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DALLAS – Plenty of excitement surrounded the first day of THE Tech EVENT, a combination of the former NACStech conference and the PCATS (Petroleum Convenience Alliance for Technology Standards) Winter Meeting.
A new early May date and a new location -- Dallas’ Hilton Anatole hotel -- are two of THE Tech EVENT’s main differences. "It was hard to commit to two events each year," Hank Armour, president and CEO of NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, said during a speech introducing attendees to the new show. "We wanted one event that covered everything important to you. A comprehensive show that delivers new ideas and networking ideas. We listened to the market. [We listened] to you in developing THE Tech EVENT."
Educational sessions followed, led by J. Walker Smith, chairman of The Futures Co., who noted that the "low hanging fruit" of technological innovation is gone. "We need to approach technology in a different way,” he said. "It’s tough. But if it’s so tough, why do we do it? Because it’s the only thing that changes our businesses."
Convenience store retailers don’t need to develop the next iPhone or iPad to be successful, according to Smith. "If you want to be in innovation today, you better think small," he advised. "Think small to win big. Smaller innovations are more attractive to consumers."
He recommended retailers innovate by giving consumers "head space."
"Consumers are looking for ways to solve [the] complexities of life," Smith relayed. "You need to create an experience. That’s the future of innovation. Give consumers something better, not just more. Make your store more enjoyable. Fun is always on people’s minds."
Following the theme of fun, the first day of THE Tech EVENT eventually shifted to a comedic tone. Author and nationally syndicated humor columnist Greg Schwem delivered a hilarious keynote speech taking aim at various segments of the convenience retail and petroleum industry.
Among the topics he covered was the fact that NACS features a clock on its website, www.nacsonline.com, counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the NACS Show in Atlanta on Oct. 12.
"Only two things should have a countdown clock," Schwem joked. "Your wife’s birthday and Doomsday. And if you forget your wife’s birthday, the second clock starts counting down quickly."
THE Tech EVENT continues through May 10. Tomorrow will feature several more educational sessions, as well as the opening of the Supplier Exchange, four aisles filled with technology manufacturers exhibiting the latest solutions.