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Part one: Ontario retailer plans for renovation success

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Are you planning a renovation? Here’s some advice from Hesham Elbakr, a retailer in the process of overhauling his c-gas site:

  1.  Turn to the experts. For the best results, turn to those who know the industry. They’ll help guide you in the right direction.
  2. Expand your offering. When undertaking a renovation, figure out which additional products and services will best serve your community.
  3. Improve the function. Address issues such as layout and accessibility to ensure your store is welcoming and safe for all customers.  

Elbakr recently purchased Welland Convenience, a busy c-store and Esso-branded gas site in Welland, ON.

Elbakr believes in the store’s potential, but is certain it needs a makeover to better serve customers and maximize sales. He turned to The Convenience Guru, also known as Hugh Large, industry expert and owner of Hugh Large and Associates, to help him turn the store into a more practical and successful business.

“It’s a very good site in terms of gas and convenience volume, but the store has been badly beat up over the years and not much has been done to make it a modern convenience store,” says Large.

Elbakr agrees, and has accepted Large’s proposed layout plans. “The current store has many things that need to be addressed, including plumbing, flooring, and spacing issues,” says Elbakr. “My goal is to increase the business, diversify the products we have, as well as to have an establishment I can be proud to call my own.”

Large has proposed interior changes to help brighten and modernize the site:

  • Large has dedicated significant space for a Country Style and Mr. Sub franchise, a food-prep area including a microwave and roller grill, as well as other grab-and-go options.
  • “There are a lot of fixtures in the store and they’re spread out all over the place. So you’ve got candy in multiple places, and beverages in multiple locations,” Large explains. The plan is to unify the merchandising choices so customers can always find exactly what they’re looking for.
  • Floor fixtures will be replaced with newer, sleeker structures that will make it easier for Elbakr to merchandise snack and confectionery items.
  • The cash desk will be relocated from its current location at the front entrance against a wall, to the centre of the store. This floating structure will open up valuable wall space, allow for additional merchandising options around the high-traffic counter, and will also improve traffic flow throughout the store.
  • The current freestanding beverage coolers will be removed and replaced with walk-in coolers that will provide twice as much merchandising space.

Outside of the store, the updates continue:

  • “We’re getting rid of the current gas pumps; we currently have two regular pumps and one diesel pump, but we’re going to have four brand new pumps, two of which will be a 3+1 (regular, extra, supreme, and diesel),” says Elbakr.
  • “We’re also changing our gas tank technology from suction to submersible and getting a passport system for the POS, which will mean one main system for pay-at-the-pump and in-store transactions,” he says.
  • Large has recommended cleaning up the exterior, which means removing the bars and clutter from the windows to make the site more inviting.

Standing out

Large and Elbakr have developed a plan that will set Welland Convenience apart from the competition. Not only will the high-volume site have a Country Style and Mr. Sub foodservice program to drive traffic in store, it will also have a renovated, wheelchair-accessible bathroom. Customers will surely recognize the investment of floor space and money for a clean, modern bathroom.

“I am excited for the renovations to be on their way,” says Elbakr. “Once everything is said and done, I believe all my hard work, along with the hard work of all of my staff and everyone involved in this transformation, will have paid off.”