CARLISLE, Pa. -- Giant Food Stores here joins a growing list of supermarket chains that have jumped into the convenience business with gasoline stations.
The chain installed its first station on the front parking lot of a new 67,000-square-foot store in Mechanicsburg, Pa., last month. The operation is an all-self-service, six-pump station.
"A gasoline station really embraces one-stop shopping, and it will be part of all new and remodeled stores," said Denny Hopkins, vice president of marketing and sales development.
Although some supermarkets have been offering gasoline service for years, many chains have just begun pumping gas. Among recent entrants to the convenience business are Food Lion, Albertson's, Wal-Mart Stores and Kroger. Industry experts predict about 800 supermarkets, both large and small, will be filling tanks by the end of the year.
Giant's gas service is open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and the retailer plans to open five or six additional gasoline stations this year, Hopkins noted.
Positioned at the pumps is a 7-foot-by-9-foot kiosk that sells convenience products like candy bars, gum, cigarettes, film, prepaid telephone cards, antifreeze solution, motor oil and windshield-washer fluid. It is staffed by one person. Several soda machines are nearby.
While gas pumps may not yet be as commonplace as other supermarket nonfood categories, they can attract new customers to the food side of the store.
"Gas pumps, we believe, convert some food customers to our stores. Adding a gasoline station is an extension of the idea of a bank, pharmacy, Chinese kitchen and sit-down dining and one-hour photo processing in a supermarket," said Hopkins.
Although on-premises gas pumps provide another customer service, the marketing and sales executive pointed out that landlord preferences and local ordinances often may impact the location and construction scheduling of the stations.
He said Stop & Shop Supermarkets, North Quincy, Mass., which is, like Giant, an Ahold-owned food chain, has had gasoline pumps on its car lots for several years.