Winding Up the Windy City

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Winding Up the Windy City

By Mehgan Belanger - 09/08/2008
Chicago may be known as the Second City, but this year it's the No. 1 place for the convenience industry, as more than 20,000 people are expected to attend the 2008 NACS Show to gather knowledge, network and share ideas.

The show, being held Oct. 4-7, 2008, at the McCormick Place convention center, boasts several new features, the first of which is a "Congreenience" store that will be built on the expo floor. The store will showcase a variety of green technologies and materials available to the convenience channel to add some "green" to stores.

"Attendees can go and see energy efficient appliances, lighting, store materials -- anything considered green will be there," said Stephanie Robert, director of event marketing and communications for NACS. "It's going to be a real hot spot for attendees."

Another new offering is a NACS-certified training program for small operators. Through four special sessions at various times during the show, operators with between one and five stores can be trained on various areas of operations from personnel and foodservice to financial management, according to Robert. And if an attendee goes to each session, he or she will receive a Master's Certification from NACS.

Beyond these new features, changes have been made to existing elements, keeping the show convenient for attendees.

One change concerns the Cool New Products Preview Room. Last year, items were showcased in six categories, and this year a variety of new categories were added, including Retailer Top Picks, New Merchandising Solutions, New Packaging, New to the Industry, New Flavors, Wellness and Green.

"It's going to make it easier for retailers to find what they are looking for," said Robert.

NACS TV, which was new to the 2007 NACS Show, is also back to entertain and educate attendees in a variety of places, from shuttle buses to the expo floor and even in hotels. One feature to look out for this year is a road trip with association Chairman Richard Oneslager, who traveled the country, discussing with retailers their top concerns. Another feature is the NACS TV Center Stage, which will offer attendees the chance to watch live interviews while they are being taped for NACS TV.

Changes were also made to the timing of the closing general session. In previous years, the session took place on the final day of the show, after the expo closes. This year, the session will take place before the expo opens on the last day. The switch was made so out-of-town attendees would not miss the event due to travel schedules, said Robert.

Regarding the general session speakers, NACS lined up some high-profile personalities for this year's conference. Speaking at the opening general session is Jim Parker, former Southwest Airlines CEO, who, among other things, is noted for maintaining all of the company's positions without pay cuts after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

And closing the show will be retired cyclist Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour de France seven consecutive times from 1999 to 2005. He will speak about his determination and dedication to overcome testicular cancer, which he was diagnosed with in 1996, and achieve great things.

NACS Show workshops take place on all four days of the show, and on the last day, two late afternoon workshops will be presented by the Disney Institute -- "Guestology;" the Magic of Measurement, and From Inspiration to Innovation.

And like every NACS Show, this year's will usher in a new association chairman. But 2008 marks the first time in NACS' history that a woman will hold the position. Sonja Hubbard, CEO of Texarkana, Texas-based E-Z Mart, will assume the role, succeeding Oneslager, CEO of Balmar Petroleum. (For more on Hubbard, see the cover story on page 44.)

The NACS Show isn't all about education and new products, though. Several networking events will take place throughout the event, including the Welcome Reception, which will be held on the first evening at the Navy Pier. There are also new member receptions and international receptions.