Kwik Trip recently signed onas the presenting sponsor of the NASCAR Cup Series race this summer at Road America near Elkhart Lake, in a deal the La Crosse-based convenience store chain and the race track say will help boost Kwik Trip’s brand awareness throughout the Midwest. Meanwhile, the chain continues to enjoy a loyal following in its existing markets in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa as it executes on plans to open more than 40 new stores over the next year.
Mark Meisner, director of marketing and advertising for Kwik Trip, recently spoke with BizTimes associate editor Lauren Anderson about the strategy behind the Road America deal and the chain’s expansion.
Why this sponsorship?
“It’s been a lot of years since a big circuit like this has come back to Wisconsin, so it was an equivalent of a NASCAR Cup race at Elkhart Lake back in the 1950s. … To me it was a natural fit for our brand and our customer base and it fits our profile of our customer base and the guests in our store really well. So, when the track reached out and asked if we had some interest, it was something we knew we just needed to look at.
“I like connecting our brand to emotionally supercharged events and sports. … Media is so fragmented today, one of the only things that people watch live or listen to is sports. So, it gives us a way to kind of cut through the clutter and make the connections with our guests and the excitement of pro sports and even college sports, to some degree.”
What does Kwik Trip look for when deciding where to put its next store?
“What’s a little bit different about our company is we’re not a traditional convenience store. We obviously are in the quick-service restaurant business; we certainly have guests who rely on us for food. We’ve now gotten into the take-home meal business. From COVID, we’ve seen transactions or guest counts down in morning drive (time) because of more people officing from home, though that’s coming back a little bit. But, we’ve seen an increase in traffic in stores during the late afternoon and evening hours. So, for us in the grocery space, the quick service restaurant space and fuel and convenience space, we find we have a lot of opportunities where there are needs for our type of offering.”
Is Kwik Trip eyeing any other states?
“We are looking outside of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. In time, you’ll see opportunities pop up probably in the (Upper Peninsula of Michigan) and in the Dakotas. Those are opportunities for us. We now have a store down in Illinois with the Stop-N-Go acquisition (last year).
“We have a transportation division, and all the stores get a shipment of products every day fresh from our distribution center facilities here in La Crosse. We have to take that into consideration. So, (new potential stores) have to be roughly 6 to 8 hours from La Crosse to fit within the box of what we can service based on how we provide product to our stores, but that does give us opportunity to continue to expand our service area.”