By Ed Collupy
It’s that time of the year when it’s always good to take time to look back, reflect, and muse – where did the time go, what did I accomplish, how have I helped others, what’s changed since and what’s next?
The best retail systems event of the year, Retail ROI’s Super Saturday, is held in January. It was filled with technology updates, but there’s nothing like combining it with an opportunity to tell the story of how, together with Retail ROI, thanks to several grants including one that came from them later on in 2017, that a non-profit I helped found (Share The Blessings) has been able to dig wells in Ugandan villages providing clean water to orphans and hundreds of other villagers. 2018 is shaping up for this to be another great event leading up to the NRF Big Show – will I see you there?
In February I wrote about Inventory Management in my “Store Data Deserves Protection Too” article. According to rankings released in a November survey by SecurityScorecard, “the retail industry comes in fifth out of 17 industries on cybersecurity, though it gets a grade of D for network security and patching cadence.” The challenge to new threats continues into the new year.
As Spring approached I hit the road several times in March visiting c-stores. In Oklahoma, I had a lunch at a quick-service restaurant at a Love’s Country Store and to get a feel for their stores. In Houston, I visited a brand-new Speedy Stop store where I paid for gas using an app on my phone. And here at home in the Boston area I took some solution providers on a visit to stores we had helped pilot a new technology at. As pilots are purposed for, we learned and were able to make sound decisions. In 2018, lets plan to get into even more stores to hear ideas from both store employees and customers and really understand the c-store experience.
At the Conexxus Annual Conference in April I led a panel of IT Leaders in a lively discussion about what’s important to them – people, governance, and security. I learned that Joyce Pingel from Kum & Go was named by the governor of Iowa to the state’s STEM Advisory Council. Be sure to join me and the many IT leaders at the 2018 Annual Conference in Chicago – registration opens soon: https://www.conexxus.org/content/2018-conexxus-annual-conference.
Even during the year its good to reflect back and I had the opportunity to do that in May with Gray Taylor (Conexxus) & Lesley Saita (Impact 21) – we re-presented our 2016 NACS education session on Customer Engagement Technologies. Not much had changed since our October session and unfortunately that’s similar to EMV – I wrote about the slow progress with implementations both inside the store and certainly outside at the forecourt (EMV Hopes – An Implementation Update May 4) and here we are a half year later and although there’s been a few stores live with chip readers in the pump the overall state of EMV in the c-store/retail petroleum industry continues to lag other segments. 2018 will see some slow progress with EMV on the forecourt.
I reflected in June on what I thought Amazon’s big news with its acquisition of Whole Foods would mean in August when the deal was to come together and more on that later but 2018 will bring continued advancements at Amazon that will pressure traditional retail – they’ll be some innovation in the c-store industry thank heavens to 7-Eleven.
During the summer I had the opportunity to work with some interns my firm on-boarded to expand both their and our horizons. In July I wrote about my experiences with interns and weeks after the blog post heard from an intern I had brought on during my career who had just started a new job and recollected how experience counts – causing him to add a “second focus with project management, which has largely dominated my career over the last eight years.” I’m looking ahead to meeting and working with our 2018 interns.
My look to the future of Amazon & Whole Foods in June revealed itself in August; I did all right as a futurist! And here we are in December and we continue to see and learn how the Amazon powerhouse continues on a path of being both ‘Click & Mortar’ – my local Whole Foods now has Amazon lockers and expect to see Prime members become the first in 2018 to be enrolled loyalty members at Whole Foods.
Disruptions abound and in September I was quoted as saying in a NACS Magazine article disruptions will come from the Internet of Things (IoT), “with its endless opportunities to increase customer traffic, services, and basket size”. At the NACS Show a month later IoT was all around the show floor so I spent time talking to solution providers about a need I see to consolidate all of the IoT data that is and will continue to come across networks looking to be accessed easily. I won’t be the only one in 2018 asking for a common platform to manage IoT devices and data.
A holistic view of security and foodservice are top of mind topics for c-store/petro operators in 2017. I took readers on a store tour in my October article “Unlocking Security Issues” and learned from a demo, one of my Study Group members shared with our group, how a newly deployed video management system has brought his company many wins. I was privileged over the prior few months to work with Ryan Riggs from Sheetz—CSD’s 2017 Convenience Store Chain of the Year— as he pulled together a presentation, for a Tech Edge session at the NACS Show this month that included his systems portfolio and thoughts on technology as a food service business leader. The 2018 NACS education sessions will be the best yet – planning is well underway.
It’s always great to hear from others in the industry and throughout the year I did – several people commented back to me on my November article “The Expanding Back Office.” In the short time since it was written, more is afoot with solution provider acquisitions, partnerships, and expanding services. In 2018 the use of back office systems will continue to grow with more smaller operators looking to gain efficiencies and make better decisions.
December is a time for giving and as I reflect back I hope that some of what I’ve shared this year has helped you and I look forward to next year to continue to provide insights and thoughts on what’s going on and what’s ahead for the c-store/petro industry.
Ed Collupy, executive consultant at W. Capra Consulting Group can be reached at [email protected] and be sure to visit www.capraplus.com for more retail technology and business insights. Collupy has IT leadership and business team experience providing strategic, operational, and project leadership to retailers, emerging businesses, and technology companies.