NACS scouts and shares global best practices in order to improve the convenience retailing industry. NACS develops programs to help members improve their operations and addresses critical issues and opportunities by creating new initiatives. NACS president and CEO Hank Armour then outlined each of these areas.
“We’ve been hard at work developing tools to help you defend and grow your businesses,” Armour told attendees at the Oct. 13 NACS Show general session.
First, he touched upon global best practices.
“To be successful you need to know what’s around the corner — whether that corner is down the street or on the other side of the world. There are no unique issues around world. Sure, each country is different, but those differences are simply the result of being in different phases in the issue life cycle,” said Armour.
He then provided a few examples:
- In Asian countries such as Japan, technologies like mobile payments are interwoven into the fabric of life and the shopping experience at a convenience store.
- In Argentina, more than 60% of the transportation fuel is natural gas.
- In Australia, not only is the cigarette category dark but all cigarette packages are the same plain green with brand names in the same black fonts.
“No matter what country you’re in, you can learn so much from looking at what’s happening around the world,” which is why attendees from more than 60 countries attend the NACS Show. This mindset is also why NACS has dramatically expanded its international portfolio to include Global State of the Industry reports, the February 2016 Global Forum in South Africa and the June 2016 NACS Insight Convenience Summit – Europe, which takes place in both Stockholm and London.
Second, Armour discussed the robust set of tools NACS has developed to help retailers refresh their offers and their image. Armour said that NACS has created resources that both define the industry and help retailers benefit, including:
- A community outreach toolkit that explains our industry around 10 issues, from jobs to safety to our business model to community engagement.
- A public relations guidebook filled with best practices and proven techniques to communicate messages in your communities.
- A primer to help retailers prepare for zoning and other public hearings, which addresses the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) mentality that is common in hearings.
- The first two resources developed in collaboration with the United Fresh Produce Association to help retailers examine the business case for produce sales, and provides road maps to expand a retailer’s produce offer.
“But we’re not leaving the re-imaging of our industry all up to you,” said Armour. “NACS has been aggressively spreading the good word about our industry — by expanding the partnerships and close ties we have with the most recognized and respected nutrition and community groups across the country and by telling our industry’s story to the media.”
And third, Armour said, NACS is addressing many of the issues and opportunities the industry faces with the help of NACS subsidiaries and affiliated organizations.
Fuels: Because convenience stores sell more than 80% of the gasoline in the U.S., NACS founded The Fuels Institute two years ago to have a seat at the table for any discussion involving transportation fuels. “The Fuels Institute has — for really the first time ever — brought the diverse stakeholders from the transportation and fuels markets together: retailers, refiners, ethanol and natural gas producers, automobile manufacturers and even consumer advocates, to help identify transportation’s biggest issues — and create fact-based research to address them.”
Technology: Conexxus has been instrumental in bringing productivity-enhancing technology standards to the industry for over a decade. Most recently, Conexxus helped NACS design a modern electronic payroll card program that greatly simplifies the lives of many employees, while significantly reducing employer payroll processing costs.
Benchmarking tools: The CSX subsidiary is the engine behind NACS’ first-in-class industry dataset that powers the annual NACS State of the Industry Summit and NACS’ dynamic benchmarking software. “It’s a great resource to help you improve your performance by benchmarking it against industry averages and the results of the top performers in the industry,” said Armour.
“But even with the best tools to run your business, to fight your existing and emerging competition and to ride the wave of innovation, there is one more enormous challenge to your business,” cautioned Armour. “And I would argue that it is the great one — the government.”
“Of all the things we do at NACS, the one that is at the core of our existence, that we are most zealous about, is representing our industry’s interests in the legislative and regulatory arenas, he said.
“This past year we aggressively fought on your behalf to bring reason to the confusing, costly and poorly designed menu labeling requirement imposed on us by the Affordable Care Act,” said Armour. NACS and other allies were successful in introducing bipartisan congressional legislation that rectifies many of the flaws in the labeling requirements. “The end result was that the FDA was forced to pull back the regulations for further review and delayed their implementation for at least another year,” he said.
NACS also is actively addressing the threat of online lottery sales. “We think that online lottery is a bad idea all around. It hurts the local stores that have effectively managed and grown the program for the past 50 years. And it creates a whole slew of new problems — from dubious controls on the age of purchasers to a great temptation to run up credit card debt in the pursuit of mega jackpots,” said Armour.
“We are fighting this — as we do every issue — with passion and reason. You, too, can play a role. I urge every one of you to challenge your state lottery commissioners on why they want to move their sales online,” said Armour.
Armour said that there is a long list of other legislative issues that NACS is also addressing, including:
- Revising the Renewable Fuels Standard to align the ethanol mandate with what the market can realistically absorb,
- Minimum wage issues,
- Compliance under the Affordable Care Act,
- And, of course, swipe fee reform.
Ending on a positive note, Armour said that passage of debit fee reform (the Durbin Amendment) last year saved our customers and our industry more than $400 million.
“Those savings can pay your NACS dues not only for the rest of your lives but for those of your children’s, grandchildren’s and many generations beyond that. The value of NACS membership is awesome,” Armour said.