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    Independent C-store Expo Connects Retailers, Vendors

    Royal Buying Group event draws more than 300 operators.

    By Kathleen Furore

    BURR RIDGE, Ill. — More than 300 independent convenience store retailers gathered with manufacturers and suppliers at the Chicago Marriott in Burr Ridge on Thursday, April 30 for the annual Independent C-store Expo sponsored by Royal Buying Group (RBG).

    Billed as an opportunity to “network, learn and grow,” the event opened with two educational sessions and a keynote presentation. Royal Buying Group is a national sales and marketing organization connecting vendor partners to its nationwide chain of independent retail locations.

    In one of the educational sessions entitled “Trends in Prepaid: Growth Drivers in Wireless, Gift Cards and Financial Services,” presenters from RBG and InComm focused on the growth opportunity that the prepaid segment offers independent c-store operators.  

    “The industry has exploded,” said Jim Atten, RBG’s vice president, North America, sales and marketing. The prepaid category was a $570-billion industry in 2014, and projections show it growing to $665 billion in 2017, he reported.

    Consumer demand for technology and payment methods is changing, added Thad Bell, regional director of sales at InComm, a provider of prepaid card and transaction technologies. He pointed to prepaid toll/transit cards, smartphones and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) starter kits that offer no contract service as areas ripe for growth.

    “Prepaid is not just long-distance cards on a pegboard behind the counter,” Bell said. “If that’s all you offer, you are not in the [prepaid] category.”

    In the other educational session titled “The Evolution of Tobacco: Staying Ahead of the Trends,” R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. Account Manager Robert Goetz stressed that tobacco — cigarettes, moist tobacco, snus and electronic cigarettes — is the leading category driving customers into c-stores. He then suggested ways independent retailers can stay ahead of competitors.

    “Aggressive pricing will drive in customers, who will buy additional products — high-margin items like packaged beverages and candy,” Goetz said.

    The keynote presentation, meanwhile, focused on dynamics in the workplace. In her speech entitled “Motivation Across the Generational Divide,” keynote speaker Linda McKenna explained how the attitudes, behaviors and preferences of the four generations in today’s workforce (Matures, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials) were shaped by the social and economic conditions in which they were raised.

    McKenna is principal and co-founder of Convenience Store Coaches Inc. and Employee Performance Strategies Inc., where she helps convenience retailers achieve greater financial results by optimizing their workforce.

    Among her tips for improving employee performance across generations: “We’re all a product of our environment … Do unto others, keeping their preferences in mind.”

    After the morning presentations, 50 vendors showcased their 2015 Royal Buying Group products and marketing programs to attendees on the trade show floor.

    The Independent C-Store Expo is exclusively targeted to independent single-site, multiple-site and wholesale jobbers representing all brands of petroleum/c-store locations.

    By Kathleen Furore
    • About Kathleen Furore

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