From food to finances to heavy equipment, Midwest retailers sample solutions and options for growth.
Nearly 4,000 convenience store retailers and suppliers gathered at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis this past week, Tuesday through Thursday, March 26-29, for M-PACT, the Midwest Petroleum and Convenience Tradeshow.
The show was organized by petroleum marketing associations from Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.
The opening day on Tuesday had a full slate of meetings for those associations as well as evening receptions. There was plenty of inspiration to go around at Wednesday’s big event, the industry luncheon and keynote with longtime NFL player and Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, who related 25 years of lessons learned on the football field as well as in the business world.
For retailers with problems to be solved, this was a place to find solutions and plan for the future. Networking opportunities abounded. Among the 500-plus booths on the tradeshow floor were suppliers of products and services to meet nearly any and every need of convenience retailers.
Fuel played a big role at M-PACT. Eight of the show’s 12 top-tier platinum sponsors were oil companies and a ninth was for biodiesel. Retailers could get the lowdown on the more nuts-and-bolts side of the fuel business by talking to companies who provide fuel storage tanks, tank maintenance, gas pumps and pump islands, among others.
One of the more novel features of the show was a continuous lineup of fuel tanker trucks that formed the perimeter of the exhibit space. With their sheer size, the bright, shiny tankers, some with auxiliary lights in full flash mode, made for an impressive sight.
Gaming vendors — as in games of chance — had a notable presence, vying for entrée at c-stores as an addition to lottery games, offering products that can drive store foot traffic and increase revenue.
Food vendors came prepared with free samples. In hot foods, chicken products ruled the roost, accompanied by French fries, cheese curds and other variations of breaded items. Plenty of candy, too. On the beverage front, attendees could sample everything from classic big-name soft drinks to more off-the-wall mixes, like habanero smoothies and bloody mary beers — products whose creators are hoping to get them onto retail shelves and into the hands of millennial consumers looking for something different.
EDUCATIONAL BREAKOUT SESSIONS
Day three, Thursday, offered educational sessions before the opening of the exhibit area.
Thomas Briant of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets helped make sense of the mishmosh of misleading and inconsistent regulations on tobacco and smokeless products. Briant easily filled his allotted hour time slot. He had an abundance of information on his major focus — how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seems to be skirting its own rules in efforts to restrict c-stores’ tobacco and vape sales.
John Eichberg, executive director of the Fuels Institute, broke down the future of energy markets for automobiles, emphasizing how the growth of the number of electric cars will take more than a decade to even begin making a substantial dent in the overwhelming presence of the internal combustion engine. Eichberg stressed that markets are susceptible to an array of variables that will continue to influence demand for both electric and combustion engines, and that both modes are not mutually exclusive.
Representatives of the Indiana, Ohio and Illinois fire marshals’ offices hosted a roundtable discussion centered around safety issues in the fledgling on-demand fuel delivery industry. As it is now, the marshals said, there is little in the way of safety standards for companies who deliver fuel directly to a vehicle’s tank. There are few safeguards in place for dispensing fuel nor guidelines to inspect the vehicles and equipment that do the fueling. The dangers lie in exposing neighborhoods and business districts to fuel spills and accidents.
There’s also a market for the fueling of fleet vehicles on company property. These are all areas that Ohio Fire Marshal Jeff Hussey said his and other states would like to get ahead of while the market is still in its infancy.
In total, the show offered 14 educational sessions presented by industry experts that covered topics across the board. Among the other subjects of the hourlong sessions were employee hiring and retention, mergers, pay and performance, conflict resolution, chip payments at the pump, biodiesel and others.
Next year’s M-PACT show is slated again for Indianapolis, March 24-26, 2020. For details, visit M-PACT.org.