Tuesday, October 10, 2006

It's Change Or Die Tryin' At NACS

Exibitors, Conference Attendees, NACS Board Members, PEI Members, and members of the Press enjoy the NACS Show Welcome Reception in Las Vegas. Image Credit: ECJ-Symblogogy

It's Change Or Die Tryin' At NACS

This week, Symblogogy is visiting the National Association of Convenience Store's (NACS) tradeshow, titled NACS Show 2006, here in Las Vegas.

The overriding theme of most exhibitors and conference speakers throughout the show is clearly settled in the unsettled territory of a constantly changing world.

One conference session featured the changes happening in our purchasing habits as reflected through the changes in the technology we carry with us every day when we leave the house ... the cellphone. This device and its impact on how we will shop were even mentioned in the Opening General Session presentation delivered by NACS Chairman of the Board, Scott Hartman.

In the case of the conference session, Robert Wesley, CEO of MobleLime, described how his company was focused on delivering mobile rewards and promotions right to your cellphone while enhancing the process of purchase payments through RFID proximity information entry ... a process clich'ed as "Speed-Passing" in reference to the Mobil Oil pay-at-the-pump process for buying gas.

In this case, Wesley highlighted the technology that was being added to a Nokia phone where the customer, at checkout, would call up a payment method file stored in the phone (Visa, Master Card, American Express, and etc.) and simply wave the phone next to a RFID sensing/pick-up device at the counter, and walk away with the goods.

Excerpts from a press release from NACS -

Dizzying Pace of Change Presents Opportunities, Challenges for Industry
Contact: Jeff Lenard -
jlenard@nacsonline.com - October 9, 2006

LAS VEGAS, NV - Demand for convenience has never been stronger, and that presents both challenges and opportunities for convenience store retailers, NACS Chairman of the Board Scott Hartman told attendees in the NACS Show 2006 Opening General Session on Oct. 9.

This demand for convenience was evident over the past year, when Hartman logged well more than 100,000 miles representing NACS on what he called "basically one long study tour."

"From the operating expertise that is evident in Asia, to the mastering of senses like food aroma and lighting at the retail level in France, to the sustained excellence of retailers throughout the U.S., I have seen new ways of doing business driven by changing consumer demands, and by technology." noted Hartman, who is president of York, Penn.-based Rutter's Farm Stores.
"Time is money, and time is really what we sell," said Hartman. But convenience is what virtually every other channel is now trying to replicate, he noted.

Above all, the fresh and healthy image is key to today's customer, noted Hartman. "All over the globe the fresh presentation is the first thing customers are seeing as they enter stores, especially in Europe ."

Customers also expect what Hartman called "mass customization" - companies gaining efficiencies by making products in volume, but allowing the individual to customize products to their own needs. And they want their lives simplified, a trend that is evident in Asia .

"Clearly, technology will play an ever-increasing role at our stores. And it already is in Asia . The cell phone you have today acts nothing like the ones they are using in Japan and Korea . But you will soon see them here," said Hartman, noting that they already serve a customers' electronic wallet, personal scanner and personal navigation system and locator.

Cell Phones, Cell Phones, Cell Phones. Image Credit: Yahoo! News

"Customers will receive offers on their phones, redeem electronic coupons with their phones and Web applications will allow them to find the lowest priced products between them and their next destination," said Hartman. "As retailers we will market our gas prices to customers as they drive down the highway and customers will have their cars programmed to seek out food offers they prefer. The in-car convenience store billboard is closer than you think."

"NACS is doing much more that looking at the future of technology in our industry; it is helping to shape it." said Hartman.

"At NACS, we believe that technology is an investment, that if you make it wisely, it should yield a competitive advantage." said Hartman. "The technology building blocks that we've been putting in place must continue at the store level, and through the involvement of NACS and PCATS, they will make a difference in your operations."
Hartman concluded by reminding retailers to stay true to their mission, despite the dizzying pace of change, which will only intensify.

"Only those that seek change, and embrace change will thrive. But let me also offer some caution. Know your competition, but know yourself even better. Seek to change, but don't change because of the competition. Competitors, after all, will come, and competitors will go. Put your real focus on your customer. Study them. Engage them. Learn from them. Change for them." said Hartman.

"Lastly, give back to your customers, your communities and your people any way you can. You'll get back more than you ever gave," said Hartman. "That has certainly been my experience in my own business ... and in serving as your chairman this past year."

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The NACS Show 2007 will take place November 6 to 9 in Atlanta, Georgia .

The NACS Show is ranked one of the 50 largest annual tradeshows in the U.S. The NACS Show 2006, which runs through Wednesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center, features the largest exposition ever at a NACS Show, with 380,000 net square feet of exhibit space.

NACS is an international trade association representing more than 2,200 retail and 1,800 supplier members. The U.S. convenience store industry, with over 140,600 stores across the country, posted $495.3 billion in total sales in 2005, with $344.2 billion in motor fuels sales.

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