- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 10, 2006

Safeway Stores Inc. expanded its fuel program last week with its second combination grocery store-gasoline station in the D.C. area.

The Bowie store is the first in Prince George’s County. The only other one in the immediate Washington area is in Fairfax. Safeway has 12 other grocery-gas combinations in the more distant Charles and Calvert counties, in areas north of Baltimore and in Delaware.

Nationwide, fuel pumps are one of the latest additions to grocery stores, many of which already feature coffee shops, cleaners, flowers, bakeries and banks in an attempt to be a one-stop shopping location.

“Everyone is crunching for time and the fewer stops, the better. … The fuel centers are an extension to that philosophy,” said Greg Ten Eyck, a spokesman for Safeway’s Eastern division. “Wherever we can put them, we put them.”

Although fuel pumps are popular in less urban areas, few are found in cities because of space constraints.

“Whether Safeway, Wal-Mart or Home Depot, they’re looking to use the underutilized parking areas as a profit center and, at a minimum, a traffic driver,” said Jeff Lenard, a spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores, a trade group in Alexandria. “They’re getting you to buy gas there with the hopes that you go inside and fill up the shopping basket.”

Nationwide, about 3,800 grocery and discount stores and 112,000 convenience stores sell gas, according to the trade group. Wal-Mart led the way, first installing gas pumps in the mid-1990s.

Giant Food Inc., the largest grocery chain in the Washington area, doesn’t sell gas, but the chain is “evaluating the fuel station concept,” a spokesman said last week.

Competition in the grocery arena has accelerated change at traditional gas stations, Mr. Lenard said. Their margins on fuel are low and they must rely on selling high-end coffee, sandwiches and other products to make a profit.

“They just don’t make their money at the pump,” he said.

The Safeway grocery store and fuel station at 12410 Fairwood Parkway opened Thursday, but the fuel pumps won’t be operating until Dec. 20 because of permit delays.

Wal-Mart foe airs ads

Wake-Up Wal-Mart, an activist group opposed to Wal-Mart, began airing television commercials this month that include a Maryland woman who works for the world’s largest retailer. The ads are playing in Baltimore and 41 other cities, but not the District.

The ads include the local woman, Cynthia Murray, because the group found that personal stories resonate more strongly with viewers than mere facts, and also because the Free State recently passed legislation targeting the retailer, a spokesman for the group said last week.

The Maryland General Assembly passed legislation in January that required Wal-Mart to contribute 8 percent of its payroll to employee health care.

The legislation was repealed in district court, but the state filed an appeal with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court has not ruled yet.

A second group of commercials, centered around the idea that associates would have to work 1,000 years to equal the annual pay of Wal-Mart’s chief executive officer, began airing last week.

Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Contact Jen Haberkorn at jhaberkorn@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-4836.

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