Pump Deposits...and Withdrawals
But never content to just follow the pack in convenience retailing, Sharaf decided that he could enhance his brand even more with an additional association, one that ventured beyond foodservice.
In October 2008, Victron opened a Shell gas station and 12,000-square foot convenience store seamlessly connected to a 24-hour Wendy’s restaurant — and a BankTexas bank — as part of the Gateway Travel Plaza, basically an all-in-one gas station-convenience store-QSR-bank. "We have a local bank we work with, and [the manager] said he’d be interested in a presence inside one of our stores," Sharaf said. "So a while later, I was building a store in Kilgore with my partner, [and we decided to test the idea]. The timing with the first bank didn’t work out, but BankTexas agreed to lease 1,500 square feet on the side of our store."
For BankTexas, it was the financial institution’s first time partnering with a convenience store, and an attractive opportunity to gaining a presence in Kilgore without committing to a standalone branch.
"We were looking to expand in Gregg County, and we liked the idea; we thought it would be great," said Tammy Ritter, vice president of Bank-Texas. "Our Board was for it, there didn’t seem to be any negative."
Man With a Plan
Sharaf secured an agreement with the bank prior to breaking ground on construction for his new site, which gave him ï¬‚exibility designing the site’s layout. The store layout accounted for an inside bank presence, where tellers could conduct face-to-face transactions with customers. And adding a traditional bank drive-thru was nearly compulsory, especially for the location, which was just off the interstate, and where stay-in-the-car-convenience was an overriding factor for consumers.
But Sharaf took his station’s design a step further, adding banking capabilities directly to four of the station’s 10 multiple pump dispensers. It would clearly distinguish Victron from its competitors (although bank-convenience store associations are few) while affording truly time-pressed motorists the opportunity to multi-task while dispensing fuel, interacting with bank tellers and using the same pneumatic tube delivery systems found at any bank drive-thru.
"I’m a civil engineer; I love to build things," Sharaf said in defense of the unusual offering.
To be clear, though, this was not a cost-free pre-construction decision or marketing gimmick. This was a substantial financial investment, one that Sharaf calculated would add to his store’s profitability.
"[We installed] a separate vacuum pipe nest next to [four pumps] that can carry [bank] deposits, and each one of these costs close to $10,000 installed," Sharaf explained, for a total incremental cost of $40,000.The pump-side banking capabilities may not have sweetened the deal for BankTexas, but Sharaf knew it would cost more if he decided to add the tubes at a later date. "It costs more for a modification," Sharaf said. "You would have to add in the saw cut of concrete and the additional cost of having power to the tube."
Since it opened in late 2008, Sharaf has been pleased with his store’s performance, which he says is a win-win for the station and bank.
"The bank is happy, they have a [built-in] traffic generator, and it’s the same for the store," Sharaf said, who estimated 25 percent of the bank’s deposits are made at the pump versus the drive-thru. "We’re driving traffic to the store because everybody is looking for a one-stop shop."
As for bottom-line figures, Sharaf said it’s too early to quantify the business lift, though he estimates the bank adds "at least 10 percent more traffic to the site," a return that has him looking beyond Kilgore.
Jerry Soverinsky is a freelance writer from Chicago and a NACS Magazine and NACS Daily contributing writer.