CSP Magazine

Industry Views: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The kids are back in school, the leaves are beginning to turn and playoff baseball and gridiron weekends abound. The scent in the air jogs our memories and lets us know that “the show” is right around the corner.

The week of the NACS Show is something we look forward to all year long. It’s a celebration where old and new friends gather to celebrate the past and plan for our future. We have so many memories to smile about. In 2010, the NACS Show in Atlanta marked the birth of iSee Store Innovations—it’s where I met my partners and co-founders. The show marks many other important milestones, including last year in Las Vegas when Altria’s Bob Sears handed me the gavel for the NACS Supplier Board.

This gathering of the c-store industry is like an annual block party where neighbors get together to celebrate and reconnect. We all bring a new dish or two, along with our favorite beverage to liven up the party. We visit with one another to share our trials and our successes. Suppliers and retailers alike come to build upon a relationship based on the trust that good neighbors have. Trust and mutually beneficial relationships drive good business and long-term friendships.

There are ample opportunities for all attendees to mingle, network and celebrate because the show captures the 24/7 nature of the c-store industry. The “work hard and play hard mentality” rules, and the “you can sleep when you are dead” mantra prevails, more so in Vegas.

Plan Your Success

The NACS Show offers significant actionable opportunities. Without a plan, however, the show’s four days can be overwhelming. A good plan should start with Cool New Products. As a retailer, know that this is where we suppliers put our best on display in trying to attract your attention and your vote. This compact, advertising-free zone of the best and coolest new offerings gives you a good start for mapping out booth visits. As a winner of the No. 1 Cool New Product in 2013, I can testify that, as a supplier, this is where you want to be.

Often overlooked at the show are the educational sessions that address critical industry issues and opportunities.

To have access to these, you need an attendee badge vs. the lower-cost exhibitor badge. The badge distinction is accurate in that as an exhibiting-only supplier, you are missing out on acknowledge opportunity. The sessions offer insight and a retail perspective that can figure significantly into better decision-making. Hockey great Wayne Gretzky called this “knowing where the puck is going”—meaning he put himself in the best possible scoring position. Put yourself in position for success by investing in an attendee badge so you can participate in the general sessions and relevant seminars.

Aside from its educational aspect, this ultimately is a “selling show,” most of which gets done one-on-one at the suppliers’ booths. Having a plan for booth coverage with the right people ensures that you don’t miss any selling or buying opportunities.

Booth visits offer retailers a great opportunity to get exposure to key decision-makers and influencers in the supplier world. Successful suppliers often bring internal decision-makers from brand marketing and operations to give them exposure to customers. A natural outcome of this is improved planning that takes c-store retailer needs into consideration at a very personal level.

Be an Ambassador

Seasoned suppliers know well the “Ambassador” volunteer program, and all attendees know them as the folks in the sashes and straw hats who provide personal show navigation at nearly every turn. The side benefit for suppliers volunteering as ambassadors is that, in addition to providing an industry service, it offers a great way to meet and greet a lot of current and potential customers.

While you are asking an ambassador where room D109 is, thank him or her for their service to the industry.

C-store industry advocacy is the envy of all other classes of trade. “There are thousands of trade associations out there; the effective use of all of NACS membership on advocacy is one of the things that sets NACS apart from the rest,” says outgoing NACS chairman Steve Loehr.

Advocacy, however, reaches beyond the traditional government-relations efforts. Reach out to the NACS Supplier Board to find out how you can get more involved. Incoming NACS Supplier Board chairman Kevin Martello of Dr Pepper Snapple Group says, “If you and your organization benefit from the success of the convenience industry, you should be active and engaged in helping make a difference.”

Loehr sums it all up by saying that advocacy drives ROI and that “ROI stands for return on interest: The more interest you show, the greater your return will be.”

And ROI makes the best time of the year even better.

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