By Mark Wohltmann
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—August started with a lot of post-event work from NACS Convenience Summit Asia held in Singapore July 19-21, 2022. Right after Singapore we went to Bangkok, Thailand, to prepare the store tours for the 2023 NACS Convenience Summit Asia and then on to Seoul, South Korea, to have first conversations with retailers and venues for our summit in 2024.
While spending some time in my home office to work through the insights, learning and best practices that I collected in Asia, I also updated the NACS Convenience Briefing, the collection of the most pressing strategic industry issues we face, where in the world these issues are most advanced and which retailers are well ahead of the curve with their actions on these issues.
Some of the key themes from Asia that we will also cover during the 2023 NACS Convenience Summit Asia in Bangkok and in 2024 in Seoul include:
- Ease of payment: 7 Eleven Korea’s new “pay by palm” is an example: While you can forget to bring your credit card, wallet or phone, your palm is always with you. The leading banks predict that the future of payments will exclusively be paying through bodily features, not devices.
- Convenience Plus: From washing powder to toilet paper, the convenience store is becoming a mini-mart. A global trend that sees convenience stores expanding their assortments can especially be experienced par excellence in Asia, be it 7-Eleven in Singapore, Dairy Farm in Bangkok or Enervis in Seoul.
- Retail architecture: From double-height ceilings with chandeliers at Sinopec in Singapore to all white painted charging stations as “clean-energy-hubs” in Seoul, convenience store design is upping its game.
Back in 2020, the last conference I joined before the pandemic saw every live event cancelled, was the annual Swiss Convenience Retail Day. And the first conference I joined after the pandemic lockdowns were over in 2021 was again the Swiss Convenience Retail Day. This year I returned to Zurich to speak at the 2022 conference organized by Fuhrer & Hotz, a Swiss research and consulting firm, and Marco Fuhrer, the NACS relationship partner for Switzerland. Together with Christian Warning, NACS relationship partner for Germany, I presented global trends and best practices, including my latest learnings from Asia to a packed room with nearly 200 Swiss industry delegates. Oh … and very fitting to the Swiss environment I was in, I did wear special socks … slightly conservative on the outside but very creative underneath.
After Zurich I went to the U.S. to spend a week in the NACS office, working on budget reviews, project kickoffs and marketing plans, but most importantly taking part in a number of trainings on corporate culture. At NACS, we value the development of a constructive, humanistic and encouraging culture, and from top to bottom, we live what we preach. Research shows that organizations with a strong constructive culture are more efficient, more effective and more profitable. And culture is not a one-time thing. It needs to live, be nurtured, be maintained and trained. As taught at the NACS Executive Leadership Program at Cornell University, the era of command and control is gone. Only empowerment can deliver results.
While in the U.S. office I presented at the annual Swedish Convenience Conference, hosted by C-Stores Sweden, a fellow association partner and member of the Global Government Affairs Council, hosted by NACS. Thanks to technology, this is now easy to do without having to fly back from the U.S. early.
I used the opportunity to also tour the cities of Alexandria, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., to see the latest retail developments of Wawa, Target, Aldi, Amazon and Whole Foods, as well as lots of single-store retailers. These retailers surely showed one thing: Our industry is not standing still (think unmanned retail, cashless checkouts, new categories).
(And is case you were wondering, I did wear brand new, all-American socks with stars and stripes and more. Thank you, Nicole Walbe, NACS director of supplier engagement.)
Looking forward to September and heading very soon to the NACS Show in Las Vegas, October 1-4. See you there! (Or somewhere else in the world…)
Learn more about the 2023 Convenience Summit Asia, slated for February 28-March 2 in Bangkok, at www.convenience.org/CSA.
Mark Wohltmann is director, NACS Global. He can be reached at email@example.com.