The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) has invited students from eight selected universities to participate in the 2016 AACS Convenience Innovation Challenge.

“The AACS has long championed innovation as a key pillar for the future growth of our industry and the innovation challenge has been an important support to our efforts in this regard. As the Government ramps up its focus on innovation, our industry’s focus in this area holds us in good stead for the future,” Jeff Rogut, AACS CEO said.

“As an industry we need to innovate to develop and secure our future and the future of the many people our industry employs, as well as to continue to provide consumers with choice and value in convenience shopping.

“We’re encouraging all students who participate this year to think outside the square – we’re after new ideas and different perspectives. We want to be exposed to concepts we’ve not considered before.”

Rogut said the challenges currently facing the convenience industry – and retailers in general – elevate the importance of initiatives like the innovation challenge.

“The buying power and aggressive pricing of the major supermarkets, the competition from other retail formats like quick service restaurants and increasing government regulation on key categories such as tobacco ensure the environment for convenience stores is never stagnant,” Rogut said.

“The convenience channel in Australia, as is the case globally, undergoes constant change. From the rise in consumers’ preference for healthy living options, to changes in the regulatory environment for key categories like tobacco, the convenience channel must maintain a focus on innovation to ensure our value proposition remains clear at all times.”

The challenge
Convenience retailing continues to evolve and change globally. It may seem like Australian convenience stores are not meeting the challenges presented by other retailers, such as supermarkets and fast food outlets, and emerging lifestyle trends, like healthier eating and living.

Two major sources of revenue and reasons consumers visit convenience stores – petrol and cigarettes – are facing their own challenges. These include increased taxes and, in the case of cigarettes, changes in consumer lifestyle and government regulations.

These changes have brought both challenge and opportunity to convenience store marketers when considering instore purchasing behaviour. Effectively tackling these challenges and capitalising on opportunities will be the key to finding sustainable growth beyond today’s major volume drivers: the petrol and tobacco categories.

The top five selling merchandise categories, which accounted for 77 per cent of convenience stores sales, in 2015 were: Tobacco, 37 per cent; ready to go beverages, 20 per cent; communications [prepaid cards, travel cards], 9 per cent; confectionery, 6 per cent; and on the go foods, 5 per cent.

Therefore, the question AACS is posing to potential entrants of the 2016 AACS Convenience Innovation Challenge is:

“Drawing on local and overseas examples, what innovation/s should be applied in our market to enhance the convenience experience, to meet future needs and to increase profitable sales?”

Submissions
A select few universities and tertiary education providers from across Australia have been invited to participate in the AACS Innovation Challenge – students should apply to their tertiary education provider for eligibility.

Written entries are to be no more than 2000 words in length or 15 PowerPoint slides in total, and should be submitted by students to their tertiary education provider, who is then responsible for submitting chosen applications to AACS.

Tertiary providers should email their chosen submissions to jeff@aacs.org.au by the Friday, June 24 2016.

  • Each participating institution is responsible for selecting a maximum of two entries from participating students to be considered for inclusion among the finalists.
  • The challenge is open to undergraduate students only.
  • The AACS will judge entries and determine the finalists who will be invited to present their ideas for final judging at a function to be arranged by the AACS at a date to be advised in September 2016.
  • Costs and arrangements for attending the finals presentations will be the participating institution’s responsibility.
  • Students are encouraged to not only think outside the box, but to reinvent it.

Prizes
AACS is pleased to offer the following prizes and benefits for the submissions judged the best:

  • 1st prize $5000
  • 2nd prize $2500
  • 3rd prize $1500

Winners will be featured in Convenience & Impulse Retailing (C&I) Magazine and e-newsletter, as well as on the AACS website and in AACS e-newsletters.

Other media opportunities are also available, as well as the opportunity for students to interact with and be noticed by major retailers and suppliers as potential future employers.

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