As part of the 2023 C&I Industry Leaders Forum, Theo Foukkare, CEO, AACS, discusses how the industry continues to thrive under immense pressure.
C&I: What have been the highlights for AACS and the convenience industry over the past six to 12 months?
Foukkare: It has been a very big 12 months with lots of highlights, so this is a difficult one to answer simply, however our international study tour in 2022 to the US was a highlight. Another highlight must be the launch of the Commercial Academy Training program, where AACS is looking to play its role in developing greater commercial capability for our retailers and supplier members. APCO Wangaratta winning the NACS Asia Pacific Convenience Store of the Year Award is also a major standout for me.
From an industry perspective, the unbelievable growth of foodservice, beverages, and grocery on the back of a number of strong years of growth is so good to see. Finally, without question, the announcement of the Viva acquisition and merger of the OTR business to replace the Coles Express brand moving forward is the biggest news of 2023, which will deliver a world class retail offer to more Australians and help lift the overall profile of the channel.
C&I: What will be your main priorities for the remainder of 2023?
Foukkare: The association has a broad range of strategic priorities. Our heavy focus for the balance of 2023 will be on government advocacy to change the packaged alcohol legislation for convenience stores. We will continue trying to change government mindset on the failed prescription-only model for nicotine vaping; including better enforcement at retail level of illicit tobacco and illegal vaping. We’ll also be seeking new laws to remove red tape and allowing police to easily close down rogue operators. We will work with police to drive better support for our members in areas of retail crime and fuel drive offs. Health and sustainability will also be focus areas for me.
C&I: What are the most important topics the industry should be discussing in 2023?
Foukkare: The industry should be focusing on training and upskilling their teams at all levels to improve their commercial capability and achieve better outcomes.
The integration of technology into retail should also be top of mind, enhancing loyalty programs to be more personalised and to deliver consumer value, removing friction from the customer experience and investing heavily in developing their food offers, are all topics that retailers should be focusing on.
C&I: What does your crystal ball tell you about the future of convenience in Australia?
Foukkare: Consumers will only become more dependent on the channel as our retail offer continues to be developed out. Foodservice, beverages, and grocery will continue to drive growth in the industry for many years to come, with consumer dependence on convenience plus formats to become the dominant offer.
Electric vehicles will play a role; however, the transition will take a lot longer than most people expect and zero emission liquid fuels and hydrogen will have more of a say than they currently have.
Shop design will be transformed to accommodate increased consumer dwell time, forecourts will be repurposed to create mobility hubs to cater for last mile, delivery and charging hubs, car share locations and dark kitchens just to name a few.
C&I: Are there any other messages you’d like to share with the industry?
Foukkare: Convenience retail continues to deliver innovation, new shop formats, new food offers and greater brand partnerships than ever before. The industry continues to thrive under immense pressure and consumers love seeing how our industry is transforming to make their lives easier. Congratulations to everyone for playing their part in reshaping convenience retail in Australia.
This article originally appeared in the June/July issue of Convenience & Impulse Retailing magazine, which is available online here.