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Technology's Role More Critical

As the economy continues to sputter along, we've seen retailers take a long, hard look at the money they spend. Both everyday operational expenses and long term capital expense budgets have come under review. The smart c-store chains haven't spent a penny that hasn't gone directly to cutting costs or enhancing the customer experience and growing sales immediately.

While there have been some small signs of a recovery, consumers are still faced with high unemployment, high levels of household debt, rising interest rates and rising taxes. Retailers cannot expect a return to the "glory days" of a bullish stock market, rising home values and flush consumer spending. What you see now may not be as good as it gets, but it's not going to get much better very soon. This is truly "The New Normal."

Last year, Convenience Store News' Tech Study found c-store retailers significantly increased their spending on technology, despite the recession. However, a large part of those bigger tech budgets was spent on becoming compliant with Payment Card Industry (PCI) security mandates. This year, we expect a good chunk of a c-store retailer's budget will again go toward PCI compliance, but we expect to find more c-stores investing heavily in other areas as well. The current chilly climate for consumer spending means retailers have to wring more profits out of their operations or grow sales more efficiently than they are currently doing. This means spending on such things as new payment systems, loyalty programs, business intelligence systems, and digital marketing, which c-stores must do to survive and prosper in the years ahead.

This month in New Orleans, more than 1,200 convenience and petroleum industry people are expected to attend NACStech, the industry's premier technology event. This is truly the place to be for top retail executives -- not just CIOs -- to learn about how to optimize their operations. In addition to the traditional technology product and service categories, this year's NACStech will feature five new categories -- biometrics, wireless, mobile applications, knowledge management and sustainable systems.

This year is also a special one for Convenience Store News because, for the first time, our publication will be the exclusive convenience trade media partner for NACStech -- underscoring our commitment to advancing the retail technology expertise of the c-store industry. We're also thrilled to be partnering with NACS on our newly rebranded NACS/CSNews 5th annual CIO Roundtable, being held immediately prior to NACStech.

Also, we'll be presenting CSNews' 7th Annual Technology Leadership Awards, recognizing individual and company technology implementations during NACStech's opening session. Don't miss the opportunity to congratulate our Top Tech Executive Gabe Olives of Turkey Hill Minit Marts and our Outstanding Tech Implementation winner, Quick Chek Corp.

Finally, you'll see more CSNews editors than ever before at this year's NACStech. That's because we are again partnering with NACS to jointly produce a special technology edition that will combine NACStech coverage, insights from the CIO Roundtable and technology news and case histories. This special edition will be co-branded with NACS and appear in July.

We are proud to be chosen by NACS to help the association deliver even more robust information and insights from this event and on this critically important topic.
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