SAN ANTONIO — BP has had a steady presence in the convenience channel with its ampm banner on the West Coast. Three years ago, it entered a joint venture with ArcLight Capital Partners to acquire Thorntons, the roughly 200-store chain based in Louisville, Ky.
Fast forward to 2021, and BP ramped up its presence in the channel when it bought out ArcLight Capital to become the sole owner of Thorntons — giving it a solid foothold outside of its existing five-state footprint along the Pacific Coast.
Ownership of the Thorntons chain falls in line with BP's current three-prong focus: resilient hydrocarbons, convenience and mobility, and low carbon energy, according to Greg Franks, senior vice-president of mobility and convenience, Americas.
Convenience Store News had the opportunity to meet with Franks and several other executives with BP and the BP Amoco Marketers Association (BPAMA) at the recent BPAMA Convention and Business Expo in San Antonio, held March 8.
As Franks explained, BP will always sell fuel, but the company also wants to grow its convenience store network and embrace the coming changes in the mobility landscape as it looks to diversify its business.
"If you have a strong backcourt and a strong forecourt, you will have a strong business," he said.
BP completed its acquisition of Thorntons in September 2021 and is currently working through the integration process. The chain has great customer service and a good end-to-end program, noted Franks.
"It gives us the capability, along with ampm, to think about how we want to grow convenience throughout our network," he added.
While working through the integration, BP is keeping an eye out for best practices to share. For example, the company is opening up Thorntons' E15 offer to its broader network. "The marketers asked for this. It's a great example of listening to our customers (marketers) who continue to invest in fuels as consumer demand changes," explained Lisa Blalock, vice-president of marketing, mobility and convenience, Americas.
With the energy transition coming, BP is committed to helping its marketers by investing, innovating and marketing. Despite the changes in the mobility landscape, Franks still foresees strong fuel demand in 2040. "But we still want to understand the EV demand and we want to help our customers, our marketers, be able to meet the demand," he said.
Working with its marketers
Approximately 95% of the oil company's network runs through branded marketers, many of whom are multi-generational.
In addition to the association's meetings every two years — which bring out several corporate leaders — BP meets with BPAMA members often to understand the pain points of its marketers, according to Blalock.
"We are the fuel supplier of choice for our marketers, who work to meet the convenience and fuel needs of the consumer," she said. "How can we bring these tools and capabilities to them to grow their business and meet their customers' needs?"
Tim Corrigan, co-owner of Michigan-based Corrigan Oil and chair of BPAMA, is just one of many marketers that runs a family business. When asked about the challenges facing marketers today, he said the biggest one is how to stay relevant and profitable.
That goes hand-in-hand with another obstacle: technology, said Jack Allard, executive director of BPAMA since 2014.
"The industry is changing so rapidly. Technology touches everything: EV, scanners inside the store, loyalty programs — how consumers access convenience," he said. "How do our marketers stay abreast of the changes?"
BP and Amoco marketers come in all shapes and sizes. "Using technology as an example, they all handle it different ways. It's also difficult to predict what's coming next," Allard explained.
Labour is another pain point, according to Corrigan, and one BP is addressing with a few new solutions for its marketers. "The labour pool, in general, is a challenge and will be for the foreseeable future," he said. "The new Grabango program is a game-changer. It takes the pressure off the labor pool. That's the type of collaboration between BP and BPAMA. Everyone is excited about it."
Allard agrees there is potential there and, more importantly, says the contactless shopping experience is one that convenience store customers want.
For a photo gallery of new initiatives from the BPAMA event, click here.
- Originally published at Convenience Store News U.S. site.