Bright Ideas From Around the World

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Bright Ideas From Around the World

By Samantha Negraval, Convenience Store News - 10/13/2013

A meeting of the minds from around the globe was also a friendly competition during the educational session, "Bright Ideas From Around the World," on day one of the NACS Show.

The Saturday workshop marked the 10th anniversary of the Convenience Industry Global Achievement Award Competition. Since 2003, this competition has provided an opportunity for future leaders, aged 21 to 32, to showcase their insight, innovation and understanding of current and future trends and challenges in the convenience industry.

This year's question posed to the competitors was: "Convenience retailing is facing a number of challenges that impact profitability. What do you believe is the primary challenge the industry faces and how would you recommend tackling the issue"

Each country holds its own award competition prior to choosing the candidates who travel to the NACS Show. The contestants made presentations no longer than 12 minutes and were judged on content, substance and relevance. They were also asked to use relevant data from other countries in their analysis.

This year's contestants were:

  • Tiffany Wilks, BP Wairakei; New Zealand
  • Matthijs de Pater, Cadbury NZ Ltd.; New Zealand
  • Cameron Bird, Coca-Cola Amatil; Australia
  • Eric Willms, JTI International; Canada
  • Stephanie Foster, BP Australia Pty Ltd.; Australia
  • Cristina Caruso, Petro-Canada; Canada

The competition was moderated by Alex Scholten, president of the Canadian Store Association, and judged by a panel of retail executives. Two winners — one supplier and one retailer — were chosen.

Supplier winner Cameron Bird relayed that customer perception is the biggest challenge facing the industry. He said the line between convenience and grocery retailers is becoming increasingly blurry. In addition, consumers see convenience stores as "expensive, unhealthy and junk."

"C-stores are high priced, but do they actually offer the benefits to justify the price?" Bird asked. He recommended improving store layout, creating destinations in the store, driving traffic and acting local to change customer perception.

Bird dubbed the challenges he outlined as the c-store Rubik's cube. "Solving the Rubik's cube in 5.5 seconds does not happen overnight," he said. "It takes hours, if not days, of practice and determination to actually achieve it."

Meanwhile, retailer winner Stephanie Foster of BP Australia Pty Ltd., called attention to Woolworth's and Cole's, Australia's two major supermarket retailers that monopolize the market and draw customers away from convenience stores.

She outlined three objectives for c-store retailers to draw back customers: make sure the basics are covered, create a culture of customer service to gain customer loyalty and innovate.

On the point of innovation, Foster cited Tesco plc's virtual supermarket walls in South Korean subway stations that use QR code technology, and Chinese company Yihaodian, which opened 1,000 augmented reality stores through a mobile app. Customers pay for their groceries through the app and the goods are delivered to their homes.

In summary, Foster compared convenience retailing to the human body. "By focusing on these three areas [the basics, customer service and innovation], we can grow strong and healthy to hold our own against the supermarket giants," she concluded.