By Jim Callahan.
This year’s NACS show in Atlanta promises to be the biggest and best ever. In an industry where there is a conference every few weeks, this has emerged as a can’t-miss extravaganza with something for everyone who is in the convenience store business.
To have a successful show experience, you must be prepared to scan the lengthy trade show floor. In fact, before you even step on the show floor, create a priority list of booths and products you would like to see. Outside the show floor, you can easily find a map of booths and each section, such as the foodservice pavilion, the technology center and petroleum equipment. I would suggest that, in addition to comfortable shoes, you bring along a camera and recording device so you can mark important ideas.
A good starting point for me is typically the Cool New Products Showcase. From there, the plan is wide open.
Beyond the wide array of tobacco, foodservice, candy, beverages and energy shots, lies the wonderful and exciting world of equipment and retail technology. If smokes and Cokes are the backbone of the in-store offering, equipment and technology has to be considered the meat and potatoes of the NACS experience. Failing to keep up with the latest and greatest innovations is, indeed, a recipe for failure.
As part of the show experience, you have to visit the vendors on display at the Petroleum Equipment Institute (PEI) convention within the NACS Show. Their members do a great job of keeping our industry on the cutting edge when it comes to petroleum equipment and technology.
For example, last year a client invested in Gas Station TV (GSTV) for his fuel dispensers after learning about it at a NACS show and he got all kinds of kudos from his customers. GSTV allows customers to relax for a few minutes while they are filling up to view an up-to-date weather forecast, news and sports scores.
Considering adding a car wash to a new or existing convenience store? Short of going to a car wash convention you will not find a finer array of the latest in car washing technology than NACS and PEI offer. Even if you are not seriously in the market for a new wash, it’s worth taking a look to see what’s available.
Looking to expand your deli area? The foodservice pavilion harnesses the best brands products, programs, ovens, equipment and freezers available to convenience stores and displays them all in an easy-to-navigate section. This is among the most popular areas of the entire conference and with good reason. Foodservice is counting for a much bigger part of sales. In fact, the gap between top quartile chains and the rest of the industry is widening, thanks in large part to their outstanding foodservice programs. Be sure to spend some extra time here not just to learn what’s available, but to get a better understanding of what your competitors are doing.
Another fun section on the trade show floor focuses on LED signage. To establish or enhance your own brand identity, or perhaps update that 1980s logo, take a look at this state-of-the art signage that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but can help you reduce utility costs. Who doesn’t want that?
There are so many other worthwhile opportunities that you can’t afford to miss. I urge you to be patient, be diligent and keep an open mind. There is a plethora of new ideas, products and equipment all just waiting to follow you back to corporate. Take advantage of these opportunities. You will be a better marketer for it.
Jim Callahan has more than 40 years of experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on CSDecisions.com. He can be reached at (678) 485-4773 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.