Shares plans to “refresh” the industry’s image.
“Rest assured, you will not have to go it alone” — whether in fighting for a change to the broken payments system or in sharing positive stories about the industry,” NACS President and CEO Hank Armour told a standing room-only crowd during the Oct. 9 General Session at the NACS Show.
The ongoing fight over swipe fee reform is not the only battle that the industry faces. Another is brewing over the reputation of the industry and the impact it is having on business, said Armour.
“We are embarking on a major initiative to address the reputational attack on our industry. It’s about repositioning or refreshing the view that many people, regulators and customers alike, have about our industry.”
In setting up NACS’s plan to address image concerns, Armour first shared some industry messages:
• We create opportunities. The industry employs 2.2 million people, many of those youngsters working in their first jobs, learning work responsibilities and values for the first time and equipping them to pursue life-long careers whether in our industry or others.
•We are responsible retailers. Convenience stores are the experts at ID verifications, checking almost three times more IDs every day than TSA does.
• Local governments depend upon us. The industry collects and pays more than $175 billion in taxes every year.
• Communities depend upon us. With over 150,000 stores, the industry is in virtually every community in the country and in many cases we are the only source of fuel, food and refreshment in the community.
• We sell choice. While stores sell indulgent treats, they also sell more better-for-you products within arm’s reach than any other retail channel.
“There is no industry more connected to—and ingrained in—the everyday lives of American consumers than we are. That’s the industry that I know, that’s the industry I owned stores in—and that’s the industry that I’m proud to represent,” said Armour.
Armour then shared the plan to “refresh” the industry’s image.
“It’s a long-term, multi-year commitment. It’s multifaceted with some immediate actions and some evolving over time. It’s positive, realistic and honest,” he said.
First, NACS is telling the positive story of the industry.
“We’ve begun to do that with our new NACS In Store program in which we invite elected officials—senators and congressmen—to work a few hours in one of our stores and learn what our industry is really all about.”
As part of telling the industry’s story, NACS is addressing the perception of jobs in the industry. He shared the findings of a newly released consumer survey that showed that one in 9 Americans has worked in the convenience store industry.
“That’s an astounding number, and our research shows that these former workers have many positive impressions about their time working in our industry,” said Armour.
But what about those who have never worked in a convenience store? They were equally positive about the industry’s jobs: an overwhelming majority believe that convenience stores provide good first jobs for those looking to enter the workforce and provide a potential path to longer–term business success.
“We’ve got a compelling story to tell on the jobs front and we’re going to tell it,” said Armour.
Second, NACS is also addressing the nutritional aspects of the industry’s offer by creating new opportunities for retailers to improve their ability to stock fresh products.
“The collaboration we announced earlier this year with United Fresh, the trade association representing the produce supply chain, is an early step in this initiative. We want to help you improve your access to fresh products by re-positioning your offer—and getting credit for being a place to get fresh food and healthy options—while obviously remaining the preferred place for your customer to indulge themselves,” said Armour.
As part of NACS’ nutritional efforts, it is also addressing the decline in exercise, particularly with youth, and is in contact with a number of organizations to create calories-out programs to help better local communities.
Zoning restrictions is the third issue that NACS is addressing.
“While our customers clearly love us—and we hear that 160 million times a day—we still face enormous push back at zoning hearings. We’re going to help you dispel the myths that inhibit your ability to obtain approval to build stores and get permits, building the case for why a community should want to have a convenience store in their town instead of why they wouldn’t.”
Finally, NACS is telling the story of the fantastic support that convenience stores give to the communities in which they do business.
“You don’t just do business in those communities, you live in them and you’re vitally engaged in them. We are an essential partner with first responders, providing food, fuel, and support to FEMA, EMTs, the Red Cross and police and fire departments. And we also provide enormous support to our local schools and charities. We are making this a better world, and it’s a great story to share.”
Armour concluded that retailers will be essential to help tell the industry’s story, and the connections that NACS is making and the tools NACS is developing will allow them to share positive stores.
“You are the most important part of this story—and you are the most important part of our ambitious plan to tell it. Tell your story. Walk the talk. Be proud of what our industry does!” he said.