I just booked my first business trips since February 2020, when I attended 7-Eleven’s annual trade show in Las Vegas. At that time, news of the coronavirus outbreak in China was just beginning to emerge in the United States. By the end of that month, there would be more than 1,000 cases outside of mainland China.
We all know what followed. From minor concerns about a new virus that U.S. retailers feared might disrupt product supply lines from Asia, COVID-19 grew into a worldwide pandemic that paralyzed business and travel for several months, and caused death and illness to millions over the past year and a half.
So, it was with cautious optimism that I booked both a business trip this month to Ohio and my airfare and hotel for the 2021 NACS Show in Chicago in October.
I have a feeling this year’s NACS Show will be something special. C-store operators are enjoying a surge in pent-up demand for many of the products they sell, from fuel to foodservice. Retailers have missed connecting with their colleagues and business partners. Unless there is a major setback in the fight against COVID-19, the industry is going to have a blast at this year’s NACS Show.
It will be great to see old friends and business associates again. NACS says that exhibitor space is more than 90 percent filled and buyer attendance is pacing ahead of the last time the show was held in Chicago in 2017. I expect to see retailers walking the aisles — examining and/or tasting new products and discussing business strategies with their vendor partners.
I’m looking forward to the usual slate of education sessions on such topics as home delivery, supply chain efficiencies, last-mile experiences, and the current biggest challenge: the labor shortage.
For all of the success of the technology that enabled virtual meetings this past year, nothing takes the place of face-to-face contact. Convenience Store News has two in-person events scheduled during NACS Show week in Chicago.
Our annual Technology Leadership Roundtable & Dinner on Tuesday, Oct. 5 will feature most of the top retail tech executives in the industry, including guest speakers Alimentation Couche-Tard Chief Technology Officer Deb Hall Lefevre and 7-Eleven Chief Information Officer Mani Suri. And one of the annual highlights of show week, the CSNews Top Women in Convenience Awards gala, will be held Wednesday, Oct. 6, right after the expo closes.
I’m going for the connections, the products, and to be inspired. How about you?