Women CEOs Headline NACS Leadership Forum

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Women CEOs Headline NACS Leadership Forum

By Don Longo, Convenience Store News - 02/11/2014

MIAMI -- The annual NACS Leadership Forum opened yesterday with presentations by two industry chief executive officers whose companies are at the forefront of many of the changes taking place in the convenience store industry.

Under the theme, "Visions of the Future," CEOs Kim Bowers of CST Brands Inc. and Allison Moran of RaceTrac Petroleum Inc. spoke about how their large convenience store chains are transforming themselves to serve both current and future customers.

Both women cited the need to serve both traditional c-store customers as well as non-traditional customers, such as women, Millennials and multiculturals, as key to the future.

Bowers listed the many strengths of her 1,900-store chain. With 1,041 stores in the Southwestern United States, CST operates in states that are among the fastest growing in population in the country. But to capitalize on that growth, Bowers noted that the retailer has a three-pronged strategy focused on the company's culture, its brand and driving growth.

The CEO went on to outline CST's strategy to grow its immediately consumable and proprietary food programs. "About 80 percent of our foodservice business is in breakfast," she said. "We are really working hard to extend our success the rest of the day."

Bowers also noted that demographic shifts in the country, such as the growth of the Hispanic population and the increase in the number of Millennials, are positive factors for the future of c-stores. "Millennials are more economically challenged and they are more ethnically diverse," said Bowers, "but they will outspend Baby Boomers by 2017, and they buy more everyday essentials and fresh food from c-stores than other demographic groups."

Moran described her family-operated business' transformation from a high-velocity gasoline, cigarette and beer retailer into a better-balanced, modern convenience store chain that appeals to new customers or "guests." Giving credit to her father, Carl Bolch Jr., for empowering her to spearhead change, Moran cited the company's critical investment in employees and infrastructure which enabled the change.

"The marketplace is your teacher," she said. "The transaction-based shoppers, whom we used to attract with low gas prices and cigarettes and beer, was changing. They wanted more choices from a c-store." The company made this change by identifying and then putting into practice its core principles, which they call "The RaceTrac Way." The principles are:

  • Put people first
  • A culture of strong performance;
  • A warrior's passion;
  • A humble attitude; and,
  • Live for fun every day.

One of the starkest examples of the impact of this new culture was the change in store manager tenure from a chainwide average of 35 days to 1,915 days (five years, three months), after the change.

RaceTrac's focus on changing its operations to meet the future needs of its customers have been tremendously successful. "We have strengthened our brand, increased guest loyalty and grown our revenue," said Moran.

The NACS Leadership Forum continues today and Wednesday in Miami.