A record number of delegates converged at the Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast for the 2023 UCB Conference, which was the perfect location for members, customers, and suppliers to come together to learn, network, and help grow their businesses.
On the feedback of previous years, the conference program underwent an update for 2023, with CEO Darren Park saying: “You wanted more business sessions and more time in the trade show, and we have listened.”
The conference opened with the Bega Cheese Limited Cafe, a simulated store, and the first business session was led by Josh Dowling from Drive, who provided an optimistic outlook for the future of EVs in Australia. His key takeaway was that retailers should be planning for EVs, but not panicking. The outlook in Australia is that there is likely to be an ongoing mix of fuel and electric for some time.
Phillip Morris Manager for Government and External Affairs, Bradley Shaw, then spoke on the fast growing instance of illicit vaping, and how responsible retailers need to be more vigilant in reporting illegitimate operators to authorities through the stopillicit.com website, which has already identified 781 illicit sale locations in Australia.
Next up was a panel session featuring Australian cricketing legends, Jeffery (Thommo) Thompson, Alan Border, and Greg Chapel, and hosted by Greg Richie. The chat had delegates in stitches as the panel of cricketing royalty reflected on their career highlights and shared some, at times highly inappropriate (thanks Thommo) stories from back in the day.
On the second day of business sessions, UCB CEO Darren Park opened the day by discussing the challenges faced by the present economic situation and called on all delegates to challenge themselves to be better, and to challenge UCB to be better for them. Renewable Fuels Director, Berta Cabella Calvo, discussed Repsol’s experience and pathway towards Net Zero, while the always energetic Gus Balbontin provided delegates with an intimate view of the places living without limits can take them, and urged businesses to ensure they were solving the customers’ problems and building adaptability incrementally. The day ended with social networking events, including the Asahi Golf Classic and the Coca-Cola Go Kart Championship.
On the final day of the business sessions, Casey Gee Hoon Hyun, award winning vehicle designer, EV strategist and futurist, shared his experiences working along and inside top global firms like Google and Volvo, and explored the whole of life cycle impacts of EVs and the challenges that will be unique to Australia’s adoption of EV technology. Next, Kevin Smartt, CEO TBX Stores, brought an in-depth look at the changing face of convenience retail and the strategies that he is implementing at TXB – Texas Born, to stay ahead of the game. His key message to Australian retailers was to be more convenient and get rid of the lines in-store. Stay tuned for the next issue of C&I Retailing magazine where we will share an international store review of TXB and interview with Kevin Smartt.
Finally, Mark Bouris AM – economist and financial expert – simplified the state of the Australian economy and unpacked the impact that inflation and interest rate hikes are going to continue to have on consumer spending. The key message was that it’s going to get even tougher, and businesses need to be well planned and lean with spending to survive the challenges to come, while also providing a safe place for consumers who are already feeling stretched to the brink – more from this presentation will also appear in the next issue of C&I Retailing magazine.
During the conference, UCB and Asahi presented charity partner Rural Aid with a cheque for $26,384, which had been raised as part of Asahi’s Big Give Back program. During the course of the conference, Asahi pledged a further $5,000 to the Rural Aid, which delivers much needed support to farmers in need.
Images supplied by Camber Studios.