Yesway isn’t shy about its growth plans. Earlier this year, CEO Tom Trkla said he wants to double the company’s footprint over the next four to five years, tapping into the nearly $200 million it recently raised to fund new growth.
Yesway is also carrying out an “aggressive” store remodeling program through expanded forecourts, interior upgrades and new technology, Derek Gaskins, chief marketing officer for Yesway, said during a panel discussion at the recent Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago.
“If you buy a store, you can’t just slap your name on it — you have to show the community you're serious,” Gaskins said.
But as channels blur and consumers seek convenience in new formats, Yesway is also exploring ways to deepen its “multi-banner approach” while also “tinkering with new formats” that incorporate various uses of technology, Gaskins said.
Besides its standard Yesway and Allsup’s c-stores, the retailer is growing its Allsup’s Express format, which features retail media, as well as music and messaging, that recognizes customers via their mobile loyalty memberships and sends targeted offers. The company is also looking to grow its Allsup’s Express Grab and Go format — which debuted in April at the Texas Motor Speedway — that uses handheld card readers that allow workers to check out customers quicker.
Beyond the express stores, Yesway is working on a superette, or small-supermarket-like location, as well as a 10,000 square-foot Allsup’s in Cloudcroft, New Mexico.
Additionally, Yesway plans to open an autonomous “Juxta” micro-retail store that uses autonomous checkout technology. At these locations, customers tap their credit card when entering the store, shop and then leave. The store’s artificial intelligence tracks what they’ve taken, and customers can also review their items via a touchscreen near the exit.
“We’re testing robotics in our labs, where we do have plans to grow it,” Gaskins said.
Yesway isn’t just investing in tech for its customers, but for its team members as well. The company uses electronic shelf labels (ESL), which automatically update product tags whenever a price is changed in the central server. Gaskins said these allow Yesway to operate more dynamically.
“I can look at destination categories and price those differently than impulse categories, and marry it up with mobile tech,” he said.
At the core of Yesway’s technology initiatives is the goal to simplify the customer shopping experience, Gaskins said. Since many of Yesway’s locations are scattered throughout rural markets in Texas, New Mexico, South Dakota and several other states. Bringing new technology to these regions is a big opportunity to make shopping trips easier, he noted.
“All of this innovation is geared to make sure we connect with the consumer, stay relevant and stay vital,” he said.