Convenience retail channel steps up to crisis

One of Ontario’s designated essential services is, in turn, saluting essential service workers in the trucking and supply chain sector. Onroute rest stops along Highways 400 and 401 will be serving free coffee to truck drivers on April 8.

“This small token of appreciation demonstrates our gratitude for the many ways they are helping our province and country during this challenging time,” says Melanie Teed-Murch, chief executive officer of the company, which operates 23 highway service centres on a 24-hour, 365-day basis. “We know it is a hard time to travel.”

Although cash transactions and eat-in dining areas are not available, all locations remain open, providing fuel pumps, truck parking, convenience stores, takeout food services and public washrooms. It’s part of the vast network of small and mid-sized businesses in the convenience retail channel that are contributing to the continued functioning of the Canadian economy and supporting daily life in general.

“They have become a vital and integral part of the landscape in these days of stay-at-home directives and social distancing,” reflects Brenda Johnstone, publisher of Convenience & Carwash Canada. “A retail channel that was perhaps never considered a full-fledged industry has now become an essential service during the COVID-19 outbreak, and owners and operators are standing strong across the country.”

“Over the past ten or more years, the convenience store industry has evolved from the milk-and-smokes store to the neighbourhood food market,” she adds. “Some are now offering late-hour shopping and many have set up in-store stations to dispense hand-wipes and sanitizer. Meanwhile, some gas stations have full-service, pay-at-the-pump facilities so that customers don’t have to touch anything or even go inside.”