He shared that NACS is improving the convenience retailing industry by scouting and sharing global best practices, developing programs for members to improve their operations and creating new initiatives to address critical issues and opportunities. He then outlined each of these areas, touching first on global best practices.
“To be successful you need to know what’s around the corner—whether that corner is down the street or on the other side of the world. There are no unique issues around world. Sure, each country is different, but those differences are simply the result of being in different phases in the issue life cycle,” he said, citing the following examples:
- In Japan, technologies such as mobile payments are interwoven into the fabric of life and the shopping experience at a convenience store.
- In Argentina, more than 60% of the transportation fuel is natural gas.
- In Australia, not only is the cigarette category dark but all cigarette packages are the same plain green with brand names in the same black fonts.
“No matter what country you’re in, you can learn so much from looking at what’s happening around the world,” which is why attendees from more than 60 countries attend the NACS Show. This mindset is also why NACS has dramatically expanded its international portfolio to include Global State of the Industry reports, the February 2016 Global Forum in South Africa and the June 2016 NACS Insight Convenience Summit–Europe, which takes place in both Stockholm and London.
Second, Armour discussed the robust set of tools to help retailers refresh their offers and their image as part of the NACS reFresh initiative. These resources include:
- How Stores Work: Addresses common industry issues to allow retailers to tell their stories in their communities.
- Site Approval Toolkit: Strategies for retailers seeking zoning approvals.
- PR Toolkit: Tools to help retailers launch their own publicity efforts in their communities.
- Are You Fit for Fresh?: A checklist to assess whether a specific store should grow its fresh produce offer.
- Produce Sales: Analysis of industry and consumer trends with practical ideas to develop an enhanced produce offering in stores.
- Grow Better-for-You Sales: Strategies to target customers with better-for-you items.
“But we’re not leaving the re-imaging of our industry all up to you,” said Armour. “NACS has been aggressively spreading the good word about our industry—by expanding the partnerships and close ties we have with the most recognized and respected nutrition and community groups across the country and by telling our industry’s story to the media.”
And third, Armour highlighted the issues and opportunities facing the industry and how NACS is addressing them with the help of the association’s subsidiaries and affiliated organizations.
- Fuels: Because convenience stores sell more than 80% of the gasoline in the United States, NACS founded the Fuels Institute two years ago to have a seat at the table for any discussion involving transportation fuels. “The Fuels Institute has—for really the first time ever—brought the diverse stakeholders from the transportation and fuels markets together: retailers, refiners, ethanol and natural gas producers, automobile manufacturers and even consumer advocates, to help identify transportation’s biggest issues—and create fact-based research to address them.”
- Technology: Conexxus has been instrumental in bringing productivity-enhancing technology standards to the industry for over a decade. Most recently, Conexxus helped NACS design a modern electronic payroll card program that greatly simplifies the lives of many employees, while significantly reducing employer payroll processing costs.
- Benchmarking tools: The CSX subsidiary is the engine behind the association’s first-in-class industry dataset that powers the annual NACS State of the Industry Summit and NACS’ dynamic benchmarking software. “It’s a great resource to help you improve your performance by benchmarking it against industry averages and the results of the top performers in the industry,” said Armour.
“But even with the best tools to run your business, to fight your existing and emerging competition and to ride the wave of innovation, there is one more enormous challenge to your business,” cautioned Armour. “And I would argue that it is the great one: the government. Of all the things we do at NACS, the one that is at the core of our existence, that we are most zealous about, is representing our industry’s interests in the legislative and regulatory arenas,” he said.
“This past year we aggressively fought on your behalf to bring reason to the confusing, costly and poorly designed menu-labeling requirement imposed on us by the Affordable Care Act,” said Armour. NACS and other allies were successful in introducing bipartisan congressional legislation that rectifies many of the flaws in the labeling requirements. “The end result was that the FDA was forced to pull back the regulations for further review and delayed their implementation for at least another year.”
NACS also is actively addressing the threat of online lottery sales. “We think that online lottery is a bad idea all around. It hurts the local stores that have effectively managed and grown the program for the past 50 years. And it creates a whole slew of new problems—from dubious controls on the age of purchasers to a great temptation to run up credit card debt in the pursuit of mega jackpots,” he said. “We are fighting this—as we do every issue—with passion and reason. You, too, can play a role. I urge every one of you to challenge your state lottery commissioners on why they want to move their sales online.”
Ending on a positive note, Armour said that passage of debit-fee reform (the Durbin Amendment) has saved c-store customers and the convenience and fuel retailing industry more than $400 million. “Those savings can pay your NACS dues not only for the rest of your lives but for those of your children’s, grandchildren’s and many generations beyond that. The value of NACS membership is awesome,” he said.