Don't Get Stuck in Success

Futurist Weiner urges retailers to fight complacency and see what's coming

CHICAGO -- The day after 450 of the country's top convenience store and petroleum retailing executives, suppliers and advisors got the news that industry sales grew by 20% in 2005, Edie Weiner advised them to shake things up.

Weiner, president of Weiner, Edrich, Brown, a futurist consulting group, sent the message Thursday that those present at the 2006 NACS State of the Industry Summit in partnership with CSP in Chicago shouldn't think about what's going to happen. More important is: How do you think about what's going to happen? said Weiner.

With a talk full of eye-opening demographics and the viewpoints of extraterrestrials and children, Weiner said everyone suffers from educated incapacity the inability to see the forest for the trees that results from knowing too much about a single specialty.

Who's innovative? Weiner said she's been asked. I can tell you who was (innovative) yesterday and last night, but when the sun goes down, I don't have a clue.

She gave as an example Sony, which won the battle vs. Samsung when it took a chance on the Walkman. Years later, Sony fought Napster, and along came Apple with its iPod, which is every bit the success story that the Walkman was. That should have been Sony's iPod, Weiner said.

She suggested that the c-store folks ask young people, like interns, or people from other industries, to give their opinion on c-store operations. Weiner asked them to visualize a typical citizen, and guessed they imagined someone between the ages of 25 and 55. She then told them that country by country, people older than 60 are outnumbering those under 20, that the United States is one of only four countries replacing their youth, and that the reason was immigration.

One in every four U.S. births is to a Hispanic family, she said, and generation after generation, the largest dropout rate belongs to Hispanic males. In the future, Weiner said, our greatest challenge is to see to it that young Hispanic males get well-educated.

Weiner also advised that retailers leverage their rights-of-way that is, their customers, who other businesses want to reach as well and that differentiations could include giving away CDs of local musicians and having entertainment outside the store.

We have a conscious as well as a subconscious need to protect what is, she said. If we get stuck in the current success, we will not see what's coming. Things change fast and constantly, and we think that if we just tweak it a little bit that we're keeping up with the times. We have to understand it's just not true. You really have to start being very creative.