CHICAGO – “’C-store’ doesn’t just stand for convenience store—it also stands for community store,” said 2017-18 NACS Chairman Rahim Budhwani, repeating the phrase he has used more than any other during his term as NACS Chairman.
Budhwani, CEO of 6040 LLC, which operates convenience stores and other businesses in the greater Birmingham, Alabama, area, spoke during the NACS Show general session today. “I have seen, firsthand, how our industry makes a difference in communities,” he said.
Referring to what he calls the food community, Budhwani shared that NACS has partnered with leading food and nutrition groups to increase the variety of healthier options in stores. “Too many people don’t buy healthier options in our stores because they simply don’t know we sell them,” he said.
To address that challenge, earlier this year NACS joined the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), becoming the first—and only—retail trade association to join PHA, and Budhwani announced the agreement from the stage at the PHA’s annual Summit. He shared a story with NACS Show attendees from that event to sum up the convenience industry’s opportunities to bring healthier options to stores.
“Virtually every speaker on the first day [of the PHA Summit] talked about convenience stores as a solution in some way or another—even during a grocery session. Near the end of the day, someone I never met leaned in and asked me, ‘Was today supposed to be all about convenience stores?’ It wasn’t planned to be, but it was. That clearly shows we have a significant opportunity to grow our sales with healthier options. Are you taking advantage of it?”
Speaking of food, NACS continues to grow the food community at the NACS Show. Budhwani welcomed a new NACS Show partner, the National Grocers Association (NGA).
“The addition of NGA also showcases where our industry is going. We will continue to sell more fresh food and more healthy options. And we will continue to expand what it means to be a small format retailer, whether a 5,000-square foot superette in Texas, or a 300-quare-foot store in Japan,” Budhwani said.
He shared with attendees that his travel as NACS chairman revealed new ideas and clever retail execution throughout the global retail community. At the NACS Convenience Summit–Asia in Tokyo and Sapporo, he saw how extremely small format stores are huge innovators.
“In such tiny stores, food preparation is impossible.” So, the solution is to deliver freshly made food to the store three times a day—for breakfast, lunch and dinner, keeping it fresh with steamers.
Outside of global innovation, Budhwani also said it’s important for the industry to tell its story around the world. Over the summer, he and other U.S.-based retailers met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss how to bring best practices in U.S. convenience retailing to the Indian marketplace.
“Our industry is successful because we share ideas, whether with fellow retailers here in the U.S. or with others around the world. But most of all, we succeed on a global scale because we understand the local customer,” Budhwani stressed.
Budhwani also highlighted the growing community of single-store entrepreneurs within the convenience store industry, or what he referred to as the entrepreneurial community.
“I know how important NACS was to me as I was growing my business beyond my first store. I am passionate about telling other small retailers how important and valuable it is to engage with NACS,” said Budhwani.
Focusing on communities is critical, he said, especially with disruption from multiple industries and retail channels seeking to redefine convenience—whether Amazon or some startup with drones, home delivery or something else.
“While these technologies are getting the headlines, they are shiny objects that can take your focus off what is really important: community,” said Budhwani. “Above all, a community focus is our competitive advantage. I truly believe that being engaged in the community—however you define it—is good for your business.”