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LAS VEGAS -- Massive crowds in the halls, overflowing educational sessions and a standing-room-only opening general session spoke volumes about the success of the 2012 NACS Show, being held here in Las Vegas.
Based on off-the-record comments from unofficial sources, this year's total attendance is likely to surpass the show's all-time high of 24,365, achieved in 2004 also in Vegas. This year's show is expected to hit a record high for retail buyers as well.
Officially, NACS is citing more than 22,000 attendees from 61 countries, 1,220-plus exhibiting companies and 53 educational workshops in 11 tracks.
Crowds were so dense that they created logjams in several corridors as attendees moved from morning educational sessions at the Las Vegas Convention Center to the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino for the opening general session featuring outgoing NACS Chairman Tom Robinson, president of Robinson Oil Corp., based in San Jose, Calif., and guest speaker Peter Sheahan, a successful entrepreneur and founder of ChangeLabs, a global consultancy that delivers large-scale behavioral change projects for clients such as IBM, Apple, Google and Harley-Davidson.
Robinson acknowledged that this year's show has gotten off to "a fast start" and spoke about all the valuable connections and educational insights he and his Robinson Oil/Rotten Robbie team expects to gleam from the event.
"It's no coincidence that we conduct our 2013 strategy planning right after the show," he said.
Robinson also applauded the resiliency of the industry, noting that "we've gone through the roughest economic downturn of my lifetime and we got through it pretty [well], if you ask me. We weathered the recession because we provide the consumer with a terrific offering and we make it easy for them to shop with us."
Robinson put a spotlight on other NACS activities he has found valuable, such as the annual technology conference and the association's role in providing an effective voice for the industry on government relations.
In closing, he thanked his family, his wife, his Robinson Oil colleagues, the NACS board and staff members. "I like hanging out with so many impressive people. Thanks for letting me hang out with you," he said.
Sheahan, author of six books including his latest, "Make It Happen," got the audience laughing several times with examples of how previous leaders miscalculated by making awfully wrong assumptions based on the information they were working with. For example, the mayor of London anticipated the need for a million more horses in the early 1900s to accommodate the city's growing population, even though early automobiles were already coming on the scene.
"C-stores are going through similar changes as other industries. People who make the most money are the people who make the best assumptions about what is going to happen," said Sheahan, noting that "change is slow, until it's not."