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Georgia Association Holds 30th Annual C- Store Convention

HILTON HEAD, S.C. -- The Georgia Association of Convenience Stores (GACS) held its 30th Annual Meeting and Convention June 27-29, at the Marriott Beach and Golf Resort in Hilton Head, S.C. This year's convention theme was "Discovering Hidden Treasures," with more than 500 Georgia retailers and suppliers in attendance.

The convention program kicked off Sunday night with a reception, dinner and entertainment featuring the "Stillwater." Monday's keynote speaker was Capt. Denny Fitch, one of the three pilots who successfully landed their stricken plane in an Iowa cornfield, covered live recently by most networks.

The day's first general session program featured David Morse, president and CEO of multicultural marketing company New American Dimensions. His presentation identified areas in which the c-store industry could better market to the needs of the Hispanic customer without falling into generalized stereotypes. According to Morse, if the increase in the U.S. Hispanic population continues at its current rate, there will be more Hispanics than whites by the year 2110. Morse highlighted "the four F's of Hispanic marketing" -- family, freshness, flavor and friendliness -- and spoke on how c-stores could bring these elements into the store to make their Hispanic customers feel more comfortable.

The second general session featured Roger Grogman, vice president of marketing of McLane Co., who presented a program on the dollar store industry and methods to incorporate some of their concepts into the c-store. Grogman pointed out how the price elasticity model has changed for some products, and that dollar stores are seeing household cleaning supplies, paper products, personal care products and candy and snack items as their top sellers. He commented that dollar stores are now shopped by 66 percent of U.S. households, and that by 2010, there will be more dollar stores than supermarkets. Grogman also noted that respondents were favorable to the addition of dollar aisles in a c-store, and estimated that dollar-type goods can increase an average c-store transaction by $3.50 (without fuel).

At the association general meeting the following officers were elected to serve for 2004-2005:

- Chairman, Bill Bryson, Flash Foods, Waycross, Ga.
- Vice chairman, finance, Gary Hirano, Golden Pantry Food Stores, Bogart, Ga.
- Vice chairman, annual meeting, Brian Griffith, Golden Pantry Food Stores, Bogart, Ga.
- Vice chairman, legislative, Chuck Hancock, Jet Food Stores, Sandersville, Ga.
- Vice chairman, membership, Rob Patterson, Mini-Foods Inc., Macon, Ga.
- Vice chairman, training, Chuck Vires, Spectrum Stores Inc., West Point, Ga.
- Jim Tudor continues as president of the association.

Tuesday's breakfast started with keynote speaker Stan Sheetz, CEO of Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz Inc. and the current chairman of the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS). Sheetz outlined his company's internal brand strategy, and how a brand-based corporate culture must infiltrate down from senior management to encourage employee involvement and motivation. According to Sheetz, employees in every position must be driven to win, be connected to the customer, have a pioneering spirit, be dependable, be real, project high energy and show respect at all times. Said Sheetz, "The most efficient way to get your customers to come back is a smiling face behind the counter, and I truly believe that."

Following the breakfast program, attendees visited tabletop exhibits featuring the latest in convenience store products and services. At the Tuesday banquet, Wanda Spurlin, Pit Stop Inc., Lafayette, Ga., was named Georgia Store Manager of the Year, and Bill Cox, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., Atlanta was honored as Barron Thorpe Supplier of the Year. In addition, Interstate Bakeries/Dolly Madison's Chuck McCullough, who rotated off the GACS Board of Directors, was honored for his service to the association. The association honored the memories of Bill Hoskinson and Hayes Bryan by announcing that a future GACS Educational Foundation scholarship would be named after each. The convention closed with an evening of entertainment featuring Nashville recording artist John Berry.

The 2005 Convention will be held June 5-7, 2005, at the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, Fla.
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