Yes In My Backyard, Please

By Jeff Lenard   read

If you want to learn more about NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard), attend a zoning approval hearing.

February 22, 2023

Yes-In-My-Backyard-PleaseOver the years, or rather decades, residents citing NIMBY concerns can make the zoning approval process difficult for retailers who want to remodel existing stores or build new locations. These NIMBY concerns come out as opposition by residents to a proposed new development because it is close to them. Although they may believe new developments are needed, they want them to be further away—as in, you guessed it, not in their backyard.

A hilarious new mascot in the Washington, DC, area is driving home many of the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) frustrations that retailers face in zoning hearings. Dressed like a bee, Nimbee (@TheNimbee) shows up in the community to shine a light on how NIMBY advocates stall change—and the future.

“I dislike anyone or anything that threatens to change my neighborhood from what it was like the day I moved here. Any change that happened up until that moment is totally cool, though, and should be given historic preservation protection in perpetuity,” Nimbee’s creator told The Washington Post.

Let’s face it, younger people thrive on change. They love new things. But they don’t love—or likely even know about—zoning hearings. Meanwhile, older people, who tend to have more free time and go to zoning hearings, want things to stay as they are. They don’t embrace change nearly as much as younger generations. They also are least likely to visit convenience stores because convenience may not be as important to them.

Younger consumers are drawn to our industry’s fresh food, whether foodservice or the ever-popular banana. Older generations, well, they think “BANANA” (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything).

So, here’s the dilemma: Those who may control your future don’t particularly like the future. How do you break that cycle?

Fortunately, NACS can help. It started in the 1990s when we created the “Dangerfield Project,” because the industry, like comedian Rodney Dangerfield, “don’t get no respect.” We dug into consumer research to learn what drove strong positive and negative perceptions about the industry. And we went to work telling positive stories about the industry.

And it worked. A national polling company, Yankelovich Partners, conducted a survey to see what consumers wanted/did not want to see in the 2000s. They most wanted to get rid of telemarketers and “Jerry Springer,” the TV talk show that often devolved into brawls. What they most want to see were 24-hour convenience stores and a certain cookie with a cream center often purchased at convenience stores. For the record, we had nothing to do with constructing that that survey, but once we heard the results, we talked about it. A lot.

But there was more work to do. Ten years ago, the new phase of “Dangerfield” was launched with “reFresh,” the NACS initiative to refresh our industry’s image, which focused on several elements:

  • Creating tools and sharing ideas to help retailers enhance their operations and communication efforts to overcome NIMBY issues.
  • Sharing facts and data to challenge an outdated reputation, educating the public and demonstrating how the industry is changing for the better.
  • Forming partnerships with credible nutrition and community-focused groups to decrease misperceptions and underscore the industry’s positive business practices to the public, media and policymakers.

When we started the reFresh initiative, we predicted it would be a 10-year overnight success—meaning it would take a solid 10 years of work to make it seem like everything changed overnight.

Although there will always be (or bee?) work to do that addresses NIMBY concerns, we are optimistic that our industry and what convenience stores mean to their communities will continue moving us in the right direction.

Jeff Lenard saw the band Timbuk 3 in concert in the mid 1980s. The band is best known for its top 20 hit, “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades.” The future didn’t stay bright for the band, as that was their only song to hit the charts.