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Mounting Competition Requires Embracing Innovation

The 2023 Conexxus Annual Conference will tackle solutions that can push c-stores to the head of the retail industry.
Bright ideas spelled out in scrabble tiles

Recently, I joined several other technology fans at the National Retail Federation's (NRF) annual show at the Javits Center in New York. When NRF calls it Retail's Big Show, it's not kidding — one friend who was working behind the scenes at the Javits Center put the attendance at around 40,000 over several days.

Undoubtedly, there was much to see and one area I found interesting was the NRF Innovation Lab, which showcased 50 startups in the tech space. Yes, many of the exhibitors had little to do with the convenience channel, if at all, but innovation doesn't know channels and several themes emerged: robotics, next-generation self-checkout, artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality among them. Also of interest was the Food Service Tech Pavilion dedicated to all things food retailing.

Many of these same ideas will be taking center stage at the 2023 Conexxus Annual Conference in early May. This year's show will feature an expanded format with more education sessions and working group and committee meeting time, under the umbrella theme of "Innovation and Change Leadership." Among the education sessions will be discussions around self-checkout using IoT, AI and its role in shaping convenience retailing, and foodservice technology.

See a pattern? Innovation in the tech space can come from anywhere. By embracing innovation, convenience store operators can not only become best-in-class in the convenience channel, but also best-in-class in retail.

I'm excited to learn more about the future of convenience technology at Conexxus' meeting — and of course, it doesn't hurt that it's in San Diego in the spring and not New York in the winter. I hope to see you there.  

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