Solar-Powered Store Design

More convenience stores are taking on green energy initiatives, designed to cut costs while reducing their carbon footprint.

By David Bennett, Senior Editor

When it comes to designing and powering new stores, convenience retailers are always looking for measures to lower electrical bills. Even retrofitting existing locations with energy-efficient equipment is routine.

There’s a much smaller group of retailers that are connecting to alternative energy providers—a list of providers that continues to grow partly because of state-sponsored incentives.

Techniques and technology developed to harness solar energy have reached new levels of efficiency and affordability, resulting in more budget-conscious businesses switching over to solar energy. However, such energy options remain largely unknown within the c-store industry.

That is slowly changing, however.

Saratoga Springs, N.Y.-based Stewart’s Stores is the biggest c-store chain arguably to incorporate a significant solar energy program. The company today operates 337 shops, 17 of which are supported by a remote net-metering system powered by solar technology in the town of Halfmoon, N.Y. The Halfmoon Project, completed in 2016, includes a solar array of more than 1,700 panels.

Panels were installed on the roof of the company’s 17 store locations, and are powered by a dedicated solar plant.

The 582-kilowatt Halfmoon Project, undertaken by Colorado-based Clean Energy Collective and New York City solar developer, EnterSolar, is the first-ever shared solar farm in the state of New York—under new policies approved by the state’s Public Service Commission.

Maria D’Amelia, Stewart’s spokesperson, said there are a few reasons why the retailer chose to diversify its power capabilities with solar. In addition to battling the volatility of rising gas prices, the project offers Stewart’s an opportunity to engage in a cleaner energy solution.

“The rooftop project has been particularly effective as our plant’s peak demand is when solar output is at its greatest; resolving power distribution problems of the grid,” D’Amelia said. “We are continually tracking how much energy we’re generating and can say our expectations have been met. So, you could call our solar projects a shining success.”

The U.S. leads the North American solar market. New solar hotspots in the nation include the growing market in the Northeast region, which includes the states of New York and New Jersey.

Stewart’s isn’t the first c-store chain in New York to employ solar.

Crosby’s convenience store chain, based in Lockport, N.Y., a few years ago installed two solar-powered systems, including a 110 panel, 29-kilowatt solar energy pilot in the city of Amherst.

With 66 panels on the gas pump canopy and another 44 on the store’s roof, the green initiative has reduced the convenience store’s energy consumption by at least 15% yearly.

Over the next five years, New York—home to Stewart’s and Crosby’s—is expected to install more than 3,000 megawatts of solar electric capacity, ranking the state fifth in the U.S. over that time span. This is enough to power 492,000 homes and more than six times the amount of solar capacity installed in New York State over the last five years.

Graham Smith is the founder and CEO of Open Energy, a provider of debt financing solutions for commercial solar projects. Open Energy, which provided the financing for the Halfmoon Project, is part of a new breed of companies helping drive the U.S. solar market, which is gaining added support via state legislation in states such as New York.

Considering that businesses can save 10-20% on their electrical bills, solar is a sensible option, if the return on investment is there,” Smith said.

“It’s a huge, growing trend. Smith said. “It’s a no-brainer.”

Stewart’s Shops is committed to making many of its store locations greener, when the opportunities come along.

“For us, one of the most noticeable initiatives may be the continuous upgrades to LED lighting inside and outside of our shops. We also have an extensive recycling program to minimize waste,” said D’Amelia. “More than four and a half million pounds of cardboard, office paper, plastic, metal and light bulbs are recycled annually. We are using reusable containers to transport product, offering a number of reusable coffee mugs in our shops, and our to-go cups are made from paper rather than Styrofoam.”

Stewart’s is likely on the right track, especially since energy sustainability has become a consumer consideration of younger Americans, said Rebekah Matheny, an assistant professor of interior design within the Department of Design at the Ohio State University.

“When we look at research on Millennial and Gen Z consumers, we uncover that those generations put their spending power behind their personal beliefs, of which environmental and social consciousness of brands leads the way,” Matheny said. These generations are smart and responsible consumers. They do their homework, they know where and how the products they are purchasing are manufactured and they care about fair trade, living wages, child labor issues, working conditions, materiality and the generosity of the brand. In other words, they care how the retailer is participating in the greater good of the environment and society, from a local to global impact.”

Other states such as Texas are also providing companies financial incentives to go greener.
San Antonio-based Nooner’s has installed solar panels at eight c-stores. With two more locations currently under construction, Sean Nooner, president of Nooner Holdings Ltd., said its commitment to solar power has shaved off an average of $900-$1,000 from its monthly electricity costs.

“Our investigation and desire to install green energy is what led us to solar,” Nooner said. “We have been installing solar since 2012. All of our current stores have solar and the next two stores have already been contracted to have solar installed as part of the ground up construction. We even have solar on our office building.”

At most locations, Nooner’s has installed solar panels on the roof and the canopy.

The average cost of each complete solar add-on is $260,000. However, because of authorized tax abatements and other incentives granted by the state of Texas, the final cost of each project has ended up being approximately $65,000, Nooner said.

It’s a long-term investment that should address electrical costs, going forward.

“Energy prices are only going to go up, so saving a block of kilowatts each month will pay back more over time,” Nooner said.

The U.S. Energy Department said in a 2016 report that the cost of getting power from wind fell more than 40% from 2008 to 2015, and solar panel prices dropped more than 60% during that period.

Renewable energy accounts for about 15% of the electricity generated in the U.S.

President Donald Trump also has called for reviving the coal industry, which has struggled in part because of the rise of renewable energy. Still, the growing momentum of renewable energy keeps retailers such as Stewart’s scouting for greener prospects.

“We continue to seek potential sites for remote net metering projects as long as a reasonable return is determined, both financially and environmentally,” said D’Amelia. “We have looked at a remote hydro system that would allow us to put charging station in a few dozen shops, but we have encountered some regulatory resistance.”


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USSTC Announces Unplanned Nationwide Culling of “Select” Smokeless Products

Includes ‘some’ Copenhagen and Skoal brands.

Noting that details remain ‘sparse,’ Wells Fargo reported USSTC issued a ‘stop sale’ on select smokeless brands, effective yesterday.

“We just learned from a few more of our industry contacts that this issue is possibly bigger than originally feared,” said Bonnie Herzog, senior analyst for Wells Fargo. “As a result, the headwind to smokeless volumes could be worse than originally thought (below). According to our industry contacts, the product ‘pull’ is not due to flavor issues or handling dangers. We’re hearing that Copenhagen Long Cut Mint could be the most impacted.”

USSTC reportedly cited “suspected quality issues” as the reason behind the unexpected product recall, according to Wells Fargo. “As the order was issued to USSTC’s wholesalers, not retailers, we have a difficult time thinking it is a true problem with quality that could potentially harm or be off-putting to consumers. However, we’re now hearing from more of our contacts that this could be a bigger issue near-term given that it does include Copenhagen & Skoal,” said Herzog. “We assume this should be a self-contained, manageable event for USSTC; however, depending on how widespread and extended this lost volume is, it could negatively impact Altria’s overall Q1 EPS by a few pennies.”

Despite the unexpected event, Wells Fargo reiterated its strong confidence in Altria and its competitive positioning, particularly behind its core Marlboro & Copenhagen franchises.

“We continue to see Altria as a best-in-class operator and expect it to be able to effectively offset ongoing secular declines in combustible cig industry volumes with strong net price realization, thereby preserving its cash flow strength and inimitable brand equity,” Herzog said.





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What’s Ahead for the Beer Category

Emerging craft beers are thriving and customers are trading up to premium brands.

Wells Fargo Securities attended Beer Business Daily’s Annual Beer Industry Summit.

Bonnie Herzog, senior analyst for Wells Fargo outlined the following takeaways from the Summit:

(1) Ongoing consolidation of the industry and retailers with a power transfer to retailers;

(2) Increased concern about the potential for a price war in the U.S. “We don’t think this is a high probability especially considering ABI’s priority to de-lever and focus on profits & cutting costs,” Herzog said.

(3) Continued pressure on beer dollar sales from wine & spirits;

(4) Continued deceleration of the craft beer segment – but emerging craft brands are still thriving; and

(5) Premiumization – one of the few bright spots for the industry especially for premium priced and high-end brands.

The craft beer segment represents around 11% of the total industry and while still growing mid-single digits, growth has been decelerating, Wells Fargo noted.

“The segment remains very fragmented and is bifurcated with the bulk of growth being driven by the long tail of smaller, emerging craft brands such as Ballast Point and Lagunitas,” Herzog said. She noted the top five emerging, craft brands are growing over 30% while the well-established brands (36% of the segment) have been dragging down the overall category. “While consumers don’t appear to be leaving craft, the concern (and challenge) is that there are fewer consumers entering the segment,” she said.

While sub premium priced beer dollar sales have declined 5.6% since 2015, premium priced beer sales have increased 10%. Based on an analysis from Nielsen, consumers have been trading up to premium brands, with key reasons including: (1) better taste; (2) perceived better quality; (3) consumers want to treat themselves; and (4) consumers want to try new things, Wells Fargo pointed out.

“Craft and high-end imports have been beneficiaries of this on-going trend. However, going forward, while we still expect the premiumization trend to continue, we anticipate this trend to slow slightly as higher gas prices and uncertainty pressure consumers,” Herzog said.




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Drew Estate Welcomes Senior Vice President of Sales

From Left: Zev Kaminetsky, David Lafferty, and David Lazarus

David Lazarus to handle field and inside sales as well as in-store events and wholesale.

Estate announced David Lazarus as (SVP) senior vice president of sales at its Annual Sales Meeting effective immediately.

In this role, Lazarus will have overall accountability for field sales, inside sales, key national accounts, in-store events and wholesale. Lazarus will report directly to the CEO, Glenn Wolfson.

“We are thrilled to welcome Dave to our team and family at Drew” explained Drew Estate CEO Glenn Wolfson. “As we embark on the Rebirth of Drew, we are fully vested in David’s ability to enhance and build upon the organization’s strengths and equally vested in his ability to provide guidance and a steady hand in overseeing our human assets and territory management. David is going to be a fantastic fit with us at Drew Estate both culturally and organizationally. He brings to us an ideal mixture of sales experience from having worked in boutique and mainstream, large and small, private and public, as well as wines and spirits.”

“I am excited to embark on a new journey with Drew Estate’s world class sales force, our partner retailers, and our loyal consumers to deliver an unparalleled experience in this industry,” explained Lazarus.

David “Laz” Lazarus graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from SUNY at Fredonia. He is a veteran in craft consumables, in particular, beverage alcohol, with over twenty-five years experience at Constellation Brands, Diageo PLC, and Gallo Wine Company. In 2017, David will be relocating to the Miami Corporate Headquarters from Dallas, Texas.

“Things are going to get absolutely coconuts in 2017. I’m excited for Drew Estate to add a consumate sales and marketing professional to the executive team,” said Jonthan Drew, president and founder of Drew Estate.


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7-Eleven Sponsors Tony Kanaan

7-Eleven first sponsored Kanaan more than a decade ago.

7-Eleven Inc. is teaming with Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) to sponsor popular Verizon IndyCar Series driver Tony Kanaan 14 years after first backing him at the start of his record-breaking career.

7-Eleven will be an associate sponsor for Kanaan’s No. 10 Indy car in four races in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series – St. Petersburg (March 12), Long Beach (April 9), Indianapolis 500 (May 28) and Texas Motor Speedway (June 10). The 7-Eleven logo will appear on Kanaan’s racing suit throughout the season.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to be back in the 7-Eleven family,” said Kanaan. “7-Eleven was my home for most of my career in INDYCAR and they were with me for 14 out of my 17 wins. It’s definitely special to have them with me to celebrate my 20th INDYCAR season and I’m looking forward to getting them to victory circle again like we did many times in the past.”

The driving force of this collaboration was the strong relationship between the retailer and the racecar driver. 7-Eleven was Kanaan’s primary sponsor in 2003, his first full year as an INDYCAR driver, and continued through the 2010 season. Kanaan won the 2004 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship and would eventually earn the “Iron Man” title of racing. He is also the only INDYCAR driver to complete every lap of every race during a season, all 3,305 of them, and holds the record for most consecutive starts with 265.

The partnership provides an opportunity to use the enthusiasm around auto racing to connect with customers and fans in a meaningful way. Kanaan is as popular off the track as he is a winning driver while on it. In 2014, he won “Most Popular Driver,” an honor voted by racing fans and one 7-Eleven President and CEO Joe DePinto recognized long ago.

“Tony has proven himself to be an enthusiastic brand ambassador, both for the sport of racing and for 7-Eleven,” DePinto said. “Whenever he and the show car made a store appearance, crowds of customers would turn out to meet him. Tony would stay and sign photographs and talk to 7-Eleven customers for hours. He is a winner in everything he does.”

Kanaan’s first appearance for 7-Eleven this go-round will be at the 7-Eleven Experience in Las Vegas, an annual conference for the company’s franchisees. A show car with the 7-Eleven logo will be featured at the event being held Feb. 1-2.

“We’re really excited to have 7-Eleven joining the team for the 2017 season and it’s great to see them back in the sport. They have such a strong history with Tony and we’re just glad that we can be a part of bringing that relationship back into racing,” said CGR President Steve Lauletta. “It’s a huge milestone for Tony to be celebrating his 20th season in INDYCAR and I think 7-Eleven is a perfect partner to come on board and be a part of the celebration.”

A few things have changed since 7-Eleven first sponsored Kanaan more than a decade ago. For one thing, the popular driver stays in touch with his fans on social media with hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. And instead of being the new kid on the block, Kanaan is now a veteran driver on the Verizon IndyCar Series circuit. Many of his fans now have families, and their children follow him as well.

“The 7-Eleven car was a staple in the Verizon IndyCar Series for years and most of my fans still come to me and talk about how great of a run we had together,” said Kanaan. “It’s natural for me to be excited that we are reuniting forces now at Chip Ganassi Racing.”

Kanaan’s favorite 7-Eleven products? Coffee, great for long drives, sports drinks and better-for-you items like protein bars and fresh fruit.




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