By Mark Wohltmann
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—June started off with our annual NACS Convenience Summit Europe in Berlin, Germany. After two years of virtual events due to COVID-19, we had a record number of attendees. We even needed to add chairs to the room on the first day due to the high number of last-minute registrations. I wonder how people wake up on a Wednesday morning thinking “Hmmm, I think I’m gonna fly to Berlin for a conference…” Well, some do. 😉
We had an insightful NACS Ideas 2 Go store tour, with the friendliest hosts and lots of learnings at sites from Total, Shell, Orlen, Aral/BP, Sprint and Jet.
The conference was full of thought provoking content, covering some of the most pressing industry issues such as labor recruitment/retention/profitability, ESG, the future of mobility, the threat of losing customer ownership to tech companies and the fundamental and accelerated change our industry is facing.
It was a pleasure for me to host this event with an audience as engaged and incredible as you!
If you follow me on LinkedIn, then you know about my little sock-joke. Well, it did bite me back, and the delegates challenged me on my boring black socks I wore on the first day. But our awesome marketing department came to the rescue and provided me with banana and pizza socks. 🍌&🍕🧦 😂😂😂 (Thanks @ Nancy Pappas!)
From Berlin I flew on to Johannesburg, South Africa for three events. I presented on global industry trends and the future of fuel at the biennial conference of the Fuel Retailers Association, which is a member of the NACS Global Government Affairs Council. The two-day conference highlighted the enormous potential of the South African Fuel Retailing industry but also the challenges of a highly regulated market. This event is co-located with the Automechanika, where I had great conversations about the connection between our industry and the motor sales aftermarket industry.
We then held our inaugural NACS Convenience Leaders Exchange South Africa with nearly 30 senior leaders from our industry, discussing the global industry trends we see and how these will impact the South African retail landscape. This event series provides a platform for an exchange of ideas for senior leaders of our industry and we hold this event annually in Germany (DE-AT-CH), Poland (PL & CEE), Dubai (Gulf+) and now also in South Africa.
I went on a store tour in Johannesburg to see the latest concepts. This included an independent site, combining Sasol fuel with a five-star restaurant to a “The Pantry” shop that looks not at all like a petrol station shop. Add some stunning architecture on the forecourt and this site surely was my tour highlight.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, I did wear my Africa-heritage-patterned socks for this. 😉
After spending a week in my home office, I made another trip to Berlin to speak at the major annual German Convenience Conference “Handel und Wandel in Tankstellen,” which translates to “Retail & Change in Petrol Stations.” It sounds better in German as it rhymes. 😉 I was accompanied on stage by our NACS Relationship Partner Central & Eastern Europe and Executive Director of New Concept in Poland, Leszek Jurczak, and we presented about “where in Europe innovation is happening in our industry.”
Then I had another few days at home and co-hosted two webinars. The first was a new episode of the NACS Convenience Matters Podcast, hosted by Jeff Lenard, interviewing Niall Anderton, the VP Europe of Circle K. We talked a lot about the situation in Ukraine and how this impacted their business, from divesting in Russia to labor shortage in Poland. Next came an episode of Shoptalk Live, a series hosted by NACS Relationship Partner Global and MD of Insight Research Dan Munford. This session was about Żabka in Poland, which won the NACS European Convenience Retail Technology Award for its fully autonomous Żabka Nano store concept.
Wow. A busy month. I’m looking forward to July at our NACS Convenience Summit Asia in Singapore that’s coming up. Stay tuned for what socks I’ll be wearing. I know Nancy has a surprise for me.
Mark Wohltmann is director, NACS Global. He can be reached at email@example.com.