C-stores, or convenience stores, offer a wide range of everyday and specialty items to customers. The stores are an integral part of the gas station experience and vice versa. The sector generates big business.
It’s something the Seminole Tribe of Florida Inc. knows very well – it has two (Trading Posts) with more on the way.
Darcey Barrows, the general manager of STOFI’s Hollywood Trading Post and Brighton Trading Post, presented some big numbers at recent community meetings.
Here are a few.
• 153,000 – number of U.S. convenience stores.
• $661.4 billion – U.S. convenience store annual sales.
• $229.4 billion – portion of sales that are “in-store.”
Golden Johansson, executive director of operations for STOFI, said while most people think of the Trading Posts as places primarily to fill up the gas tank, that “in-store” portion shouldn’t be dismissed.
She said it’s one of the main sources of profitability because the profit margin on fuel isn’t very high.
“We have the ability to be competitive because we own Seminole Petroleum, but what drives sales is on the inside of the store,” she said.
Johansson said keeping the Trading Posts appealing to customers is why a slew of upgrades have been taking place at HTP and BTP in recent months.
She said the changes are part of a reinvestment effort, and are the starting point of a greater focus on the businesses and of expansion efforts that is set to increase an already solid profitability.
“Over the past year, many improvements have been made to maximize our opportunity in building a successful business,” Johansson said. “Everything is being re-evaluated and being considered as we work towards expanding our franchise. From the cash register terminals to the training employees receive during on-boarding process, management is taking a hands-on approach in examining every possible way we can improve and drive stronger results.”
HTP and BTP are overseen by STOFI’s five Board members. The Brighton location includes the adjacent RV Resort. (SemFuel in Big Cypress is a Tribal Council-owned business).
New Hollywood look
HTP opened in 2006 and became a 24-hour operation in 2008.
About five years later, a second underground regular gas fuel tank was installed to keep up with growing fuel sales.
Its more recent improvements began in 2019 and have continued in 2020.
More responsive registers have been replaced, the parking lot was resurfaced and a new car wash is up and operating. A new digital sign that updates gas prices was installed.
There have been updates to the flooring and interior paint, a new generator has been installed and new floor coolers and hot food equipment are now in use.
The new car wash has received a lot of attention lately from Tribal members and others in the Hollywood community who frequent the Trading Post.
“The previous one was really old. Its life expectancy was seven years and we well exceeded that,” Johansson said.
The car wash is open to any Tribal member or guest, including for use by Tribal departments like the Seminole Police, who can set up a specialized code through their accounting unit to access it for their fleet of vehicles.
Replacing the cash register terminals began after HTP staff had been hearing complaints that transactions took too long to process, which sometimes equaled long lines, Johansson said.
“Our tech person dug deep and found the root cause and now we are replacing all of the inside terminals,” she said.
BTP has been operating in some capacity since the 1960s as part of the campground. In 2012, it underwent a $1.3 million makeover.
The laundromat was removed and restrooms were added. The inside sales area was also expanded.
Now it will see the parking lot resurfaced and new exterior paint. Customers will also soon notice repairs to the front sidewalk and other restroom and water drainage updates.
Like in Hollywood, the Trading Post recently unveiled a new digital fuel price sign.
It was in 2000 that the campground became part of the STOFI. The Brighton RV/Resort reemerged in mid-2013 with 56 RV spots and four fully furnished cabins.
Upcoming improvements include adding four additional RV spots, an upgrade to the resort’s Wi-Fi and the addition of an area for camping tents.
Johansson said future plans include growing the RV side of the park and improving the gift shop so it offers an expanded inventory that better caters to RV guests.
Johansson said the Board’s overall goal is to build a successful chain of Trading Posts. For example, it wants to develop more operations near existing casinos – such as in Tampa and Coconut Creek.
The Immokalee Reservation will receive its own Trading Post within the next year, Johansson said. It is being developed now.
“We’re excited about the opportunities of the franchise growing,” Johansson said.
One future idea is to offer a “TLC card.” Johansson said it would be for Tribal members who are 15-years-old and up to use like a credit card for fuel at the Trading Posts and at SemFuel in Big Cypress.
HTP is located at 3103 N. State Road 7, while BTP is located at 14685 Reservation Road NE.
More information is at stofinc.com.