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  2005 Nov Issue
   
Cover Story
The new C-store — an avant garde 'shop-on-the-go'
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‘China’s retail industry tackles revalued currency
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Guardian plans chain of stores focused on beauty
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Sin Hwa Dee to franchise boutique gourmet store
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Rakuten to launch auctions site to rival Yahoo!






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Cover Story
The new C-store — an avant garde 'shop-on-the-go'

 


The convenience store, or C-store, is one of the fastest-growing retail formats today. Prof Martin M Pegler reviews an avant garde concept, conceived by a US design team for a convenience store that incorporates petrol retailing.


The convenience store, or the C-store, is not the convenience store of 10 years ago and, as time goes forward, it will keep evolving.

The C-store is a hybrid: A mix or mélange of the small local grocery, minimarket, soft-drink counter, take-out shop and newspaper stand. It may serve hot and cold food, packaged nibbles, refrigerated drinks and delicacies, hot coffee and the odd necessities one would ordinarily find in a pharmacy. It is all this and more as it sits next to a busy petrol station, serving the needs of a mobile, animated and driven clientele.

In the US, customers who drive often stop between points of travel. As these customers tend to be in a hurry to get going during such stops, the “convenience” of the store is not about price but availability and quick service. The C-store is not a static stop — it is a shop-on-the-go.

Avila Design of Oakland in California, USA, was recently challenged by ER Vine & Sons, which distributes Union 76 petrol, to come up with the idea of what its convenience store, Vineyard 76, should be. Under the direction of company designer/ founder David Avila, its designers approached the concept, from a driver’s point of view.



“[For] C-stores that are automobileoriented, we felt the design should reflect movement and fluidity to embody a machine-like presence,” said Avila. The design team did not feel that an angular or rectangular shape would lend itself to their concept, introducing gentle curves instead “to make a stronger connection to cars, speed and convenience”.

The new concept has been developed for a building in Ceres, California. The building that houses the C-store is under 5,000sqf and contains a Quiznos fast-food shop. Curved forms are introduced out front in the layout of the fuelling area to make vehicular access to the site and pumps “safer and easier to negotiate”.

Avila elaborated: “We separated the fuel canopy into two roof sections, placed at different heights in order to introduce natural light through clere-story openings. We created elliptical fuel islands to minimise tripping at this very busy and potentially dangerous point of purchase (POP).”

The automobile-oriented concept is also applied to the building’s exterior. To emphasise the feeling of motion, a curved metal roof parapet reinforces the figure-eight floor plan of the interior, with the solid metal parapets transitioned to slotted panels to screen the HVAC (heating, ventilating and airconditioning) equipment housed on the roof.

“We contrasted the sleek interior materials against natural-stone veneer to create a sophisticated building aesthetic,” said Avila.

The actual angular plan of the interior space is softened by the introduction of a long, sweeping curved wall enclosing the required number of refrigeration cases. The intersection of the curved cooler/freezer wall and the cashier counter merge as a figure-eight diagram. Essentially, the store is made up of two partially intersecting ovals: The larger one with the refrigerator wall is the convenience store as we know it; and the smaller ovoid form, which contains the Quiznos sandwich shop. “The curved forms morph easily within the rectilinear space and result in a logical circulation plan,” Avila explained.

The shopper enters through a main entrance that serves both ovoid forms. A curved, patterned tile floor leads from this entrance — past the cashier counter — to the fast-food shop, which has its own entrance. The ceiling forms and alternating-colour floor patterns not only tie the two retail areas together, but also provide a clear secondary circulation to the customer rest rooms and the back-of-the house storage and offices.

The cash/wrap counter is, as previously noted, strategically placed at the intersection of the two ovoid forms and the main entrance. There are three separate POP cash registers set into the curved service counter and separated by impulse-item fixtures projecting out from the curve of the counter.

The back wall is finished with a checkerboard of black-and-white panels of slat wall. The use of the slat wall allows for greater ease in organising small impulse items while its strong pattern recalls car-race flags. The patterned flooring radiates out from the counter, also in a checkerboard design but in curved form.

“Just like a performance automobile, the cash/wrap serves as the control centre for this well-equipped and finely-appointed interior space,” said Avila.

The gondolas that carry the convenience packaged-to-go items follow the same radiating lines emanating from the cash/wrap counter. The slat-wall end caps on the gondolas provide another adaptable space for product stock or display.

To speed the shopper along, various classifications of products are marked in bright colours on the frieze following the curve of the refrigerated cases. The arrangement of the gondolas on the floor — in broken lines — eases movement around these units and, as each gondola is somewhat angled, the shopper gets a better idea of what is located where. POP graphics are suspended over the gondolas as directionals, adding colourful notes to the otherwise neutral surroundings. The dropped ceiling carries recessed fluorescent lighting fixtures and vents for the HVAC system.

As Avila put it: “The primary objective was to create a store that is convenient to approach, navigate and shop. This design challenge was literally solved from the inside out.”


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