Opinion: Theo Foukkare on the importance of a united industry

The global convenience community is supportive, diverse, entrepreneurial, and thriving, writes Theo Foukkare, CEO, Australian Association of Convenience Stores.

Convenience retail is the best industry in the world. Over the course of my career, I have never come across an industry filled with such diverse backgrounds, interests, and ideas – where everyone is on the same page with shared common goals of doing good to make the industry as a whole better.

Spending time with local and global retailers willing to share their path to success is both humbling and extremely informative and personally satisfying. I am proud to say that I am part of such an amazing retail community.

In a competitive marketplace, yes there are different strategies implemented to align with the customer mission or varying business priorities, however the views and collaboration across retailers and manufacturers is that of a shared objective – to develop the industry to be more competitive and grow in share of the customer spend across the retail marketplace in Australia.

One of the primary factors driving the industry forward is the diversity of the people that we employ all throughout the chain from raw materials through to the retail floor. By this I don’t simply mean gender diversity, I am also referring to the different cultural backgrounds from all over the world that bring with them their entrepreneurial spirit and freedom to succeed. All businesses are finally looking broadly to attract the best people to bring the best ideas to the table to help build their customer and business strategies. Another area delivering huge success for some businesses is talking with the 15 to 24-year-olds that are the future both in terms of their contribution to the workforce but importantly also their way of thinking, their shopping behaviours and their communication flows in the digital world.

Being in business is hard. Whether you own your own company, work for a multinational or are a sole trader. The key to success is realising that together we can all achieve more. Surrounding yourself with likeminded individuals that all have something greater than you to contribute is the key to sustainable growth and long term business viability. This can be hard, as people, some of us always want to be right. Unfortunately, the reality is that no one is ever always right.

This is where having the right mix of diversity can allow you to think differently, behave differently and ultimately execute differently. Females think differently to males, young kids differently to older generations, immigrants who have built businesses from scratch think differently to the corporate world – embracing this in today’s constant cycle of change is now more important than ever.

If you aren’t working towards achieving a diverse team, the time is now. Never has it been so important to think differently, to embrace everyone and include everyone’s views in helping create a stronger better future.

This thinking also applies to partnerships. Traditional fuel retailers are experts in what they specialise in, and as the industry continues its journey into roadside retail, we will continue to see strategic partnerships with all types of brands – QSR brands, specialty food operators, grocery brands, cafes, loyalty experts, florists – the list goes on. Unlocking partnerships aligned to delivering new customer occasions in our channel is a key driver for future success. We already have some great examples of this in Australia, and I am confident we will see more of this diverse thinking more broadly.

When diversity, inclusion, people, partnerships, and teamwork align our industry continues to thrive and more Australians will see that convenience retail is the best industry.

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