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There is a lot of ?garbage? being spewed about the convenience store industry, NACS President and CEO Hank Armour told attendees of the 2014 NACS Show, held Oct. 7?10 in Las Vegas.
This ?garbage? includes that c-store operators are purveyors of death because they sell tobacco products; that they addict people to gambling because they sell lottery tickets; and that they contribute to the nation?s obesity crisis because they sell items that allow consumers to indulge.
?Now doesn?t all of that just chap your ass,? Armour said to rousing applause from the crowd, borrowing a quote from former NACS Chairwoman Sonja Hubbard of E-Z Mart Stores Inc. With these mistruths being perpetrated, ?our future is at risk unless we do something about it,? he stressed.
NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, intends to do just that. Armour unveiled a multifaceted, long-term plan to address and correct these reputational attacks on the c-store industry and instead present the facts:
- C-stores create opportunities;
- Are responsible retailers;
- Local governments depend on them;
- Communities depend on them; and
- They sell choice.
The plan, among other things, calls for highlighting the many positives of the industry; tackling the misperception of dead-end jobs; addressing the nutritional aspect of c-stores? offer; bringing attention to the industry?s support of youth sports; and helping retailers overcome local zoning restrictions.
?We are making this a better world and it?s a great story to tell,? Armour said as he encouraged the crowd to do their part. ?Tell your story, walk the talk and be proud of what our industry does.?
FILTHY RICH WINNERS
Fitting of the Las Vegas venue, the theme of the 2014 NACS Show was ?A Winner Every Year.? In his high-energy opening general session address, outgoing NACS Chairman Brad Call came out singing and dancing a winning tune arm in arm with two showgirls.
?You?re a winner, baby, and that?s no lie!? Call belted out, repurposing a line from the 1978 song by the band Hot Chocolate and mixing it with the show?s theme. ?After all, you?re here at the show working hard to learn, make connections and become better operators. I promise you and you and you ? every one of you ? will be filthy rich winners if you throw your whole self into this show.?
Along with capitalizing on the innovation seen at the show, the vice president of Adventure Culture for Maverik Inc. encouraged his peers to ?get out and see the world, take your teams to global forums? and NACS summits as he has done. ?You will be so amazed at how much you learn and the innovative ideas you?ll take away from the stores [you] visit in those countries.? Call reported he racked up 279,000 miles in travel so far this year.
?We are all trying to become better and better,? he added. ?If we build and operate stores our communities would be proud of, we can overcome [zoning] issues of NIMBY, meaning Not in My Backyard. So, let?s utilize ideas at this show to make us better.?
A NEW, HEALTHY CHAPTER
On the final day of the NACS Show, incoming NACS Chairman Steve Loehr gave the industry something to chew on as he promoted the benefits of offering healthier products in the convenience channel. Loehr is vice president of operations support at Kwik Trip Inc., which sells 44 million pounds of bananas per year, as well as many other produce items and healthy products in its c-stores. The retailer even offers fresh fruit for free to its employees.
Kwik Trip was the first convenience store operator to be recognized by the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), which is devoted to working with the private sector to ensure the health of the nation?s youth by solving the childhood obesity crisis.
?It?s a big change from just a few years ago when [convenience stores] were considered part of the problem,? Loehr said, announcing that Sheetz Inc. and the Marine Corps Exchange joined Kwik Trip as PHA members that week with a pledge to sell better-for-you products. ?We hope many more [c-store retailers] join the PHA when I come back here [to speak] next year.?
Healthier foods will not be Loehr?s only focus during his one-year tenure as NACS chairman. The 25-year Kwik Trip veteran said alternative fuels will be on his agenda as well. Kwik Trip recently opened its 30th compressed natural gas (CNG) location and plans to open an additional 15 CNG sites within the next year.
?One great thing about CNG is price stability,? relayed Loehr. ?We started offering CNG in 2012 and I believe we?ve only needed to change the price at the pump twice. We could have painted the price of CNG instead of buying a digital sign.?