AACS delivers its biggest ever summit at Connect 24

The Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) has held its biggest ever annual summit, with 620 retailers and suppliers attending AACS Connect 24 at the Hyatt Regency in Sydney.

Boasting an impressive line-up of speakers, the day was an engaging and informative celebration of the petrol and convenience industry that provided plenty of learning opportunities as well as the chance to collaborate and network with new and old associates.

Theo Foukkare, CEO of the Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), kicked off the event with an update on the work AACS has been doing over the past year as well as priorities, events, and advocacy programs for the year ahead.

“As an organisation, we sit down with our board, we talk to our members throughout the year, and we understand what the topics of concern are for you. We then feed that back into our broader overall strategic plan. We have a slightly modified strategic plan for 2024 and moving forward.

“If I look at it, it’s overarched by being the champion of convenience retail. That means for everybody, whether you’re a small supplier, whether you’re a large supplier, and the same goes for retailers, we’re here to help you. If you have a problem that you need to speak out about or that you need government assistance with. That’s our role,” said Foukkare.

Following the resignation of Brett Barclay as Supply Director on the AACS Board, Foukkare announced the results of the recent board election, with Camilla Warnock from PepsiCo joining the board for the first time as a Supply Director and the re-election of Felicity Needham from Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP) as a Supply Director.

Barclay, Director at Convenience Measures Australia (CMA), launched the AACS 2023 State of Industry Report, exclusively sponsored by CCEP, which showed +3.1 per cent value growth, although a decline of -0.1 per cent unit growth.

The Peter Jowett Award winners, Keirice Farley from 7-Eleven and Olivia Mercer from Frucor Suntory Oceania, then took the stage to deliver their presentations on the topic – Envisioning the Future: How will AI revolutionise convenience retailers to enhance customer convenience and operational efficiency.

Bridget Brennan, CEO of Female Factor and author of numerous books, spoke about the opportunities that businesses have in winning over the world’s largest and most powerful consumer group – women.

“Our conversation today is not a women’s issue. This is a strategic business opportunity. Women have enormous economic impact, which we are going to delve into. And women are also leading indicators for how the consumer market is changing.

“I always say if you want to know where the market is going follow the women because women tend to set the trends and drive the shifts that end up going mainstream with everybody,” explained Brennan.

Ashley Fell, Director of Advisory at McCrindle and TEDx speaker, helped the crowd understand how to effectively connect with future consumers in an engaging presentation that delved into the mindset of the younger generation.

“I think it is an opportunity for us at the moment to respond to these changes rather than just have that knee jerk reaction. To refocus how we do things rather than just resume doing things the way we’ve always done them. To reimagine what the new could look like rather than just rebuild the old,” said Fell.

Sanjay Chari and David Viljoen from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) took a look at AI and how retailers and businesses are using the technology to help drive efficiencies and enhance business performance.

“Eighty percent of consumers expect a personalised experience digitally, and a similar number are willing to switch brands and propositions if they’re not finding that that personalised experience is met. It’s really therefore important to tailor that program to your customers. And there’s a lot that goes into that. But if you do get it right, and we’ve seen this time, and again, the benefits are very real, we’re talking 5 to 10 per cent sales uplift,” said Chari.

Finally, to cap off the day, Steve Sammartino, futurist, author, and entrepreneur, delivered a high-octane keynote speech that captivated the audience and broke down how AI can be used. Not only in business, but in everyday life, through providing practical examples through his own experiences along with ten AI ideas that the convenience industry can implement right now to enhance their business.

“Average people like you and me have superpowers. We’ve got the most powerful tool ever invented. I really believe that. it’s going to be able to do everything. Everything you can think of. And if it can’t do it today, it can definitely do it tomorrow. So, if you embrace this power that you’ve been given, then I promise you your future will be anything but average.”

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