SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It’s rare to see a c-store retailer making a bet on a basketball game with Earvin "Magic" Johnson, but that’s what attendees of CSP’s Outlook Leadership Conference experienced last month. Nearly 400 c-store executives, suppliers and other attendees gathered in Scottsdale, Ariz., for three days of lessons in leadership, stability and growth in an age of retail disruption.
Read on for great business-building ideas from this year’s event. And save the date: Outlook Leadership 2018 will be Aug. 19-22 at Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.
Pictured above: Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr. and Scott Hartman, president and CEO of Rutter’s Farm Stores, make a bet on a Duke-Michigan State basketball game during Johnson’s keynote. The Duke Blue Devils brought home a win, much to Hartman's delight.
1. Are you a brand, or a ‘pile of assets’?
In an era of headline-making consolidation, speakers had no shortage of advice on how to buy—or sell—one’s way to success. Trey Powell, director of marketing for Alimentation Couche-Tard’s Circle K Gulf Coast division, Pensacola, Fla. (and pictured above), encouraged attendees to identify whether they are buying a brand or a pile of assets, and then to integrate accordingly. Bill Trefethen, managing partner of Trefethen Advisors, Newport Beach, Calif., said buyers should identify their “secret sauce”—perhaps it's foodservice, or technology—and then look at acquisition targets that are weak in that area. For retailers that want to buy but prices are way too high, Trefethen advises to use that cash flow to move down debt and wait for another day.
2. Don’t dismiss Amazon
“If your business is convenience, Amazon’s Prime Now is a threat,” said John Rossman, managing director of Alvarez & Marsal and author of “The Amazon Way,” during a panel on retail disruption. The service delivers household items and essentials for free in two hours. In the longer term, Rossman sees the intersection of urbanization and growth in automated vehicles as a powerful disruptive force to retail.
Pictured above: Mitch Morrison (left), vice president of retailer relations for Winsight; Babs Ryan, global growth consultant for ThoughtWorks Retail, Boston; and John Rossman, managing director of Alvarez & Marsal and author of “The Amazon Way”
3. Be the meeting place
In an age of digital disruption, retailers can encourage face-to-face, social opportunities for their customers as a way to build brand equity, according to Babs Ryan, global growth consultant for ThoughtWorks Retail, Boston. People are still looking for ways to develop communities, she said, so it’s a chance for a retailer’s store to become the first stop for a local motorcycle club’s monthly ride, for instance.
“Are you going to be that meeting place?” Ryan said. “It’s about connecting and sharing.”
4. Harness the power of exclusivity
A simple chalkboard is a powerful way to trigger purchases, said Josh Halpern, vice president of c-store, packaged liquor and military for beer brewer and marketer Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis. The consumer assumes when they see an item advertised on the chalkboard that it may change, providing retailers with a great way to promote limited-time-only offers.
5. Why Pennsylvania is so good at foodservice
Pennsylvania’s recently ended, long-running ban on retail stores selling alcohol wasn’t all bad. It’s one of the things that helped develop c-store chains with such solid foodservice credentials—think Wawa, Sheetz and Rutter’s Farm Stores—said Derek Gaskins, chief customer officer of York, Pa.-based Rutter’s and retailer emcee at Outlook. The lack of beer revenue forced convenience retailers to innovate and develop foodservice years ahead of their industry peers.
6. Think outside of the shelf
As the convenience-retailing industry continues to elevate the in-store experience to attract more customers, new and innovative design tactics have become a key strategy in that evolution. Outlook attendees experienced custom shelving and displays from Infiniti Decor, Godley, Texas, exemplifying the potential of a new kind of shopper experience.
7. The case for diversity
If retailers want to strengthen their business, diversity can have a strong multiplier effect, said S. Shariq Yosufzai, vice president of global diversity for Chevron Corp., San Ramon, Calif. “Look like your customers,” he said, pointing out that the best way to get in tune with customer needs is to have employees who share a similar mix of backgrounds and demographics.
Pictured: Sarah L. Alter (left), president and CEO of Network of Executive Women (NEW); Pete Diatelevi, vice president of customer services for Altria Client Services LLC; Sonja Yates Hubbard, CEO of E-Z Mart Stores Inc.; and S. Shariq Yosufzai, vice president of global diversity for Chevron Corp.
8. Make every head count
What’s the difference between diversity and inclusion? Diversity is about counting heads; inclusion is about making every head count. “You can’t have inclusion without diversity, but diversity without inclusion does not lead to good results,” said Yosufzai.
9. Treasure what you measure
Accountability in all parts of the company is a strong mantra for Lynn Wallis, president and chairman of retailer Wallis Cos., Cuba, Mo. One of the tools she uses is a “balanced scorecard,” a holdover from her history as a Mobil fuel distributor. All the divisions within her company create such scorecards to make sure the entire operation is aligned with overarching goals. It helps divisions identify mutual interests and work together when common goals surface.
Pictured above: Lynn Wallis, president and CEO of Wallis Cos., with Stewart Spinks (left), chairman of The Spinx Co. Inc.; Tom Welch, chairman of the board of Maverik Inc.; and Bob Myers, chairman of the board of Casey’s General Stores Inc.
10. Prepare to promote
Proper promotional preparation in the candy category can lead to positive “stickiness” between retailers and vendor partners, as well as a hefty lift in sales, according to Aaron Simpson, chief marketing officer for Maverik Inc., Salt Lake City, and retailer emcee at Outlook. The chain recently partnered with Mars Chocolate North America, Hackettstown, N.J., to sell 175,000 units of Caramel M&M's in a week. The c-store chain could have sold 200,000 but ran out, Simpson said.
11. Don’t fear failure
The Spinx Co. Inc., Greenville, S.C., takes foodservice seriously, with commercial kitchens and plenty of seating to encourage customers to enjoy the chain’s famous fried chicken, sandwiches, salads and wraps. For retailers still finding their foodservice voice, it pays to be patient, said Stan Storti, president of the 81-store chain. “You do have to be disciplined, and it’s going to require you to stick with something that is going to look like a failure for a while,” he said. “We’re not used to that in our industry. We reset our stores twice a year. … You can’t have that mentality with food.”
Pictured: Mitch Morrison (left), vice president of retailer relations for Winsight; Varish Goyal, president of AU Energy (Loop); Trey Powell, director of marketing for Couche-Tard’s Circle K Gulf Coast division; and Stan Storti, president of The Spinx Co. Inc.
Wait until next year ...
The 2018 Outlook Leadership Conference will be held Aug. 19-22 at Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. Click here for more details.