In 2000 a joint venture between three companies—Migros, Valora and Swiss Federal Railways—resulted in the foundation of Cevanova AG under the brand Avec., a convenience store concept with a vision to use redundant railway stations and other high-traffic locations such as petrol stations for commercial gain. The business idea quickly proved to be a winner in the Swiss marketplace. In 2005 Cevanovas Avec was restructured to be co-owned by Migros and Valora in a 50:50 split, and a year later it became 100 per cent Migrolino AG owned by Migros Cooperative Federation.

CEO Markus Laenzlinger has been with the group since its inception and was instrumental in the pilot phase of its development. He says that today the company has achieved great success by tapping into a sector which he believes is the way of the future.

“I am convinced that convenience is where the retail experience is headed,” he says. “At first it was an important option for young people and single households, but I think in the future, with restrictions on cars and different ways to enter the city, this convenience format will become more prominent. People are more and more on the move and even sites that we thought wouldn’t work several years ago are proving popular for our type of retail offering.”

But, as Markus explains, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. There were some challenges associated with launching the Migrolino brand in new markets. There needed to be a shift in cultural mindsets as the concept, from its outset, was envisioned as a franchise network. “With this in mind, convincing investors was difficult,” Markus says. “Swiss Federal Railways was approached to invest and manage the commercial buildings, while the convenience goods, kiosk coffee, and ticket sales would be conducted by Migrolino.”

In 2009, Migrolino went into a commercial partnership with Shell, merging retail and fuel services at more than 100 sites. The business is now proud to say that it has almost 300 stores across Switzerland and by June this year it plans to open in an additional 10 locations. Markus says the alliance with Shell was a major highlight in the Migrolino timeline. “Migros has a known oil business called Migrol, which is a sister company to Migrolino,” he explains. “Migrol made a contract with Shell which said if they implemented Migrolino in at least 50 of their stores then Migrol would also give them 50 stores. This was a huge milestone in our history. Within one year we were able to open in 136 new sites. Without Shell it would not have been possible to achieve what we have.”