A business trip is what gave me this opportunity to travel to the southern tip of Germany and experience what gas stations (tankstellen) have to offer. Some expert advice and a few reports are what fuel the facts and figures.
Are gas stations the same as those in the US? This is what I discovered.
German c-store industry and independent brands.
How similar are German gas stations to the US? Looking at it from an industry perspective, there are some differences.
In Germany, according to the Bundesverband freier Tankstellen e.V. (bft), only about 15% of gas stations are independent brands. Another difference is the major transportation fuel sold in Germany is diesel (60%). You’ll see the difference at the pump with the fuel choices.
Another difference that gives gas stations an advantage in Germany is that they are pretty much the only type of retailer that is open late. In fact, in many locations in Germany, they are the only retailer open on a Sunday. In a recent survey, 71% of consumers said that long operating hours was the top reason for visiting a convenience store.
Fountain drinks? Nope.
Payment? I was driven into the store to pay for my diesel fuel.
One similarity between the US and Germany is the complex business models.
These business models include branded, unbranded, and, for some larger chains, a mixed model with also vertical integration. Vertically integrated retailers can further be classically classified as:
- Company Owned Company Operated (COCO), owned and run by the oil company
- Company Owned Dealer Operated (CODO), owned by the oil company, but run by a third party (dealer or agent)
- Dealer Owned Dealer Operated (DODO), owned and run by a third party
One interesting sidebar is, in 2015, a code of conduct (Verhaltenskodex für das Tankstellengeschäft) was agreed to by the industry. The aim was to help improve the profitability of gas station leaseholders. Apparently, making a living under this scheme was an issue.
A striking similarity between Germany and the US’ network of gas stations is the flat store unit growth rate. In the US, the amount of c-stores is about 150K with little variation from year to year. In Germany, the number of gas stations (tankstellen) is about 15K, or more precisely 14,459, with little projected growth. The bft reports that, in 1970, Germany reached its peak at 46K locations. So why the reduction, the decline?
The reason given for the decline is pretty simple, the improvements in fuel efficiency have enabled today’s cars to drive further on that tank of gas. How much more fuel-efficient have cars become? The International Energy Agency reports, for Germany, a 12% gain in fuel efficiency for cars and light trucks and 6% for freight trucks (2000 – 2016).
The product mix.
The products contributing to inside sales is somewhat different. In the US, smokes and cokes rule. In Germany, you’ll find smokes and alcohol followed very closely by calling cards.
|In-store Product||% Sales|
|Coffee, Hot Beverages||3%|
How many people eat at a gas station?
For foodservice, you’ll find that only 1 in 5 people will buy food at a gas station versus 36% for fast food locations. Most people buy their food from a bakery or grocery store. So consider this when you see the Rewe-to-go line item. This is the grocer’s grab-and-go offering via the Aral gas station brand.
|Foodservice Retail Format||All Regions|
|Grab-and-go (i.e. Rewe-To-Go)||20%|
|Bakery or Cafe||66%|
Foodservice and store layout.
The Food. You’ll find many of the same grocery and grab-and-go items that you would find in a US foodservice-driven c-store plus many more bakery items. You’ll find these either in self-service bread bins or behind bistro-inspired sections of the store.
The Coffee. The self-service coffee bar of the US wasn’t available in any of the stores I visited. The coffee is found behind the counter and served to you.
The Layout. The store layouts were similar to the US which drives the customer to the back of the store for items such as alcohol. The main difference in the layout was a seating area that invites the c-store customer to linger and eat their meal on-premise.
Gas Station Brands and Marketshare
|JET (Phillips 66)||812||6%|
|Lother (Nordoel, LTG)||112||1%|
|HPV Hanseatic Petrol||80||1%|
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