2006 SOI Kicks Off

Three-day event offers first look at last year's industry sales numbers

CHICAGO -- The 2006 NACS State of the Industry (SOI) Summit in partnership with CSP got under way in Chicago last night with an evening of networking and sharing before the more than 450 convenience and petroleum marketing executives, suppliers and advisors get a first look at industry sales numbers this morning.

There is no better place to gain critical information and insights into our industry than the NACS SOI Summit, said Greg Parker, president of The Parker Cos. and chairman of the 2006 NACS SOI Summit in partnership with CSP, which continues through [image-nocss] Thursday.The top leadership in the convenience store world [have] come together to learn and discuss problem areas and growth opportunities based on the information that will be delivered in Chicago.

Key line items to be discussed will include payment-card costs and the latest statistics in employee retention. The NACS 2005 Compensation Survey's most recent employee turnover data shows the industry improving its retention, with full-time store employee turnover dipping below 100% for the first time in survey history. Health-care costs increased 14% in the survey data. The summit will address the overall change in labor costs for the industry and how it will affect retailers.

Meanwhile, payment-card costs continued to rise on higher fuel prices, with estimates showing a 29% increase in the cost of card acceptance, to $4.9 billion. Consumers increasingly migrated to higher-cost rewards cards for fuel purchases, further driving up the cost of card acceptance. And higher fuel transaction amounts forced retailers to exceed Visa preauthorization limits to serve their customers, according to NACS.

But rising gasoline supply issues and prices both before and after Hurricane Katrina remain the biggest headline for the c-store industry. Retail economists have predicted that energy prices may soften retail sales, but early reports from the convenience sector indicate that the industry weathered the storm with inside sales posting gains.

Mark Routt, a consultant to the oil industry with Energy Security Analysis Inc., Wakefield, Mass., said rising gasoline and diesel prices will continue to be an issue but will not have an immediate effect on sales.

[The price] doesn't matter, said Routt, who will speak today at the SOI event. Our dependence on gasoline is so great, there's no way you're going to replace it any time soon. So if you have, as a businessman, a doubt whether or not people will return to your store for gasoline, the answer is yes; it isn't going to change.

Highlights of the summit will include the NACS SOI survey and analysis; breakout sessions to hear about the latest in foodservice, in-store sales, new-product opportunities, consumers, tobacco, and finance and operations; and a final morning that will focus on the future. Edie Weiner, a pre-eminent futurist, will begin the morning, and she will be followed by a panel of Wall Street analysts who will provide their views of the future of convenience retailing and several key categories.

[CSP Daily News will offer highlights from the 2006 NACS SOI Summit in partnership with CSP throughout the week.]