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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Convenience Distribution Association (CDA) President and CEO Kimberly Bolin kicked off the annual Convenience Distribution Business Exchange (CDBX) event with a rosy forecast for the future of the organization.
"CDA is on a great trajectory," Bolin said during her Sept. 13 opening remarks, citing the collective expertise of the event's attendees and advances in technology as reasons for her optimism.
CDA Chairman Chad Owen, vice president of business affairs for convenience distributor Chambers & Owen Inc., echoed Bolin's optimism during the annual Chairman's Address portion of the event. However, he also reflected on the challenges he's faced during his time in the chairman role, comparing the experience to riding a rollercoaster during a hurricane.
When Owen stepped up as chairman, it was at a time when the CDA — formerly, the American Wholesale Marketers Association (AWMA) — was being retooled and reinvented as it faced a challenging business environment, he recounted. Tobacco, a primary profit center of convenience stores, was under attack, with reduced sales affecting the bottom line for everybody. Consolidation was also a major issue for the CDA to contend with, he said.
"The association is poised for a very bright and successful feature. Retooling was needed," Owen stated. "We did that, and now we're on a roll."
Following through on work that was begun under the previous chairman, Owen described to the CDBX crowd how he oversaw a series of major staff changes at the association; the launch of improved programs and communications for CDA members; and the transition to a new Convenience Distribution Marketplace event.
"It was the definition of teamwork," Owen said of launching Marketplace.
Today, the Convenience Distribution Association is the trade organization working on behalf of convenience products distributors in the United States. Its distributor members represent more than $92 billion in U.S convenience product sales, serving a wide variety of small retail formats. Associate members include leading convenience product manufacturers, brokers, retailers, suppliers and others allied to the industry.
With much of the "growing pains" now behind it, the CDA will continue to assist its members in a variety of ways, the chairman said, particularly through its InfoMetrics program that's designed to provide the data and information distributors need to make smart decisions and lower costs. He added that while leveraging technology is important for the industry, without data, even the most advanced gadgets are just "shiny hardware that looks cool but means nothing."
Going forward, CDA expects its members will need to adapt to further changes in the marketplace, such as recognizing the effect millennials are having on the retail space and looking outside the box to identify new profit centers.
While this may be a challenge, Owen doesn't expect it to be an insurmountable one.
"Adapting to change is nothing new for us," he said.