Most U.S. travelers see the Circle K convenience store chain as just another purveyor of consumer staples like gas and snacks.
But that began to change when the chain was purchased in 2003 by the Quebec-based corporation Alimentation Couche-Tard. Its new parent took the retail chain global in 2015 and announced that it would gradually rebrand all the stores in its portfolio—including the Mac’s, Statoil, Kangaroo Express, Topaz, and CST stores—with the Circle K name. That’s a major move, given that Alimentation Couche-Tard operates some 14,000 stores in 26 countries worldwide.
Backed by that corporate muscle, Circle K is now a retailing powerhouse with access to the latest logistics technology. For example, it announced in June that it had added more than 100 autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) from tech vendor Geek+ to its Hong Kong distribution center. That 140,000-square-foot DC supplies more than 300 Circle K convenience stores in Hong Kong, which collectively serve over 600,000 customers daily.
According to Geek+, the AMRs will use intelligent software and QR (quick response)-code technology to flexibly move racks of goods from a designated staging area to employees positioned at picking stations. By automating those time-consuming and physically demanding tasks, the system aims to improve picking accuracy and efficiency while creating a safer work environment for employees.