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We had a story yesterday about how there are concerns in some quarters that when electric vehicles become more popular, it will have a negative impact on the beverage industry - largely because if people don’t have to stop and get gas at filling stations/c-stores, they wont stop to buy a beverage.

MNB reader Carl Jorgensen responded:

What about convenience stores taking over the electric car charging business? The longer charge times present an opportunity for C-stores to sell more to waiting customers, and maybe even provides some entertainment while they wait. Just sayin’.

MNB reader Eric Carlson wrote:

I don’t stop at any gas stations with my all electric Chevy Bolt. So I can see where the gas stations could lose the sales of food and beverage items as electric cars become more commonplace.

My suggestion to the station owners is to put in the fast charging stations (that take an hour to top off your car) and give me something to spend some money on! Put in a real restaurant/lounge and sell me something better (with more margin). Charge me $2 for wi-fi access (no more that please) so I can work. Take advantage of a temporarily captive customer. They have them in the MassPike  rest areas already.

From another reader:

Just thinking about unintended consequences here, hybrids and electric vehicles have also been steadily reducing gasoline tax revenue states collect, especially in CA.  States need this revenue to keep infrastructure updated so since state governments never cut costs and are rarely fiscally responsible, they will have to find other ways to raise the lost tax revenue.  I continue to hear the mileage tax being proposed and in some states that might work but in a car born society like ours, I think it’s a third rail for politicians who eventually vote it into law.  So, that being said it will be really interesting to watch all this play out over the next 10-20 years but I do believe there will be additional unintended consequences for sure!

MNB reader Lisa Malmarowski wrote:

What an opportunity. Imagine if convenience stores started revamping their model into modern waysides that would include green spaces, dog walk areas, lovely outdoor seating, beautiful restrooms with showers, quick healthy meals and more, and included shaded electric car charging areas. A place where people would want to stop to stretch their legs, take a break and actually enjoy their road trips more. Right now, they are places to get the hell in and out of - they’re greasy, smell of gas and are designed strictly for convenience. But they could be become a destination.

And from another reader:

As an electric vehicle early adopter, I think there are plenty of opportunities to exploit. A long distance trip in a Tesla Model S or Model 3 will necessitate stops at charging stations, either third-party or Tesla-owned Superchargers. Even with the highest amperage charging available, EV drivers are a captive audience for at least 20 minutes as they wait to charge their 60 to 100kWh battery packs.

Sheetz is one retailer that is embracing the future. They partnered with Tesla beginning last year to build Supercharger spots at convenience stores. I don’t expect that Sheetz will have EV customers outnumber their gas customers any time soon, but ignoring a fast-growing segment brings to mind buggy whips. Retailers that want to stay relevant through the 21st century will find ways to cater to electric vehicle charging…and whatever else comes down the (turn)pike.

Easy lesson to take from this story and the various responses.

Stay relevant. Or die. Your choice.

MNB reader Bob Wheatley had some thoughts about yesterday’s Innovation Conversation:

The exchange here on retail strategy was telling as Amazon makes remarkable investments and improvements in what is essentially a transactional business model, leaving experiential as the opportunity for relevance among progressive food retailers. From the Shoptalk conference outcomes, this comment stood out: “But I never heard how they’re going to make life better for me.”

If it is incumbent upon retailers to advance the idea of experiential store environment, one that both “educates and inspires” then the business strategy plan needs to “focus on the customer and work backwards from there.” Yet this business paradigm is largely absent. When transactional thinking generates ideas to streamline shopping tasks, that’s certainly helpful and recognizes the omni-channel shopping world we now live it. But it is not in my opinion truly a reflection of putting the customer at the center of strategy. Rather it is an effort to improve transactions.

There’s a difference.

I believe the future of food retail depends greatly on customer first thinking and how that will manifest in better experiences, inspiration, guidance and enablement at a time when the vast majority of consumers, millennials in particular, would prefer a home cooked meal to anything else. This is an enormous opportunity for retailers who understand the value of food experience — the consumer’s interest in it, and work backwards from there.

KC's View: