Wawa CEO Howard B. Stoeckel Speaks at Entrepreneur Conference

Howard B. Stoeckel, CEO and Vice Chairman of the board of Directors for Wawa Inc. delivered the keynote address “Staying True to Our Brand” as the 2009 Baiada Center Entrepreneurship Conference “From Blues to Prosperity.” Stoeckel says he believes that Wawa is still successful today because it has stayed true to its brand and is still focused on the original values and beliefs on which it was founded.

Stoeckel says the retail landscape is changing, with consumers altering their spending habits — making less big purchases and saving more money. Now more than ever, he added, businesses are rethinking their business plans and going back to the basics that once made their business successful.

Wawa prides itself in simplicity, and the business revolves around that idea, Stoeckel says. The stores focus on satisfying customers and making things simpler and more efficient for them. “Simplicity also means saying no a lot,” added Stoeckel, because adding new products or services often leads to a change is performance and the main focus of the brand. He recalled past changes that have failed at the stores, including: lottery tickets, money orders, sit down areas, and drive-ins, saying that they changed the focus of the Wawa brand as well as what the customers have come to expect.

Stoeckel relayed a story about being asked if he was worried about all the 7-11s that were being opened locally. Stoeckel replied by saying that Wawa does not see 7-11 as a competitor because Wawa is in the food business and has a different focus, more comparable to Dunkin Donuts or McDonald’s, but with more variety. Wawa offers an array of hot foods that no fast food restaurant menus can compete with, Stoeckel said, as well as a coffee station with different blends where customers feel “empowered” because they prepare their own drinks. Wawa also has its own packaged products and provides customers with added value because everything is competitively priced.

Brand plays a significant role in the continued success of Wawa because it is a staple in peoples’ lives, Stoeckel says, because the brand has a personal connection with its customers. To reflect this, a marketing campaign was released where the customers were holding a Wawa logo inside a heart with the words “Love It” inside.

While Stoeckel proclaims himself a firm believer of staying true to the brand, he says he also believes that companies must embrace change in order to continue to be successful. He says that Wawa continues to be a successful company today after decades of operations because it sticks to the beliefs the brand has stood for while carefully adding new products and services to better satisfy its customers.

Stoeckel has been at Wawa since 1987, where he has managed a series of different positions before climbing the ladders and becoming CEO.