The Reimagining of Cumberland Farms

Cumberland Farms, a convenience store fixture in New England and central Florida for half a century, once fielded more than 1,000 stores. Today it has pared down to 600 stores as it transforms itself from a strip-center and gas station dairy store to a chain of freestanding, modern C-stores providing food service and gasoline, along the lines of Quik Check and Wawa.
 
The chain’s transformation was explored during a session at Chain Store Age’s 53rd annual SPECS conference, held March 12- 14, at the Gaylord Palm, in Kissimmee, Fla.  
 
Fran Sheflin, Cumberland Farms’ director of planning and construction, recounted the family-owned chain’s decade-long journey of rebranding, reimaging, and remodeling at the session. 
 
It started with an appeal from Cumberland Farms CEO Ari Haseotes to The Moseley Group in 2007, a Franklin, Massachusetts-based retail food and beverage consultant. Haseotes recognized a new, customer-service-oriented trend developing in the C-store industry and desired to take part. 
 
Moseley surveyed consumers and found that, along the way, Cumberland Farms had lost its original connection customers as a local, family-owned farm store. The response was a simultaneous downsizing and upscaling of the chain based on a reinterpretation of core principles unearthed by Mosely. Customers said the brand was about community, farm fresh foods, and energy, but that they would like to see more choice and innovation in foodservice and more green energy sources in stores.
 
REBUILD: The only way to communicate such values, Moseley argued, was to tear down the current Cumberland Farms model and rebuild it. A new mission statement was crafted, new leadership was put in place, and new store designs and products were to follow. The company engaged the services of the architectural and design firm HFA, which happened to located in same Franklin office park as Moseley, and the transformation was underway.
 
Larger, more open space was devoted to foodservice inside the stores, which themselves were crafted in two varieties — sleek boxes for urban areas and colonial-style buildings for suburban locations. HFA architect James Owens said that Haseotes insisted on using the colonial-themed stores in Florida as well as up north to give the chain a point of difference in the Sunshine state. 
 
“He said he wanted the stores to look like they dropped in out of the sky from New England,” Owens said.
 
A white-green-and-blue palette was chosen for new Cumberland Farms branding to convey the milk-store and ecological energy concepts. That brand dress and an updated logo were applied to everything from drink cups to gas pumps. But that was easier said than done. While the Haseotes family accepted all the changes being proposed by Moseley and HFA, they insisted that the logo had to remain intact.
 
It wasn’t just that the blue-and-white Cumberland Farms logo with a tree blossoming out from the “l” had become instantly recognizable among Floridians and New Englanders over the decades, it was the meaning the logo held for the Greek immigrant family who founded the chain.  
 
“Throughout this whole process, one thing was made clear by the family,” said Sheflin, who has worked at the company since the Seventies. “The logo was not to be touched.”
 
That tree sprouting from the logo was not just any tree, but the Greek “Tree of Life.” The shade of blue in the logo came directly from the Greek flag. But the image that the old logo brought to the mind of consumers was that of the old Cumberland Farms, and the family was finally won over to a newer, greener version that featured a more organic representation of the Tree of Life while still retaining the Greek blue.
 
Between 2009 and 2013, 141 Cumberland Farms stores were remodeled in the new style and 28 new stores were built. Since then, new builds have been working harder to convey the new image, with 105 going up against 34 remodels.
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