Convenience Distribution Marketplace 2019 Highlights Today's Changemakers
SAN ANTONIO — Collaboration has been a key theme of the Convenience Distribution Association's (CDA) 2019 Convenience Distribution Marketplace, which is taking place this week in San Antonio.
The event's theme, "Sharing Solutions," brought CDA members and partners together to discuss and share updated best practices for the future of their own businesses and the convenience store industry as a whole.
"Change is not coming; change is here," Matt Thornhill, founder and managing partner at SIR's Institute for Tomorrow, said during his opening keynote speech.
Acknowledging the inherent difficulties in predicting the future, Thornhill explained how c-store industry players can prepare for what's ahead by looking at the trends that are already occurring.
"Trends don't happen by themselves," he said. "People make them happen."
When looking at consumers through a generational lens, retailers can observe that millennials are currently shaping culture; baby boomers do not want to give up control of culture; and members of Generation X are caught in the middle.
As such, struggling organizations don't have a generational problem, but rather a culture issue, according to Thornhill. Today's culture is hyperconnected, valuing the wisdom of the crowd over an individual opinion when it comes to making decisions. This affects what businesses shoppers patronize and what successful businesses offer customers.
"C-stores have always evolved to meet consumer needs," Thornhill said, noting that the important question is: What's next, and how do we get there?
Demographics is one of the key trends that should matter to c-store operators, and not just on a broad scale; every organization and every c-store has its own individual market, which operators must understand and service based on its unique needs.
Competition is also important, as Thornhill advised CDA Marketplace attendees to be aware of the "canaries in the coal mines" — what he dubs competitive startups such as goPuff and GrubHub.
Other important trends today are: advances in technology; electric and autonomous vehicles; the act of serving one's community; and, simply, purpose.
"[It's] bigger than what you do," Thornhill said. "Why do you do it?"
Workers these days know about a company long before they apply to work there, he pointed out.
"Winning brands know and tell their story," he said. "You don't have to be Apple or Disney; you do have to be you."
The 2019 Convenience Distribution Marketplace is being held Feb. 11-13 at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa.