, plastic bags create a major environmental problem, he said, where they persist for a long time and harm wildlife.

Despite the fact that Canadians use about 2.86 billion plastic bags a year, Buonsante sees them as “low-hanging fruit” that people easily can do without.

Grocery stores are slowly starting to get on board with the push to eliminate single-use plastics.

Metro Inc. announced earlier this year it would start allowing consumers to use reusable containers to store fresh products, such as those from the deli and pastry counters, at its Quebec stores.

In May, the company committed to cut its use of single-use plastic bags in half by the end of its 2023 financial year. It also said it wants to reduce the amount of produce bags used by 10 per cent by the end of its 2020 financial year.

Loblaw Companies Ltd., meanwhile, started charging five cents per plastic bag about a decade ago and reduced the number of plastic bags used in its stores by nearly 12 billion, wrote spokesperson Catherine Thomas in an email.

It has donated $10 million to the World Wildlife Fund with some of the proceeds as of the end of 2018. Thomas declined to provide the total amount the company has made by charging for plastic bags.

Meanwhile, customers seeking greener grocery pastures have given rise to niche no-waste markets across Canada.

“Change is kind of happening,” said Buonsante, but – for the most part – these initiatives are limited in effectiveness.

A five-cent bag fee is not a strong deterrent, he said, and companies should create incentives to help shoppers shift their habits.

Governments around the world have started to crack down on single-use plastics to force companies into change.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in June that his government is starting the regulatory work to ban toxic single-use plastics because the garbage infiltrating the world’s waterways is out of hand.

Nothing is going to be banned overnight, with the process to implement a federal ban or limitations on a product under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act usually taking two to four years. The goal is to make decisions on everything on the list by 2021.

Trudeau said Canada’s plan will “closely mirror” that of Europe. In March, the European Parliament agreed that by 2021 the European Union will ban almost a dozen single-use products including plastic plates, cutlery, cups, straws, plastic sticks in cotton swabs, balloon sticks and stir sticks, and Styrofoam cups and take-out food containers. Oxo-degradeable plastics including plastic grocery bags, which break down into tiny pieces with exposure to air but never fully disappear, are also to be banned.