2020: A Pivotal Year for NACS

Virtual experiences, landmark research and frontline heroes are among the highlights of a historic year.

December 28, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The entrepreneurial nature and amazing grit of convenience and fuel retailers inspires us at NACS to push ourselves to test and learn as an organization to better serve our industry, so when the pandemic hit during late winter, instead of tapping the brakes, our teams pressed the accelerator.

COVID-19 forced the cancellation of in-person events from mid-March onward. In fact, the NACS 2020 Day on the Hill—with a record 174 attendees participating—and the NACS 2020 HR Forum were the last “live” and in-person U.S. events of 2020 for NACS.

In April, the NACS State of the Industry (SOI) Summit transformed into the NACS SOI Summit Virtual Experience, providing the benchmarking data and trend analysis retailers need to thrive amid the fast-shifting retail landscape. As it happened, the NACS State of the Industry (SOI) Report celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020.

Giving back and honoring frontline heroes is part of our DNA at NACS—and our industry. On July 7, the NACS Foundation hosted the second-annual 24/7 Day, a signature event under the foundation’s Response Relief Program uniting convenience and fuel retailers across America to honor first responders, medical personnel and volunteers who work around the clock, 24/7, serving our communities to ensure people don’t face emergencies alone.

To mark the day, 18 retailers and GSTV—up from just three participating partners in 2019—joined together to raise awareness and donations for the urgent humanitarian needs of the American Red Cross, while spotlighting the convenience store industry’s important role in supporting local heroes and their communities. Read more about the 2020 initiative and participating retailer highlights in “Thanking Everyday Heroes” in the September 2020 issue of NACS Magazine.

Conexxus held its 2020 Annual Education and Strategy Conference in August. The theme of the three-day virtual event was Surviving & Thriving in the Age of Disruption: How We Responded to the Pandemic. Gray Taylor, executive director, Conexxus, wrapped up the conference with a candid Q&A with Kevin Smartt, CEO of Austin, Texas-based Kwik Chek. Smartt is Conexxus chairman and 2020-21 NACS chairman.

Smart assumed the NACS chairmanship in October from Julie Jackowski, NACS 2019-20 chair and senior vice president, corporate general counsel and secretary for Casey’s. In an April episode of Convenience Matters, Jackowski shared how the Iowa chain pivoted during the pandemic. Listen to Episode No. 225 here.

The impactful NACS Executive Education programs didn’t miss a beat when they shifted to virtual classrooms this fall, partnering with world-class universities to provide training to inspire convenience retail leaders and shape industry innovators. Up first was the NACS Financial Leadership Program at Wharton, followed by the NACS Executive Leadership Program at Cornell, the NACS Marketing Leadership Program at Kellogg, the NACS Women’s Leadership Program at Yale and the NACS Innovation Leadership Program at MIT.

When the pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 NACS Show, scheduled for October 11-14 in Las Vegas, NACS accelerated plans already on the drawing board to build a separate virtual education and networking offer from the ground up.

The inaugural NACS Crack the Code Experience was a five-week digital experience and curated marketplace that connected convenience retail buyers and sellers from around the globe during a tumultuous year. Crack the Code, which ran November 2 through December 4, featured more than 50 content-rich education sessions loaded with insights and new ideas, more than 5,000 products displayed in hundreds of virtual showrooms, and numerous Cool New Products ready to adorn store shelves. Access to Crack the Code is still available for registered attendees until Thursday. Read more about the experience in the December issue of NACS Magazine.

In another new initiative, NACS and the nonprofit Good Jobs Institute collaborated on a tool to help build the business case for good jobs in the convenience store industry. Created specifically for convenience retailers, the Good Jobs Calculator helps retailers forecast the impact of increasing employee wages and assess the benefits of implementing a Good Jobs system. These include reduced costs, increased revenue and improved labor productivity. For more information and to access the calculator, click here.

Convenience stores check 4.5 million IDs a day, which is twice as many as the TSA. NACS and Conexxus partnered to create a turnkey, digital program that can validate a shopper’s age via his or her mobile device, while protecting personal information, providing a frictionless experience and taking the burden of certification off the cashier.

The NACS age verification program will be implemented in three phases. Through 2021, baseline capabilities will be available to participating retailers, including new processes for scanning a driver’s license to verify the customer’s age. The second phase, scheduled for later in 2021, will involve launching a consumer “ID Container” application for smartphones to replace the driver’s license scan. Phase three will add retailer- and supplier-desired capabilities, including loyalty programs and 1:1 couponing, plus convenient features for consumers, such as mobile payments tied to “ID Wallet.”

As consumers increasingly heeded advice to stay at home and limit trips to essential outings only, delivery services and curbside pickup quickly moved to the forefront, and consumer-focused businesses sought to meet skyrocketing demand.

In October, NACS Research published its landmark “NACS Last Mile Fulfillment in Convenience Retail” study, including findings from 140 convenience retailers around the world representing single-store operators to companies with 500-plus stores. The study explores how readily convenience retailers are adopting last mile fulfillment, current and anticipated use of delivery services, retailer options for accepting orders and the difficulties retailers face with adopting last-mile fulfillment services. Download a free, digital copy of the report here and read more in “Covering the Last Mile” in the January 2021 issue of NACS Magazine.

Gasoline demand took a huge hit in 2020, but initiatives to reduce overall emissions from transportation continued. The Fuels Institute in late October published a report providing valuable context to help encourage government decisionmakers to consider multiple perspectives before deciding how to proceed. “Impact of Transportation-Related Environmental Initiatives” takes an in-depth look at the relative effectiveness and associated costs to society, government, industry and consumers of 14 distinct transportation movements, including those focused on emissions, fuel economy and carbon pricing; alternative fuels; congestion pricing, tolls and telecommuting; and mobility. Download the full report, read the executive summary and view the introductory video. For more research published in 2020 by the Fuels Institute, including a study on electric vehicle adoption with a focus on charging, visit the institute’s research page.

The Fuels Institute this year also created the EV Council to help the fuel marketing industry gauge disruption from the expected uptick in EV adoption and prepare their stores. The EV Council is a forum for stakeholders with interest in the infrastructure to support EVs to discuss and study the ongoing efforts for widespread adoption.

In December, the weekly Convenience Matters podcast notched a record 200,000-plus downloads from listeners around the world. With more than 260 episodes to choose from, the podcast can be heard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and other podcast apps and YouTube and at www.conveniencematters.com.

Early in 2020, NACS Media launched a digital pdf version of NACS Magazine, offering readers three choices for consuming content at home, in the office or on the go: the print magazine, website and an interactive pdf that offers the look and page-turning feel of print without the heft. NACS Media in late spring also welcomed Fuels Market News into our publication family. FMN includes a quarterly magazine, available in print and as a digital pdf, and weekly newsletters for fuel marketers, fuel retailers and commercial fuel operators.

The Strategic Industry Initiatives team at NACS shared the 2020 stories of some of the heroes of the convenience and fuel retailing industry during videos released as part of the Crack the Code Experience. Read profiles of three heroes in “Look for the Heroes” in the November 2020 issue of NACS Magazine. To cap off the year, Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives, was named Hero of the Year by the anti-human tracking organization IN OUR BACKYARD.

Look for “Inside Washington Year in Review” in this edition of NACS Daily to read about the big government relations wins for 2020.