NACS CEO Reflects on 3 Big Changes in the Convenience Retailing Industry

When Henry Armour took the reins of NACS 17 years ago, the industry was a different place.

September 30, 2022

By Sara Counihan

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Things have certainly changed in the convenience retailing industry since NACS CEO and President Henry Armour took the helm of the association 17 years ago. Armour spoke on this week’s NACS Convenience Matters podcast episode and noted three things that are fundamentally different today than they were when he first started in our industry.

The first is the employer-employee influence balance, he said.

“Fifty years ago, if your employer told you something that was gospel, you didn’t question it at all. Today, there is a much more balanced relationship between employers and employees,” said Armour.

Armour says that employees are much more mobile today, and they have broader skill sets.

“If the employee is able to look around, what’s going to appeal to them? I think internal culture has probably been never more important than it is today,” he said.

Armour said what employees are looking for is an internal culture that makes them excited about going to work, and they want to be treated more equitably. They want their increased influence in the employee-employer relationship to be recognized.

“I think a big piece of that is all about communications from a CEO’s point of view,” he said.

When it comes to culture, Armour says that all companies have culture, and really good culture is intentional culture. It doesn’t just happen. You have to work at it, he said.

“Culture is really behaviors. It’s expected and actual interpersonal behaviors within an organization and how you set norms, how you set expectations that drive culture,” he said.

Armour believes that the core of being an effective leader is creating an environment in which talented people can achieve far more together than they can individually. At the convenience store level, what a great store manager does is create that environment, he said.

“It’s a lot of role modeling. It’s listening, it’s being responsive, it’s making hard decisions,” Armour said.

The second change is that the competitive set for the convenience retailing industry is much broader.

“What’s interesting today is this connection of new innovation from outside the industry that introduces new opportunities to surpass your traditional core competitor. And to do that, you have to have much better peripheral vision, not only what’s going on in retail but what’s going on in new technologies,” said Armour.

The third is that change happens much faster now than it used to be.

“I’m reminded of a quote that change has never been faster than it is today, and it will never be slower again,” said Armour.

Tune in to this week’s Convenience Matters podcast episode No. 355 “Scoping the Industry’s Biggest Issues” to learn more about these three big changes Armour has seen in our industry, as well as some advice for first-time NACS Show attendees.

Sara Counihan is contributing editor of NACS Magazine and NACS Daily. She can be reached at [email protected].