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    CSNews Webcast Discusses Economy's Impact on C-stores

    The session reviewed the slew of factors standing to affect the convenience industry's success in 2008.

    NEW YORK -- With crude oil prices hitting $100 a barrel, a sluggish 2007 holiday spending season, the dropping value of the dollar and the threat of a recession, the impact these factors will have on the convenience industry is a question on many c-store executives' minds, including those who attended the Convenience Store News' Industry Forecast Webcast, held Jan. 16.

    "Consumers were wary [last year], but certainly not as wary as they are now," Maureen Maguire, president of ThinkResearch, told attendees. Maguire updated her likelihood of a recession at the Webcast from 30 percent to 40 percent, and a poll taken during the session found that more than 60 percent of attendees thought a recession was likely in 2008.

    Maguire also explained the impact a variety of factors will have on consumer spending and the convenience industry -- including rising inflation, high oil prices, the bursting housing bubble and the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

    "The implication of high oil prices hitting consumers has yet to be seen," said Maguire. "Consumers have not given up driving and filling up their tanks."

    The Webcast, a combined effort by Convenience Store News and ThinkResearch, also offered in-depth product category forecasts for important categories, including motor fuel, packaged beverages, tobacco, malt beverages and snacks. Top line information on categories is available in the Jan. 14 issue of Convenience Store News, while an in-depth look at the segments making up each category is available for purchase online at the following link:

    CSNews' 2008 Convenience Retailing Forecast

    In addition, Gary Braaten, manager of retail support for CHS/Cenex and a CSNews editorial board member presented some ways his company is improving the bottom line -- through reducing utilities costs, fighting transaction fees and installing noncompetitive profit centers.

    While reducing energy costs is important, making sure the energy used is charged correctly is also important. The company found that by researching its Minnesota clients' user category with the utilities providers, it saved $50,000 just in overcharges due to incorrect categorization, according to Braaten.

    CHS/Cenex is also improving the bottom line for its retail partners by installing noncompetitive profit centers in underutilized areas of the store, he said. Photo development centers, financial kiosks and gift card malls are driving traffic into the store, while Mountain Mudd espresso kiosks set up in parking lots bring customers to the property and increase revenue -- all while maintaining a minimal cost base, said Braaten.

    To view the Webcast in its entirety, click the link below:

    CSNews Industry Forecast Webcast

    The Webcast was sponsored by Just Born, makers of Peeps, Mike & Ike, Hot Tamales and other popular candies.

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