What a terrific 10 days â€¦.. immersed in the convenience industry in the USA and Canada with a group of high calibre retailers and suppliers from Australia and New Zealand.
The trip began with a meeting of Associations similar to ours from Mexico, Brazil, Canada and the USA to discuss matters of mutual interest, concern and opportunities. There is no doubt that over regulation presents a major issue for the convenience industry in particular and is something we do need to be mindful of. We do serve a valuable purpose for our customers and are, at time, an easy target for regulations without real concern for our operators who, in reality, are small business owners.
Our politicians do need to recognise that we have stores in many of their electorates and that we see many thousands of voters every day â€“ decisions made politically may affect both retailers and our customers. Whether it concerns food labelling, tobacco regulations or alcohols sales, to name just a few areas, we do have a voice and together we must be heard.
The NACS Show in Chicago was another spectacular event. Many hundreds of suppliers showing their products and services and great feature of â€˜Cool New Productsâ€™ for all to view.
Beverages dominated in terms of innovation across waters, tea and significantly energy drinks â€“ everything from relaxing to stimulatingâ€¦they were all there. Electronic cigarettes were in abundance as retailers seek alternatives for their customers. Also fantastic displays of bakery, fresh foods, coffee, confectionery and new equipment were to be seen.
Aside from the Show we had two participants in a global scholarship competition â€“ Chris Centra from 7-Eleven and Rick Colella from BAT. Both acquitted themselves really well against competition from Canada, the UK and New Zealand.
The group also had the unique opportunities of specially arranged meetings and presentations from Monster, Pepsi, Gatorade and Wrigley including a special visit to Gatoradeâ€™s â€˜Mission Controlâ€™ centre where they manage their social media â€“ something not available to general visitors. The group certainly gained some fantastic insights from these meetings and we value the support of our Supplier Members.
On to Vancouver where we met with senior people from 7-Eleven and the Western Convenience Store Association and had a great day of insightful store visits to see emerging trends.
The final day included an enormously insightful presentation by John Scott, CEO and President of the Federation of Independent Grocers of Canada on their trends and strategies. We also had the opportunity of seeing some world leading food stores and concepts.
More details on the trip and copies of presentations and photos will be available for our Members soon.
I sincerely thank all of those who attended, arranged and in any way supported this yearâ€™s study tour, and we now look forward to 2012.