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C-Store Stories: The Evolving Face of Circle K


Circle K is among the largest and most well-known convenience store brands in the United States. Founded in 1951 in El Paso and currently a subsidiary of Alimentation Couche-Tard, a Canadian chain of convenience stores, Circle K has become iconic all over the South, Midwest, and West Coast off the strength of their branding and a solid reputation as a high-quality location for shoppers looking to make a quick purchase. And now, the parent company has taken the brand worldwide, rebranding existing stores and opening new ones all over Europe under the Circle K banner. Iconic products like the Polar Pop turn the store into a destination, and under new Chief Marketing Officer Kevin Lewis the entire family of Couche-Tard stores has seen a re-brand by being brought under the refreshed Circle K label. People making the long drives across these more rural areas often see Circle K as a sign of civilization, a reliable outlet to fill up their cars and shop from a well-stocked variety of high quality products.

But Circle K isn’t just a well-established and respected brand. They’re also part of a dynamic organization looking to gain an edge in the c-store market. Innovations in this space are often less visible to consumers. While big-box stores seek to transform their paradigm to compete with online retailers and smaller boutiques are looking to leverage tech for more exciting customer experiences, c-stores are more concerned with getting shoppers in and out, quickly and easily with a friendly smile. They pull this off by having what they need whenever they need, and it’s here that Circle K is forging ahead, both through new offerings and streamlined operations.


SAP Ariba

Procurement is one of the most vital parts of any retail organization. For a long time, this has been a time-consuming and tricky process, with lots of fragmentation. Companies need to source products from a variety of distributors and manufacturers, build efficient relationships through contracts, and manage product lifecycles, all while keeping costs down in order to better serve customers. Better supply chain has positive effects on the entire organization from top to bottom, making it an excellent vector for innovation. Improving procurement isn’t flashy, but it has a marked impact on customer experience through expanded selections of cheaper products.

Circle K has worked with SAP Ariba to deliver an implementation that vastly streamlines and improves their procurement processes. Through these solutions they’ve managed to centralize ordering and streamline procurement by bringing standardized procedures to the table, freeing up resources to be put to better use elsewhere. This puts Couche-Tard in a position to become more flexible and allows for further expansion as they consolidate their operations under the Circle K brand.


Electric Vehicles and Better Products

Circle K is well known as a gas station, with thousands of locations worldwide. Gasoline is an essential need for anyone who relies on their car for their commute, and one that is almost taken for granted among many. But the changing face of energy has already disrupted the automotive industry, as more and more electric vehicles take to the streets, preferred by lots of drivers for their zero or low emissions and quieter rides. Local and national governments have encouraged this trend by offering tax credits and other incentives to encourage commuters to make the switch in an effort to slow climate change and improve air quality, particularly in and around dense urban and suburban areas.

With these new cars on the street comes an opportunity for existing gas stations to fill a need by providing ways for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid a chance to plug in and charge up. Circle K has adapted to this new market with better charging for electric vehicles. Starting as a pilot project in Norway to great success, these stations can charge an electric vehicle’s batteries in ten minutes, getting drivers back on the road faster than ever.

Incidentally, the electric vehicle pilot also coincided with an expansion in prepared foods. Already known stateside for their hot dogs, Circle K has introduced new options such as burritos and salads to refresh their offerings. Coupled with improved offerings in-store, the new charging stations can drive sales both at the “pump” and inside, with customers making purchases as they wait. The program is expanding throughout Europe and puts Couche-Tard in an excellent position to cut into the burgeoning electric vehicle charging market in the US. 


Explore our blog to read more about things like Blockchain in Retail and How to Sell Absurd Amounts of Designer Denim. If you’re curious about how machine learning can help improve store operations, read more here and here.


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