ATLANTA — “We have so many great stories to tell,” said Henry Armour, NACS president and CEO of NACS, on the general session stage at the NACS Show in Atlanta.
During the show, Armour shared success stories from convenience stores around the country along with the Ideas 2 Go program.
Since 1994, Ideas 2 Go has featured hundreds of retailers from almost all 50 states and nearly a dozen countries. It showcases best practices and emerging concepts that redefine convenience.
This year’s program offered examples of modern technology, local food options and new takes on the old c-store model. Click through for six concepts that turned heads at this year’s presentation in Atlanta …
Fast and fresh
Hy-Vee Fast & Fresh in Altoona, Iowa, is 9,000 square feet of innovation. The store combines elements of a c-store and a grocery store, with convenience items on the left side of the store. Customers can find meal replacement, fill-in grocery items and food for a quick meal on the right side of the store. Additionally, the site is outfitted with advanced technology. Customers can place an order online before visiting to find their items in an on-site locker when they arrive. West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee also hired a dietitian and included a Dietitian’s Picks section in the store.
Russell’s Xpress in Denver, the cashierless concept from Lakewood, Colo.-based HJB Convenience, is not staffed by human beings. The company’s two Xpress units are located in office buildings. Employees of businesses in those buildings are considered members, and they may enter the stores by inputting their work phone number into a keypad by the door. The store has about 2,000 items for sale and includes a few self-checkout stations that were designed by Tenderfoot, HJB’s in-house software company.
For a look at the future of retail, Ideas 2 Go looked to a few noteworthy concepts in Shanghai. One featured store houses a robot named Ratio behind the counter. Ratio is a robotic arm that can accept orders through a consumer-facing mobile app. Customers can choose the exact temperature and taste profile of their orders through the app, and the store’s human employees bring customers the coffee when it is ready.
Ideas 2 Go also profiled the grocery concept Hema in Shanghai. Hema is owned by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, based in Hangzhou, China, which makes four times as many deliveries as Seattle-based Amazon. The video described Hema as a mix of a market, restaurant, warehouse and fulfillment center. The 65-store chain does not have a conventional checkout area. Instead, customers can check themselves out through a variety of means. Customers can also identify which farm their food is sourced from and its degree of freshness.
Make a choice
Choice Market in Denver offers customers a variety of ways to check out, including self-checkout and online ordering. The staff interviews farmers and other food providers in the area for hyperlocal options. The store draws traffic with its made-from-scratch menu items from the kitchen, cookouts during the summer and a brand that focuses on customer choice.
One Good to Go Markets location in Columbia, Md., is taking its offerings to its customers with a food truck. The Bullhead Pit Beef truck frequents festivals and other events, and it has a Twitter profile to inform customers where it will be in town on any given day. Running a food truck is less expensive than opening an in-store food operation but it requires more work, said Larry Jackson, managing director for Good to Go Markets. Dealing with a kitchen small enough to fit in a truck and bringing products to customers has its challenges, but Jackson said patience is key to the operation.