A Growing Knowledge Base

McLane National Tradeshow draws record sales while emphasizing learning opportunities

LAS VEGAS -- We want to bring to you information that will help you grow. So stated Roger Grogman, vice president of marketing for the McLane Co., at the opening of the company's National Tradeshow in Las Vegas.

The comment reflected the overall attitude of the three-day conference as more than just a place to sell products to retailersalthough there was plenty of that as wellbut also as an opportunity to share ideas, learn about trends and improve the vitality of the convenience-store industry.

Nearly 1,000 buyers attended the [image-nocss] convention that ends today at the Rio Hotel & Convention Center. And a day and a half into the show, Grogman was confident McLane would break its previous sales records for the convention, which includes handheld ordering devices to simplify the buying process and an online virtual tradeshow, which allows retailers who could not attend the show to purchase product over the Internet.

Still, as Grogman said, there was as much value in the content of the general session speakers as there was in the deals being made on the tradeshow floor. He demonstrated the desire to educate in his introduction of petroleum analyst Tom Kloza of Oil Price Information Service. We don't sell that stuff, he said, but knowledge of fuel pricing affects everything we do. We want to provide you a knowledge base and relationship that takes you to another level.

For Kloza's part, he offered retailers an inside view of the mechanics that are driving petroleum volatility and pricing in his talk titled, It's Not Your Father's Oil Market Anymore.

There's an element of being sloppy drunk in the market place, he began, noting that it's the crude oil traders and, to some extent, speculators who are driving the volatility of the industry, but not everyone is complaining. Oil companies aren't screaming about volatility because it's benefiting them, he said.

For retailers, the issue isn't that simple, Kloza said yesterday. It always amazes me when the press grabs the retailers when prices go up and says, Boy, you must be making a fortune with gasoline at $2.80 a gallon,' he said. I always tell them, No, they make more money when it drops to $2.20.

Upon donning his prognosticator hat, Kloza predicted gasoline prices will average about $2.65 per gallon for the year.

A day earlier, tobacco analyst Bonnie Herzog of CitiGroup told retailers that cigarette consumption historically has declined between 1% and 2% each year. The volume has declined for the past three decades and will continue to decline, she said, noting that product innovation is the best way to slow that decline.

Philip Morris has been working on reduced-risk technology, and we believe the company will be investing heavily behind this capability in the future in terms of on-going research and development and scientific evidence, she said. We believe Reynolds American Inc. may try to re-market Eclipse, a product that primarily heats rather than burns tobacco and reduces secondhand smoke by 80% compared to other cigarettes, under the Kool and Camel brand names.

Today at the tradeshow, industry consultant Richard Meyer of CSX LLC is expected to discuss the tools necessary for retailers to make informed marketing decisions.