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Retailer of the Year Southeast

Fuel Centers, Pharamacies Bring ‘Whole Package Together’

Food City fuel pharmacies

Last updated on June 14th, 2024 at 10:42 am

Food City, The Shelby Report of the Southeast’s Retailer of the Year, was founded on the pledge to: “Run the best store in town.” To do so, it must be able to meet customers wherever they are. 

A key part of that has been evolving and adapting the company’s gas and pharmacy programs, according to Mickey Blazer, EVP of pharmacy, fuel and convenience stores. 

The retailer operates 119 pharmacies and 116 Food City Gas ‘N Go fuel/convenience store centers across its 150-store operation. As the company has grown – organically and through acquisitions – pharmacy and fuel have become a high priority. Space permitting, pharmacies and fuel operations often are implemented, updated or expanded. 

Food City fuel pharamcies

“When we put a fuel station in an existing store, we almost always see a 5 to 8 percent lift in the business inside the store. It just brings the whole package together,” Blazer said.

Older Gas ‘N Go locations are being retrofitted with larger and more modern convenience centers, as well as offering diesel fuel and 100-percent gas. The company has offered diesel fuel in select locations since moving into fuel and pharmacy in 1997. However, it is working to expand the offering. Twenty-two locations have electric charging stations, according to Blazer. 

Depending on the market, Food City offers unmanned 24-hour self-service gas pumps. They’re available in a third of the brand’s locations. The program is just two years old but is becoming “more and more popular,” Blazer said.

As inflation and gas prices strain wallets, Food City’s Fuel Bucks rewards program provides some relief. Customers can earn fuel bucks through the ValuCard rewards program. Members earn one Fuel Buck for every dollar spent on groceries, including alcohol, to redeem for discounts at the pump. 

When customers redeem 150 Fuel Bucks, they save 15 cents off per gallon any day. On Wednesdays, Food City offers its Win-Win Wednesdays when shoppers can redeem 300 Fuel Bucks and save 30 cents per gallon. The company also holds Bonus Fuel Savings Days, during which customers can receive even more savings. 

“Our gas program is just a big part of our total marketing program…drawing the customers into the store and then having the convenience that customers come to expect,” Blazer said. “Just like the expectation that they’ve become used to with our food safety, quality and service, we can help in the same way with fuel…we’ve seen prices get really high. And the higher the price, the more people are there, the more fuel that’s coming into play.”

Customers will also find special, marked items throughout the store for the Food City Ticket To Ride program. The program offers a $10 off fuel coupon to customers when they reach a certain price threshold of participating brands’ products. 

Dan Glei, EVP, merchandising/marketing, gave an example of a customer buying $30 worth of General Mills products and receiving a Ticket To Ride coupon. The program has proved popular with customers and suppliers since its launch in August. 

“Who wouldn’t want to get $30 worth of loyalty out of a customer? Who wouldn’t want to get $10 off their tank fill-up? Yes, it’s been really popular. Our customers like it, our suppliers like it,” Glei said. 

The program can include multiple brands or suppliers. If customers meet the requirements for any number of types, they receive a coupon.

“If you’re shopping and you know you use a ton of a certain type of detergent, or you have kids who eat a lot of snacks, you can go in and you can buy two types. You can buy this one or that one or both. It’s a $30 threshold for both. You could have $20 off from your fuel,” Glei explained.

Food City fuel pharmacy

Customers can also receive rewards in the pharmacy. They can get 25 bonus Fuel Bucks with qualifying new, transferred or refilled prescriptions. They can earn an additional 1,000 bonus Fuel Bucks with qualifying prescriptions when they join the Food City Wellness Club. 

There is no cost to join the Wellness Club, which offers benefits such as:

  • monthly emails with tips, recipes and offers;
  • 10 percent off diabetic supplies;
  • free prenatal vitamins;
  • member-only events; and
  • access to registered dietitians 

“We want to play a big role in our customers’ health and wellness and pharmacy allows us to do that,” Blazer said. “We have over 260 pharmacists on our team and are some of the most accessible health care providers in the whole profession. Our customers have a health care professional at their disposal, seven days a week.”

Food City believes that food is medicine. It aims to help customers make smarter diet choices while providing them with the information needed to make those decisions. Blazer said many customers use pharmacists and the Wellness Club’s dietitians to help manage chronic diseases or make health-conscious decisions. 

Food City fuel pharmacy

“We have a collaborative team between our pharmacists – from our health coach that we have on staff and our dietitians, who work to provide educational information. We try to focus on more of what you can eat, not what you can’t eat,” he said. 

“So many times when someone is diagnosed with a specific disease, they get all of this saying, ‘This is what you can’t do…’ We try to take a spin on it and say, ‘Well, maybe you can’t do that, but this is what you can do.’ Health has so much to do with what you put in your body…We work really hard with our dieticians to be able to educate our customers on what’s better for them.”

Dietitians are in high demand. They often are asked to speak with local schools, youth groups, municipalities and their employees along with other educational engagements.

Customers can find other nutritional education at Food City through Pick Well, an easy resource to find products that fit dietary needs, according to Glei. 

Items are tagged in-store and online with various icons that meet specific standards regulated by the FDA. Tags such as Heart Healthy, Low Sodium, Whole Grain, No Sugar Added, Gluten Free and Carb Aware are color-coded and displayed for products that fit the description. The final tag is Dietitians Pick, which is for items that are generally “good for anyone,” Glei said. 

“They’re flagged and tagged in the stores…our nutritionists work through and pick these items based on nutrition science.”

Immunizations have become more and more a part of the pharmacy business. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Food City administered more than 150,000 COVID shots. The company’s pharmacy division has an “aggressive marketing campaign” for flu vaccinations, which are up 35 percent over last year, according to Blazer. 

He added that convenience is what draws folks in. “You don’t have to make an appointment. You don’t have to go sit in a doctor’s office. You can come in, get your shot, wait 15 minutes to make sure you don’t have any allergic reaction and then be on your way.”

Food City Named 2023 Southeast Retailer Of The Year

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