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NACS Show Reflects a Changing Industry

There's no better place to explore the many trends impacting the c-store business.
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As the convenience store industry gathers next month in Atlanta for the 2023 NACS Show, I'm thinking about how much the business has changed from a few short years ago, specifically pre-COVID.

It is true that most of the strict mandates such as mandatory masking and vaccination requirements are over and, for the c-store industry at least, sales are back to normal. The industry reached a new revenue high last year, according to the annual Convenience Store News Industry Report. However, increased operating expenses in the form of labor costs and credit card transaction fees continue to eat away at the bottom line. This is no time for complacency.

An article I read recently in the Harvard Business Review pointed out how the pandemic played havoc with the labor market. "Working under the weight of chronic stress, financial insecurity and collective grief forced people to work harder and longer to get to the same goals. We became exhausted, self-efficacy decreased, and cynicism grew. It's no wonder that people eventually hit the wall. But it was still shocking when nearly half of the global workforce said, almost simultaneously, 'I quit!'"

Those labor challenges continue to have adverse effects on every link in the supply chain, even as American businesses try to put COVID behind them. Another trend impacting the c-store business that appears here to stay is the work-from-home phenomenon. The shift toward more hybrid work arrangements appears to be sustainable. This trend has had a major impact on daypart sales at convenience stores. The morning rush is now a more sustained queue of customers throughout the day.

Whatever your thoughts on diversity and inclusion, there's also no getting around the fact that employees today demand a fairer workplace environment. A recent Gartner study noted that "organizations need to go beyond policies and develop philosophies" to hold on to good employees in the years ahead.

The NACS Show is a great place to explore these and other trends affecting your business. There are too many educational sessions for me to list them all here (more than 45 in total), but some of the most important topics being covered revolve around menu development in foodservice, cultivating an employee-centric culture, engaging customers through digital innovation, and the future of fuel retailing and the impact of electric vehicles.

This will be my 18th NACS Show. I intend to sit in on as many education sessions as possible, along with taking advantage of the networking events where I can pick the brains of some of the smartest people in the convenience store business.

I hope to see you at this year's show.

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