A Year in the Life

By Keith Harlow   read

NACS membership is a life cycle of products and world-class events that help facilitate a process of growth.

January 27, 2020

As the guy who heads up retail membership at NACS, one of the questions I often field is, “How can NACS help my business?” And I keep drawing on the same response: NACS helps convenience retailers improve their businesses by lowering expenses while increasing profits. Seems simple, but like many business challenges it is hard work. It is a constant cycle of learning, applying, measuring and adjusting and repeating that bears positive results.

My feedback to members, both long-standing and potential, is that the NACS offer is a life cycle of products and world-class events that help facilitate a process of growth. Overall NACS membership is an investment, and like many investments, they require some elbow grease.


The first step is developing a strategy for your business. For retailers new to the industry, consider beginning with the basics:

  • What are the characteristics of your business?
  • What are your goals and objectives?
  • How do you want to serve your community? 

For more experienced retailers, you’re likely focusing on more mature issues, like an acquisition/growth strategy, succession planning, offering a unique customer experience by finessing foodservice programs and increasing digital marketing spend. Strategic planning sessions are a great opportunity to focus on what separates your company from the competition, having a unique offer that attracts customers and building loyalty. As the famed business strategist Michael Porter said: “Strategy is about setting yourself apart from the competition. It’s not a matter of being better at what you do—it’s a matter of being different at what you do.”

Now that your strategy is in place, it is time to teach and inform. The convenience and fuel retailing industry are heavily regulated within the fueling space and selling age-restricted products, so it is important to educate and inform local and federal lawmakers and regulators about the economic and social impact your industry has on its community. NACS helps retail members facilitate these conversations with the NACS Day on The Hill event.

Spring brings an opportunity to take inventory and measure your business by benchmarking and comparing your organization’s performance with your peers. The NACS State of the Industry Summit allows retail members the opportunity to review key data and trends that help retailers establish goals, measure and design a path forward.

The summer months in the convenience industry traditionally signifies growth. For NACS we see it as an opportunity for members develop their staff, and NACS has developed best-in class education for convenience industry professionals. These executive education programs hone in on leadership skills, finance insights and marketing. And for those companies that want to explore the industry’s global impact, NACS offers an opportunity to discover global markets with the NACS Convenience Summit Europe.

By late summer you’ve have had an opportunity to measure and evaluate the performance of your business through the first half of the year. What improvements can be made to your strategic plan, and what areas could be modified? This may be a new foodservice offering, or a certain category may need more attention.

Once you have identified areas in need of adjustments, it’s time for the NACS Show. I describe the NACS Show as the must-attend convenience industry event, where you can find anything from candy bars to canopies. This is the event where retailers acquire new products, gain knowledge and build relationships that will improve their business.

The NACS membership life cycle can help maximize your investment in NACS by providing opportunities throughout the year to stay ahead of the curve and be in the know. Let me know how my team can assist.

Keith Harlow, retail membership director, has been assisting NACS members for more than 15 years. He can be reached at kharlow@convenience.org.