On Thursday, Oct. 6, at the 2021 National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) Show in Chicago, educational sessions provided convenience retailers with key insights on a range of topics to help them better compete.
Cold Vault in 2021: Trends and Takeaways
The cold vault of 2021 is vastly different from the cold vault of 20 years ago. The massive growth in alternative non-alcoholic beverages, craft beer and mixed alcoholic drinks have given category managers and customers infinite choices.
In this session, Chris Rapanick, director of business development at NACS, and Lauren Quaglia, national channel manager — convenience at The Boston Beer Co., discussed those current trends and data on cold vault beverages.
The session dived deeper into the “beyond beer” trend specifically — the exponential growth in this space and how c-store operators can take advantage of the opportunity.
“Quite simply, the population is getting younger,” said Quaglia. “And what we know about Gen Z is that 40% of them are seeking beyond beer.”
Specifically, cider, canned cocktails — and of course, seltzer. In fact, hard seltzer makes up over half of the beyond beer sales.
“We know that almost 45% of c-store shoppers are buying beyond beer somewhere — but not at c-store,” she said.
Opportunity exists for c-stores to capitalize on this trend — and keep this drinker at their stores. And it all starts with assortment and merchandising.
“The beyond beer shopper is thinking about segment first,” Quaglia advised. “Then it’s brand, and then it’s pack size.”
She outlined four key trends that will continue to drive beyond beer:
2. Better for you
3. Flavor and variety
Replicating Your Foodservice Offer Across Your Stores
How can c-stores duplicate their foodservice operations and scale it up across all 10 to 500 stores? This session shared how Circle K did just that.
Simply put, the key to consistent foodservice is simplicity. It’s all about making it easier on operations and on the c-store employee.
“It’s about simple simple simple simple,” Hall stressed. “If it’s hard, it won’t get done.”
Simplicity allows for global growth, he said, which is exactly what Circle K’s done.
Before that, though, the company needed to make sure it had a foodservice concept worth duplicating. Today’s consumers want freshness. And in the c-store space, it must be quick and simple for the customer, too. Hall showed a video of a customer who often visits a store because they have delicious, fresh options for both her and her kids.
The key question the consumer will be asking themselves, Hall said, is “Do I want to eat here, and do I want my kids to eat here?”
Ultimately, he said, it’s long process. But if your program’s right, it’s worth it.
“We’re building a food culture,” Hall said. “It’s not easy; it takes time, consistency and focus.”
Reinventing Convenience and Reimagining our Future
What could the future of convenience look like — and what do we need now to define that path?
In t he final general. session, Kevin Smartt, NACS’ 2020-21 Chairman and CEO of Spicewood, Texas-based Texas Born (TXB) convenience stores, spoke about his stores and about the decisions made mid-pandemic that will impact the company long-term, from the complete store rebrand to not lay anyone at the company off COVID hit.
“Our teams are our best asset, and the most invaluable investment I can make,” he said.
Smartt also stressed the important of communication as a convenience retail leader.
“We gotta tell our team what we’re doing and why it matters,” he said.
Communicate with your team in the ways that they want to hear from you, he said. That may mean new technology or, in TXB’s case, gamification.
Smartt then passed the torch to the newly announced 2021-22 NACS Chairman Jared Scheeler of The Hub convenience stores in North Dakota, who also spoke about technology, people and innovation — themes aimed at retailers large and small.
“Our markets are so different except for one thing they both share: innovation,” Scheeler said, whose six stores represent the small operator side of the industry, which stands 90,000 strong today.
“We need more small operators to get engaged and use NACS to grow your business,” he said. “If a small operator from North Dakota can make a difference, you can, too.”
Finally, Smartt rejoined the stage alongside NACS President and CEO Henry Armour, and the three discussed a few hot topics, from last-mile solutions like delivery to age verification and electric vehicle charging.
The NACS Show continues through Oct. 8 at McCormick Place convention center in Chicago.
Friday’s Ideas 2 Go Video and Panel Discussion, 8:15-9:15 a.m. CDT, will feature eight companies — from one-store operators to those operating hundreds of locations. Panelists will discuss how they’ve redefined convenience around energy, foodservice, last-mile delivery, community and culture.