The Future of Convenience Rests on 3 Challenges

Here are the key areas that will change convenience, and they are coming sooner than you think.

October 11, 2021

Kevin Smartt, Jared Scheeler, and Henry Armour at the NACS Show

CHICAGO—At Thursday’s general session, “Reinventing Convenience and Reimagining Our Future,” NACS President and CEO Henry Armour led a spirited panel discussion featuring 2020-21 NACS Chairman Kevin Smartt and 2021-22 Chairman Jared Scheeler.

Armour said the three areas c-store owners are going to have to watch closely are last-mile delivery, age verification and the future of energy.

Both Scheeler and Smartt agreed that delivery apps are the wave of the future, but c-stores need to take ownership of that and get ahead of the curve. Scheeler, CEO of The Hub Convenience Stores, said branding will be key to that.

“With so many orders online, I want people to say, ‘I ordered from The Hub,’” he said. “But today they are saying, ‘I ordered from DoorDash,’ and we need to change that.”

Smartt wholeheartedly agreed, adding that the convenience industry needs to act now to protect its data from those companies.

“I think the most important point for the industry is we do not want DoorDash and those third-party companies owning our data,” he said. “And we need to come together as an industry and get it in our contracts that we own the data, not them.”

One area where the industry is already coming together is age verification. Armour said NACS has worked over the past two years to create a new solution to age verification in the form of TruAgeTM, a digital age-verification system that confirms a customer’s age at every point of sale while keeping personal data private.

In fact, Armour had some breaking news to announce on that front: In addition to Molson Coors and Anheuser-Busch, Altria Group Distribution Company—the largest tobacco company in the country—is now a TruAge™ sponsor. Armour said that with more states requiring retailers to use age-verification systems—Nevada and North Carolina will require it by the end of next year—NACS is looking forward to welcoming new sponsors in the coming days and weeks ahead. (On Friday, Armour also announced from the General Session stage that JUUL joined as a new sponsor of TruAgeTM.)

With 90% of consumers supporting a nationwide standard for age verification, Scheeler said the time is now for retailers to get on board.

“There are enough things that happen on a daily basis that keep us up at night,” he said. “Age verification should not be one of them.”

The final area c-stores need to be keyed into is the future of energy, including the opportunities surrounding electric vehicles. Scheeler said that for his stores, which are mostly in rural areas, it’s not a high priority right now, but he is watching it. Smartt, whose TXB (Texas Born) stores can be found primarily in Texas, said c-stores need to get in now before someone else controls the market.

“We want to sell our customers what they want to buy,” he said. “Now is the time to be fighting for a level playing field because we don’t want to be doing it five years from now when the public utility companies own it.”