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Parkland to open 50 standalone On the Run convenience stores

Targeting urban markets, the first is to debut in Vancouver.
Michelle Warren smiles
On the Run exterior shot

In tandem with its M&M Food Market acquisition, Parkland Corp. is ramping up expansion plans for its On the Run convenience brand.

The company aims to have about 1,000 stores across Canada and the U.S. by the end of 2025. These sites will be located in a mix of urban and suburban markets, for the most part accompanying retail gas sites. 

At the same time, however, Parkland will launch a fresh new standalone On the Run urban convenience store concept where M&M menu items will be a key part of the customer offering.

Simon Scott, director, corporate communications, told Convenience Store News Canada the first is to open in Vancouver and the plan is to open 50 standalone On the Run stores in high foot traffic urban locations close to public transit and densely populated residential neighbourhoods.

M&M will be integral to growing the On the Run standalone network, as well as bolstering in-store, e-commerce and home delivery offerings. 

M&M has about 300 standalone company- and franchise-owned stores, as well as roughly 2,000 Express locations, which means dedicated freezers inside other retailers, including Couche-Tard, several independent c-stores and Rexall. 

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M&M express inside a convenience store

In regards to the M&M Express concepts already in place in other c-stores (Beaudry & Cadrin has about 170 stores enrolled in its M&M Express program, which launched in 2018 and offers 75 frozen products, including 45 heat-and-eat meals), Parkland told CSNC it is "committed to this format and existing partnerships and see significant growth opportunity in this channel. The existing express partners operate across a variety of occasions and segments and are building brand awareness and driving business."

To differentiate, Parkland will, over time, work with the M&M team to expand M&M’s product assortment by developing new proprietary food products and services that will be available exclusively through the On the Run network, including the new standalone urban locations. 

Ian White pumping gas in front of an On the Run
Ian White, SVP strategic marketing and innovation, Parkland

Foray into food

Parkland has been working towards its goal of becoming a high-quality food destination for several years now. 

In early 2020, Parkland announced a multi-year agreement to strengthen its range of freshly prepared and quality meal options by expanding its long-standing relationship with Triple O’s restaurants, paving the way for more restaurants in British Columbia, as well as Triple O’s entry into Alberta and Ontario.

"Our goal was to further strengthen our offer in foodservice,” Ian White, SVP strategic marketing & innovation, Parkland, told OCTANE editor Kelly Gray at the time.

The Triple O’s partnership was designed to create opportunities in all dayparts and make the company a destination for more than just fuel or a car wash. 

With the rise on electric vehicles and fuel margins what they are, Parkland's diversification strategy and focus on convenient fresh, prepared in-store and take-home frozen food offerings makes sense. (In June 2021, Parkland announced plans to launch a network of electric vehicle ultra-fast chargers at its existing retail locations across British Columbia and into Alberta. Giving customers something to do, like eat and shop, while they wait for their EV to charge is a smart move.)

READ: Cold comfort: During the pandemic, consumers sought security in frozen foods

M&M's current leadership team, led by president Andy O'Brien, will continue to contribute to operate the brand and work with the Parkland team on the development of its broader food strategy. "The combination of our innovative food capabilities and Parkland’s more than 3,000 retail locations in 25 countries creates an immediate runway of growth and expansion opportunities," said O'Brien. 

The plan includes:

  • Developing new, integrated store concepts with On the Run and M&M, while continuing to expand the existing M&M Express offer.
  • Bolstering loyalty program growth through a coalition between M&M Rewards and Journie.
  • Expanding M&M and food capability into Parkland’s existing U.S. and Caribbean markets.

U.S. growth and acquisitions

Parkland has been busy south of the border increasing its c-store footprint. In September 2020, Parkland Corp. announced it had acquired the license for the exclusive use of the On the Run (OTR) trademark in the majority of U.S. states from Alimentation Couche-Tard. The deal paved the way for Parkland to create a unified brand in its c-store offering.

Several recent acquisitions by Parkland USA are helping forge that path. 

"We are a consolidator. We have been very successful at consolidating the convenience and fuel marketing space," president and CEO Bob Espey explained during the company's recent Investor Day. "We're not a pure-play convenience company. We're not a pure-play fuel company. But those opportunities allow us to buy good assets at good value and grow them."

READ: Parkland sees long runway for growth through industry consolidation

In Canada, Parkland recently entered a deal to acquire 156 Husky retail fuel stations from Cenovus for $156 million and in summer 2021 strengthened its Quebec retail network with the acquisition of Pétroles Crevier Inc.

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