The AACS Overseas Study Tour, which took place between 5-14 October, might be over for another year, but the benefits will be reaped well into the future. The Tour took delegates from the Australian Convenience Industry on a whirlwind trip across East Coast, visiting a number of US convenience stores before heading to the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) Show from 11-14 October at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

This year’s NACS Show was a great one to attend, with a number of records broken. The Show attracted 24,392 registered attendees, including a record 2,490 international attendees from 73 countries, of which our Aussie representatives were apart. This record showcases the show’s importance to the global convenience and petrol industry.  The four day show featured general sessions with leadership experts and the NACS Ideas 2 Go Program, a popular fast-paced video program of emerging concepts that redefine convenience, as well as

“The NACS Show is truly the event of the year for the convenience store industry,” said 2015–16 NACS Chairman Jack Kofdarali. “Our industry is full of entrepreneurs and innovators who come to the NACS Show year after year to find that one idea that can change their business, turn a profit and make their customers excited to shop their stores. No other event provides knowledge, education, networking and new products like the NACS Show.”

C&I spoke to this year’s AACS PJ Scholarship Award recipients Kellie Anderson, Parmalat, and Morgan Rossiter, BP, about their time on the AACS Study tour.

Speaking about the overall experience of the AACS Overseas Study Tour, Ms Anderson said,”The AACS study tour was an unforgettable experience.  The one thing that stood out to me was the level of accessibility and openness of all involved when it came to sharing ideas and learnings from their convenience market experiences.  The USA Retailer management teams were so warm and inviting, willing to discuss their business and show us first hand their operations by visiting key stores.  This level of interaction was also evident with the AACS Study Tour delegates who were also an invaluable source of information.”

To this, Ms Rossiter added, “A big learning for me came simply from being on the AACS Study Tour and getting to meet so many great people from a variety of different businesses; coming from a fuel background it was eye opening to see these networks come together and see how each contributes to the convenience industry in their unique ways. Presenting at the NACS Show in the “Bright Ideas From Around the World” event also provided me a great opportunity to explore new ideas on a global scale. It was enlightening to chat with other participants from other countries and learn how they define success in their markets.”

Ms Rossiter presenting at the NACS Show in Vegas

And when it comes to innovation, both PJ Scholarship Award recipients were impressed by the US Convenience industries market leading strategies. “I was really impressed by the level of dedication and thought put into the merchandising principles of the fresh/on the go food section within the stores visited.  There was so much consideration of all aspects;  from the quality and variety of food products available to meet all occasions and customer types, to how they packaged the product, to visibility on shelf with the space, stock weights and display. There was such appeal, customers, including myself, couldn’t help but be drawn to the section to browse and were then able to easily shop the section”, said Ms Anderson.

Ms Rossiter said “While visiting a variety of stores along the East Coast we were able to appreciate the passion that not only the employees have for these stores, but that the customers have for the complete convenience solutions provided. Their open kitchens allowed the consumers to see all the food as it’s prepared. This is following on from customers being able to design their own meals with simple touch screen ordering platforms; allowing for customisation and helping to coordinate the customer experience through the store. These Convenience Stores have really taken the time to redesign store layouts and forecourts to see the highest possible turnover of space while also building customer loyalty and satisfaction. Ultimately, their biggest innovations are providing customers with solutions to keep their lives easy and coffee cups full.”

Sheetz touch screen.
Sheetz touch screen for customers to make customised food orders!

The AACS Overseas Study Tour has once again proven to be an invaluable learning experience for all those involved –  one which will hopefully continue to foster innovation in the Australian P&C market. For more photo’s head over to the AACS gallery.

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