In the first episode of the PetrolPlaza podcast, we spoke to Joe Boyle, Commercial Director at FreshStop, about the role of convenience stores as community centers, the continued growth of their network, the South African customer, and the hurdles vehicles will face. electric. the country.
Joe Boyle has worked in the retail industry for over 30 years and has been instrumental in the development of food retail brands in South Africa during this time which includes the development and the growth of the FreshStop retail brand over the past 10 years.
FreshStop is South Africa’s fastest growing 24-hour convenience store brand, having opened 336 stores nationwide. Their stores are all located at Caltex stations and are known for their wide variety of fresh food and drink options.
South African patrons arriving at a FreshStop can typically find the full-service Seattle Coffee bar, popular food brands Crispy Chicken, and Grill to Go that serve hot crispy chicken, burgers, ribs, and grilled chicken dishes. .
The pandemic has slowed their expansion process, but Joy Boyle and FreshStop still managed to open 12 stores in 2021 and are expected to open 6 more before the end of the year.
“The areas where we lost a bit were the refreshes. Many retailers who had existing stores took a hit in those first three or four months with fuel volumes. On the c-store side, we have done very well with increases compared to 2019 and 2020, ”Boyle explains.
Many stores have experimented with renovations to put magazines aside and introduce crispy chicken restaurants. Large volumes now go through fast food products.
The South African customer is pushing for on-the-go options. They’re looking for a grocery supplement, instant gratification with carbonated non-alcoholic drinks, energy drinks have grown dramatically, barista coffee remains strong. “Customers are getting more and more sophisticated,” Boyle says.
There is still a long way to go for South Africa and electric vehicles, with major hurdles including the size of the country and the stability of the electricity supply. Retailers like FreshStop have been adjusting to the inconsistent electricity supply for years by having on-site generators, solar panels and batteries.
Recent news affecting FreshStop is that all Caltex branded gas stations in South Africa and Botswana are to be rebranded as Astron Energy, which is a big step for the local refueling industry. The company has a network of 850 stations in both countries.