FreshStop at Caltex Partners with Mr D Food

As with every aspect of the retail industry, convenience stores have also been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and are redefining themselves to meet the needs of their customers during lockdown. Many of the South African government lockdown restrictions, such as a ban on cigarette and hot food sales, have impacted the industry greatly but retailers have adjusted their product offering to meet customer needs, and at the same time ensure the safety of their customers. In smaller towns and neighborhood sites, c-stores are the only local stores that provide communities with access to essential foods required to survive the lockdown.

One such initiative is that convenience stores have developed new partnerships with delivery services to reach their customers during lockdown. FreshStop at Caltex is one such brand. Its customers are now able to download the MR D Food app and order their favourite food, snacks and cool drinks for delivery. “Our recent partnership with MR D Food has been the ideal way for us reach the most vulnerable in society. The elderly, and those who don’t have transport, can now order our food and beverages online. We currently have 40 stores listed and we’re adding more stores daily to the online platform,” says Joe Boyle, Managing Director at FreshStop.

It has been beneficial to the industry that many fuel forecourt convenience store brands have upgraded their c-store offering over the last 20 years, with the inclusion of major retailers and franchised brands taking it to a new level. According to Boyle, the fact that FreshStop has always offered its customers fresh fruit and vegetables, healthy snacks, and smoothies, as well as a range of grocery items has made all the difference over lockdown. “We’ve been lucky to build on our fresh produce offering during this time and we are focused on introducing a larger range of healthier options.

We’ve increased our Grab n Go selection to include prepacked food items such as hamburgers, fried chicken, wraps, etc, which reduces the need for one-on-one customer service. Due to government restrictions, we have had to move more towards a self-service model during this time so that customers can pop in, find what they need and check-out without too much personal interaction, as speed of service is one of the keys to the lockdown objectives”.

The good news for FreshStop’s retailers is that sales are doing well. “Despite the fact that approximately 40% of our sales have been negated because we can no longer sell cigarettes, hot foods or coffee, we are very proud that some of our retailers are experiencing a 20% increase in overall sales turnover. In contrast, those stores located within CBDs and industrial hubs have seen a major downswing but as an essential service we remain open to service the few customers who need us. We thank our retailers and staff, who despite the challenges, do their best every day to keep our customers comfortable and aware of staying safe and healthy. A big thanks too to our government, suppliers and the industry who have been there throughout this crisis,” concludes Boyle.