CHICAGO – “We're rebranding, refreshing and re-positioning convenience,” said NACS President and CEO Henry Armour during the NACS Show general session today.
This year more than 20,000 attendees from 50-plus countries are attending the NACS Show, which takes place October 17-20 at McCormick Place in Chicago.
Armour shared how rebranding NACS goes far beyond just a new logo, adding how the rebranding process focused not only on NACS, but the overall industry itself in driving home the core values and benefits NACS members deliver to consumers by emphasizing the ‘C’ in convenience.
“I love the versatility of the C with our rebrand. It certainly stands for convenience—but it can stand for so many other aspects of our industry,” said Armour, highlighting some of the other unique industry facets that the C represents.
For example, the C stands for customers: The U.S. convenience store industry serves more than 160 million customers per day—half of the country’s total population.
The C also stands for connections, like those that attendees experience at the NACS Show. And stands for collaboration. NACS partners with industry stakeholders each year at the NACS Show including the Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA); Petroleum Equipment Institute (PEI); Conexxus, the organization spun off from NACS to address technology standards; and new for 2017, the National Grocers Association (NGA).
“Most of all, our logo is new, it’s bright and it’s fresh,” said Armour.
Speaking of fresh, Armour shared the latest achievements related to the NACS reFresh initiative, which is rebranding the industry's image and highlighting its hugely positive aspects.
“In surveying consumers, we know that they love our industry’s basic value proposition—convenience. And that’s great, because we own it!” said Armour.
But there also are negative perceptions associated with the industry’s brand, most notably around nutrition and trash. Partnerships with preeminent organizations in the field are helping NACS address these misperceptions by changing the industry for the better and enhancing its image.
“We’ve made remarkable strides over the past four years, and especially this year,” said Armour, outlining three major partnerships.
In May, NACS became the first retail trade association to join the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), the preeminent health-focused group in the country.
NACS is working with PHA to help convenience stores provide more visibility to healthier choices inside their stores, especially with two new deliverables. NACS has launched a new web-based nutrition calculator that helps its members develop better-for-you store sets. And, recognizing that convenience stores already sell approximately 50% of the country’s single-serve bottled water, NACS has created marketing materials featuring PHA’s Drink Up initiative. Drink Up encourages convenience store customers to consume more water, and continues to make c-stores a channel of choice for water.
Convenience stores contribute nearly $1 billion a year to charitable groups, and NACS is making it easier and more convenient for members and their customers to respond and provide relief. In June, NACS announced a new partnership with the American Red Cross to enhance the convenience store industry’s community giving.
As hurricanes devastated communities in August and September, NACS activated a direct online link for members to donate to the Red Cross, and also communicated how members can help those in need, whether with donations of time, money, food or fuel. NACS is the first—and only—retail trade association to create such a program with the Red Cross.
“In disasters around the world, we are the first responders for the first responders,” said Armour.
In looking at other community-related issues, trash is the top concern cited by people who oppose the opening or construction of a new convenience store in their neighborhood. Armour said that the third major partnership with Keep America Beautiful (KAB) will help NACS members address that misperception with the launch a new toolkit to help convenience stores better manage trash, litter and recycling. NACS and KAB conducted three new surveys and audits to learn more about perceptions related to the industry and trash.
“It turns out we have a pretty positive story to tell because we are already part of the solution. Drivers across the country told us they use our trash cans to dispose of the rubbish in their cars. And guess what? Most of that trash doesn’t even come from our stores. I’m not sure we’re going to message it this way, but we are America’s trash can! It’s just one more thing we do to serve our communities,” said Armour.
The Partnership for a Healthier America, American Red Cross and Keep America Beautiful. That is quite a set of partnerships, all made possible through the NACS Foundation,” he said.
Armour also talked about how NACS is repositioning the industry with the media and Congress.
“It’s about telling them what we’ve done and why it’s important. It’s about putting it in context,” said Armour, citing numerous positive news stories about the industry’s food, including a feature in The New York Times, “Gastronomic Stations,” on convenience store/gas station food.
These positive stories in the media did not happen without the help of NACS, he stressed, which is also true in telling the food story to Congress.
During the menu-labeling debate, NACS helped change proposed regulations that were designed for restaurants to guidance that made sense for all foodservice retailers. For SNAP, the food stamp program, NACS explained to members of Congress how the rules, as initially proposed, would deny many people convenient access to essential groceries.
Both menu labeling and SNAP were major victories for retailers and their customers, and they were largely achieved because NACS repositioned how the industry is perceived. Armour stressed that NACS did not oppose menu labeling. In fact, the industry wants to provide nutritional information to customers in an effective and efficient manner. And NACS members want to be a part of the SNAP program because convenience stores bring more access to nutritional foods to more people than any other retail channel.
There are many other examples of how repositioning our industry’s image has brought significant benefits, said Armour, before mentioning one more major victory in Congress: the battle over debit card swipe fee reform.
“We told Congress how a massive and ugly battle between retailers and the banks was not a fight they wanted. With your help, we emphatically and aggressively stated our position. Many members of Congress said that they heard from far more retailers than banks. You repositioned our political power from a passive one to a powerfully public one. You gave us that victory. And, thanks to you, we don’t expect attempts to repeal debit fee reform to come up again,” said Armour.
As all retailers focus on developing programs to solve their customers’ immediate needs, Armour said that NACS exists to develop unique ideas and perspectives that move the industry forward and spur continual innovation.
“Above all, we never lose sight that what is good enough today may not be good enough tomorrow. We are passionately committed to keeping our industry as vibrant and prosperous as it’s ever been. That is our commitment to you,” Armour said.