The next two years will be extremely exciting for us. On behalf of our 18,000 associates, 9,000 of whom have a 30% ownership stake in Wawa through our ESOP (employee stock ownership plan), let me give you a look at what’s in store for Wawa and our communities.
This summer, we will officially fly south and enter new territory, as we open our first stores in the state of Florida, located in the greater Orlando area. This is the beginning of our migration south and the development of our new “Wawaland” in Central Florida.
We are also making exciting developments right here in our core market, with a commitment to reinvest in our almost 600 Mid-Atlantic stores, and through the creation of a pipeline of new stores. You will see part of this reinvestment take shape through our redesigned food service area, which will feature a fresh, new appetizing look. Many of you will remember two years ago, we reinvested in our coffee area, replacing glass pots with new thermals and rebranding the area to bring our customers the freshest and most convenient cup of coffee available, in the most aesthetically pleasing way. Now, we will turn our attention to the food service area as we add new graphics and digital signage in all stores, and test the baking of rolls in approximately 40 of our stores. Later in the year, we will invest in all stores again – adding new equipment enabling us to add a full line of built-to-order specialty beverages including espressos and cappuccinos.
It’s our view that retailers who don’t change and remain relevant, run the risk of vanishing from the retail landscape. Who would have thought retail giants like Borders, Circuit City, and Strawbridge’s would disappear? I started my career many years ago with John Wanamaker, who once dominated this market, and is now gone without a trace.
For us, change and reinvention is a solid part of our history. So while we treasure our legacy stores still with us today, we could not continue to grow and reinvest back into our communities, if we were still building smaller stores without fuel. We’ve been evolving to meet the developing needs of our customers for more than 200 years which is why we’ve been fortunate to call this marketplace our hometown since 1803. We are proud to remain privately-held, locally-based here in the Mid-Atlantic, and owned in large part, by our Associates. Check out this video to learn more about our history of embracing change and the ways in which change has helped our company and your communities, to grow and thrive.
Looking ahead, we have plans to open 15 – 20 stores in our Mid-Atlantic market every year for the next several years. Some of these stores are relocations of older stores where we can improve the experience and offer, and some are new stores in areas we are currently under-serving. While the vast majority of people are delighted when we announce plans to open a store in their communities, we understand some community members have concerns about how these stores will impact them. We acknowledge and respect all of these opinions and I want to take this opportunity to reiterate our commitment to listening to our neighbors and communities and addressing their concerns head-on. In fact, we continually hold open forums and town meetings to do just this.
We do not believe in a cookie cutter approach to entering communities and will always do what we can to modify plans and make enhancements to meet the specific needs of each community we serve. We will do everything in our power to demonstrate our commitment to being a good neighbor. This is our promise!
We have much to offer your community and look forward to building lasting community partnerships and customer relationships and continuing to evolve to meet your needs. Ultimately our goal is to bring the jobs, the commerce, and community partnerships that will make us a true community asset in every area we serve. We look forward to seeing you soon.
“Till next time…