Making an M-PACT

Midwest retailers stay centered at combined tradeshow

INDIANAPOLIS --- More than 3,000 Midwest convenience retailers and suppliers gathered at the Indiana Convention Center last week for three days of education, business transacting and networking, otherwise known as M-PACT 2007.

Wall-to-wall exhibit space left retailers thirsting for more elbow room at the exposition's more than 400 booths, where vendors peddled everything from the latest in-pump loyalty technology to advances in breading for fried chicken gizzards. Exhibits included those for cigarettes, grocery distribution, foodservice, car wash, technology [image-nocss] and motor fuels, with an emphasis on ethanol for the corn-rich region, among other product and service staples.

It's really a terrific show, Mark Bayley told CSP Daily News. Bayley is president of Martin & Bayley Inc. dba Huck's Food & Fuel, Carmi, Ill., and first vice president of the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association/Illinois Association of Convenience Stores (IPMA/IACS). We heard this morning that we have more than 1,700 [retail] attendees and just about the same number of sponsors, so we're thrilled with the attendance.

M-PACT, short for the Midwest Petroleum & Convenience Tradeshow, represents the combined forces of four industry associations in the nation's heartland: IPMA/IACS; the Indiana Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association; the Kentucky Petroleum Marketers Association; and the Ohio Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association.

Manuel Laborde of Condor Coffee Service, Northbrook, Ill., oversaw a crowded booth he admitted to being almost too small to accommodate trafficwhat's known in industry terms as a good problem. He watched as retailers such as Rocky Bhalla of Elite Oil Co., Washington, Ill., stopped to sample shots of coffee and cappuccino from his company's Juan Valdez-branded dispensers. Laborde seemed buoyed by the steady stream of walk-ins, if not the actual business deals closed on the show floor.

This show has become critical for us, mainly because it brings together several states in one venue, Laborde told CSP Daily News. Next year we'll have twice as much space or three times as much space as we have this year.

Don Fox of Belton Foods, Dayton, Ohio, and Jay Wittlich of Landshire Inc., Belleville, Ill., used M-PACT to promote their companies' latest innovations. For Fox, those innovations included Belton's Best Soft Drink Flavor Shotsincluding an energy shot, in both hand-dispensed and bag-in-box formwhile Wittlich promoted his company's Monster Wedge, a new prepackaged sandwich line he referred to as a sandwich and a half.

There are a lot of buyers at this show, Wittlich said. These are the people you need to talk tothe people you like to call the decision-makers.

While many retailers wandered the aisles to secure profit-building deals or simply catch up with existing supplier partners, others used it to forge new bonds. Patrick Hughes Jr. was a recent beneficiary of a seed planted with a prominent retailer at last year's M-PACT Show.

Hughes presides over Chicago-based Inclusion Solutions, a company that markets a technology called Fuel Call designed to help retailers serve special-needs customers at the fuel island. He met with executives from Marathon Petroleum at the 2006 show, and the relationship they began cultivating last year has since blossomed into a business partnership.

That's the power of the M-PACT Show, Hughes told CSP Daily News. [Our relationship] started out as educational, but it has evolved to become a matter of solving a problem that everyone in the industry has.

In addition to the exposition, the event included educational programming. Topping the agenda were sessions on the challenges and profit opportunities of alternative fuels such as ethanol and risk management for petroleum marketers and haulers. Well-attended sessions hosted by Bill Ritter of retail-research and reporting consultancy RitterAssociates Inc., Toledo, Ohio, tackled a subject on every retailer's mind: limiting loss from the actions of dishonest employees.

We have to practice loss prevention or we have to practice loss investigation, Ritter told a packed house during an early-morning session. I think we'd all rather practice loss prevention.

Then he gave retailers ideas how to put such practices into actioncontrolling commodities such as cash, cigarettes and motor fuels by watching for and taking action against signs of stealing. While admitting the real-world challenges all retailers face, he offered real-world solutions for controlling the pain of being betrayed by trusted employees.

I don't know how to stop losses, he admitted. I only know how to control them. The only way I know how to stop them is to lock the place up.