CHICAGO — NACS President and CEO Henry Armour has an answer for members of the convenience store industry who have been reaching out to ask whether the 2021 NACS Show will really happen: a resounding yes.
"Absolutely, we're going to hold the NACS Show," Armour said during a Sept. 14 pre-event Q&A session. "It's the greatest show on earth and we're going to hold it as scheduled in Chicago next month."
Reflecting on the past 18 months since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Armour called what companies achieved in that time "nothing short of extraordinary," stressing that the convenience channel is stronger when its members come together.
"To say this industry is resilient is an understatement," he said.
Although international attendance at this year's show will be considerably reduced due to travel restrictions, the domestic registered buyer count is strong. NACS figures currently show 1,236 exhibitors on the trade show floor, just shy of the total exhibitor count from the 2019 show.
Additionally, there are 364 registered new exhibitors, which "basically smashes our new exhibitor record that we set in 2009," Armour added.
The theme for the 2021 NACS Show is "We Got This!", which is reflected in the safety protocols NACS began to develop over a year ago in partnership with local and state health departments, as well as other regulatory bodies such as the CDC.
As required by the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois, masks will be required in all indoor meeting spaces. Show attendees are not required to be vaccinated, but NACS highly recommends vaccination.
The event will also feature state-of-the-art cleaning and sanitation measures, wider aisles on the expo floor, spread-out seating in education and general session rooms, and adjusted food and beverage protocols. All sampling will be full-service, with all food and beverage samples given in a container. Attendees will be able to stop at numerous lounge areas to munch and sip.
In the event of an attendee developing symptoms of illness at the show, they can scan a barcode on the back of their badge or on frequent signage to receive a list of nearby rapid-testing sites.
The show's digital component will be significantly reduced this year compared to 2020's five-week Crack the Code Experience. While all education sessions will be recorded and available for purchase to both attendees and non-attendees after the event, there will be no virtual expo.
Despite the changes to the traditional in-person NACS Show experience, Armour anticipates a return to the traditional benefits of an in-person NACS Show.
"We're super excited about the show," he said. "I think it's going to be a great show in Chicago."
The 2021 NACS Show will be held at Chicago's McCormick Place Oct. 5-8.