So, the NACS Show is here, and so are you. The Las Vegas Convention Center is huge, with workshops in one direction, 1,200 vendors in the exhibit hall in another direction and crowds everywhere. Where do you begin
NACS Reports the best place to start is your closet. “Wear very comfortable shoes,” was one of the tips offered by several prominent convenience-industry pros, some of who also serve as NACS leaders. “Navigating the Show floor is an exercise in endurance, gluttony, warfare and tenacity. If you have specific needs and goals as to what you want to see, then preparation is vital,” said Sonja Hubbard, outgoing NACS chairman and CEO of E-Z Mart Stores, Texarkana, TX.
Greg Parker, president and CEO, the Parker Companies, Savannah, GA, agrees that preparing is important, and he has his own, old-fashioned way of doing that.
“It’s easy to get swept up in the glitz of the Show and lose your focus. It’s important to sit down and think through the things you are looking for,” Parker said. “Are you looking for gas equipment or new software? Then prioritize those, look at a map of the Show floor and try to lay it out in a logical fashion.
“I write down the booth numbers I want to look at so I don’t miss them. You can get lost because there is so much going on. You need to have clear objectives about where you are going, what you want to find and have a rough priority to do it.”
Jay Ricker, president, Ricker Oil, Anderson Ind., and incoming NACS chairman, echoed the thoughts of other experienced Show attendees when he said that a team approach works best, whether you are part of a large organization or an independent operator who may need to combine forces with others.
“Because the NACS Show floor is so large, we decide what we want to look at, and each of us has a particular area of interest,” Ricker said of his team’s approach. “Then, we get together every evening and say ‘you really need come take a look at this.’ When the Show opens the next day, two of us go there to look at something that has been vetted. It’s all about being organized, whether it is one person or six people. You need to be organized to get the most out of a show this size.”
In an age of electronics, a lot of information is online, but a hard copy of the NACS Show Program and Directory is also helpful.
“Before hitting the expo, review the layout of booth space at NACS Connect online and prepare your own personalized map,” Hubbard said. “If you don’t do that, then at least grab a map at the convention and mark the ‘must see’ booths. I do caution against just hitting the ‘must see’ booths though. So often it’s the new finds, the things we’ve never seen that can be the one idea that changes your business.”
Because the exhibit hall is large, dividing it into smaller areas can also help, although show veterans do it in different ways.
Hubbard said, “I usually start the day in the back corner and take the Show in sections. The next day I’ll start in a different section and always pick up the ‘must see’ ones along the way, too.”
Parker said, “It helps to segregate things into areas so you approach it in a logical fashion. I go online, but I like to look at things on paper. I get that big map of the floor and say ‘candy is here, technology is here.’”
Ricker said, “If you are a single-store operator, you can’t see the entire Show at the level you want, but you really need to see certain products. The way the Show is laid out, it is put together in segments, which makes it better to see certain areas.”
“Partner with people you know, then talk to them about what they are finding,” Parker said. “Pretty much everyone in the industry has other buddies in the industry they respect. We are constantly calling and texting each other to say ‘I found a new coffee program’ or ‘I just found a new cold sandwich case.’ Sharing cool ideas helps.”