Racetrac Races Forward in Analytics

Listening to and reacting to data, trends and feedback has always been an important component in RaceTrac Petroleum Inc.’s history of innovation. The third-generation led gas and convenience store retailer has been serving guests since 1934. Headquartered in Atlanta, GA, RaceTrac operates more than 420 convenience store locations spanning Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and Texas.

In recent years, RaceTrac has launched a wave of new and remodeled stores that feature expanded layouts and additional offerings, reflecting feedback from both guests and team members. In addition, Brad Galland, RaceTrac’s director of financial planning and analysis, wanted to improve business forecasts for effective inventory management, and needed a solution that could make sense of vast amounts of external information.

“The products we sell inside our stores are an important source of our revenue and profits," Galland explained. “We wanted to be more strategic in our evaluation of in-store sales trends and subsequent inventory planning, as these decisions impact our margins.”

Accurate forecasting is a critical component of RaceTrac’s financial planning, if the company buys too much of one product category, only to learn these items ultimately collect dust on stores’ shelves, it can potentially lose millions of dollars based on one inaccurate decision.    
“The previous process lacked a lot of flexibility,” explained Dayna Reed, director of reporting and insights. “For example, we would build an annual forecast in the fall for the upcoming year and essentially lock it in after that. Building 13-plus category-level forecasts in Excel doesn’t allow for much manipulation throughout the year if we needed to revise it.”

After implementing Prevedere’s big data and predictive analytics solution, RaceTrac was able to identify key external factors that directly affected each market’s demand and make predictions based on real-time data analysis.

“We see that things like new home construction, the unemployment rate and the Consumer Price Index are good leading indicators for our customer counts,” Reed said. “The solution allows us to identify those leading indicators on a market-specific basis to assist with our forecasting accuracy.”

Today, RaceTrac has significantly improved sales predictions so that products filling the stores meet customer demand. Leveraging Prevedere’s forecasting platform, the company regularly combines its internal sales information with macroeconomic, demographic and other external data to produce real time, high-level economic indicators. The new solution allows the retailer to create regional models for projecting guest counts for its stores nationwide.

RaceTrac has been able to change its mindset from “This is what happened and this is why we believe it happened” to “We believe this is what is going to happen and this
is why.”