Joseph Sheetz Ready for His New Role as NACS Chairman
ALTOONA, Pa. — With Sheetz Inc. being a family-owned and -operated convenience store chain, Joseph Sheetz — now president and CEO — started working in the industry during the summer months at age 16. He worked a number of office jobs, and even went through standard store manager training, including managing a store for a short period of time. After college, he worked in consulting for seven years, but eventually returned to Sheetz Inc. as the director of compensation and benefits in 1995.
“In 1996, I became the executive vice president of finance, running the finance and accounting department and in that job I eventually took over IT and then store development as well, until 2013 when I took over as CEO,” he explains.
This year, he adds another title to his resume: chairman of NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing. Convenience Store News caught up with Sheetz to find out what he believes are the biggest challenges facing the c-store industry today, what he is looking forward to most in his new role, and much more.
CSNews: What benefits have you received from being part of the NACS Board?
Sheetz: More than anything, NACS provides connections, whether to new products or new ideas. Of course, you see that at the NACS Show, but you also see that throughout the year, whether in meetings or just staying in touch with people who are always there to help you address challenges. More connections mean more ideas and that just makes you a better operator. I am honored to work with, and learn from, such a talented group on the NACS Board of Directors.
CSNews: What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing the c-store industry today, and what issues should retailers be prepared to take on?
Sheetz: Our industry has done such an incredible job in elevating the value of convenience that people expect convenience everywhere, which means that retailers in every channel that want to stay in business are now our competition. Everywhere you look, other stores look like us at the register. And not just dollar stores and drugstores — craft stores, auto parts stores, home improvement stores, pet stores all sell snacks and drinks at the register.
All retailers are aggressively seeking to redefine convenience to make it work for their operations. That’s something we all should be watching. Look at labor alone. Amazon Go is trying to eliminate it at the checkout and others are adding labor as a way to redefine convenience through delivery of convenience items or even gas.
CSNews: What are the biggest trends in the industry right now that retailers should be capitalizing on?
Sheetz: Probably more than anything, it’s that the definition of convenience is evolving into something being customized by that specific person at that specific time. It’s not just a convenient location because for some people, it’s delivery or the Internet. And it’s not one-stop shopping for a few quick items because some customers want to slow down and relax as part of convenience. So, it’s really about understanding what people want at different occasions and making it as easy as possible for them to choose you as often as possible.
CSNews: Looking toward the future, what do you think the c-store industry will look like five years from now?
Sheetz: This is a question we push each other to answer all the time, and we continue to reinvent ourselves and bring innovation to our industry. In fact, our vision is to create the business that will put Sheetz, as we know it today, out of business. That’s what keeps us on top and keeps us focused on ways to make our business even more successful in the future.
CSNews: What personal insights or knowledge do you think you can lend to the chairman role and to the industry?
Sheetz: Everyone comes from a different background. For instance, I worked as a consultant for a several years before I joined Sheetz’s executive team. But we all really have a lot in common: we focus on culture, on communities and on our customers, all wrapped up in the broad umbrella of convenience. It’s just our personal context that is different.
CSNews: In taking on the chairman role, what are looking forward to the most?
Sheetz: I think NACS, and the industry, has taken great steps to redefine what we mean to communities through our reFresh initiative. We signed up — both NACS and Sheetz and other retailers and distributors — to see how we can play a prominent role in improving our better-for-you sets and improving the wellness of our customers. We are working with other community groups like Keep America Beautiful and, of course, the American Red Cross. It is inspiring to see how our industry helped with disaster relief following Hurricane Harvey. I look forward to seeing these initiatives grow and making a difference in our customers’ lives.
CSNews: How are you preparing for the chairman role?
Sheetz: First off, NACS does a great job preparing you. There is a process to get here and by the time you serve on the board and on the executive committee, you are pretty familiar with how NACS operates. And, of course, I have seen and heard firsthand about the chairmanship from both Steve Sheetz and Stan Sheetz, who served as previous NACS chairmen. I don’t have to wait until some family gathering to get great advice from them — we talk regularly because they are still pretty engaged in our total customer focus at Sheetz.