OPINIONCompany News

SOI 2020: Working Through One More Challenge

The c-store industry is reacting to changes in consumer behavior in real time
Andy Jones SOI

AUGUSTA, Ga. — We are in the middle of one of the most challenging and difficult times our nation has ever faced.

As a NACS family, we wrestled with the decision to continue with the NACS State of the Industry Summit in any format. But ultimately, we chose to move ahead, not just to present the data to retailers but actually modernize the way we communicate with them. And I think we did a pretty great job!

We produced more than eight hours of video—much of it in the days just before launch—that were up and running smoothly just as scheduled. We provided ways to comment and ask questions that aimed to maintain some of the contact that an in-person event provides. And I’m happy to report nearly 2,000 “attendees” joined our virtual event, and it is still available for viewing.

A Storied History

For five decades, the convenience-store industry has relied upon NACS to collect, analyze and disseminate critical information about the performance metrics and benchmarks that allow us to define success in a very dramatic landscape and make the necessary changes to sustain ourselves through the challenges ahead. So we were excited to gather together in a virtual format that allowed us to present the numbers and also provide ways to interact with the audience and answer questions along the way.

As we planned the digital summit, it was so important to us that we deliver this virtual experience to participants in a manner consistent with the quality and content that you told us was important. Yes, we definitely missed the networking opportunities the in-person annual State of the Industry event provides. But many of you told us that now the benchmarks and key performance indicators (KPIs) of our industry are important, perhaps more now than ever before.

There are important lessons that we can learn from our past that will provide tailwinds and help frame the priorities that are essential to protecting our industry, our stores and, yes, the communities that we all serve.

Essential to Communities

The c-store industry is no stranger to thriving in times of chaos. In times of challenge, we have adjusted business practices to meet the needs of our communities. We’ve stood by our communities ravaged by hurricanes. We’ve fed, we’ve fueled and we’ve comforted communities through fires. We have provided much-needed essentials to communities devastated by floods and crippling snowstorms that challenged them for weeks.

And while this storm—the coronavirus pandemic—may be uncharted waters for us, we can only look to our storied past to know that after COVID-19, our industry will stand tall with our communities to bring forward the services, the support and of course the friendly smiles so desperately needed by all.

We will use the lessons of our past to inform future decisions—decisions about operations, categories, shopper programs and more. We will test our business contingency plans, we will discover untapped potential in our people, and we will find new ways to support the changing needs of our shoppers and communities.

We all recognize that our world has changed dramatically, and we need to balance the lessons from 2019 with the priorities and challenges we all now face.

Consumer behavior is being defined in real time, and we must be ready to serve those needs. This special issue of CSP magazine, produced jointly by Winsight and NACS, is a step in that direction.

The 2020 NACS State of the Industry Summit Virtual Experience will be available for on-demand viewing through Sept. 1. Access critical benchmarking data, analysis, emerging trends and executive insights at convenience.org/SOISummit.

Andy Jones is president and CEO of Sprint Food Stores, Augusta, Ga. He also is chairman of the NACS Research Committee.

Click here for more from the State of the Industry Summit.

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