The live and in-person 2021 NACS Show delivered four days of learnings, insights, networking and exploring what’s new and exciting for the convenience and fuel retailing industry. This year’s event took place October 5-8 at McCormick Place in Chicago and attracted 17,273 attendees, including 5,039 buyers.

“This year—perhaps more than ever—our industry needed the NACS Show,” said 2021-22 NACS Chairman Jared Scheeler, CEO of Dickinson, North Dakota-based The Hub Convenience Stores Inc. “Convenience retailers and their supplier partners were able to meet face-to-face at the Show and reinvigorate the relationships and drive that keep our industry innovating and delivering excitement to our brands, our customers and our communities,” he said.

“733 days! That’s how long it’s been since we were last in person at the 2019 NACS Show,” said NACS 2020-21 Chairman Kevin Smartt, president and CEO of TXB Stores, based in Austin, Texas. “A lot has changed over the past two years, but one thing hasn’t: our resilience. No matter what was thrown our way we adapted, we pivoted, and we said, ‘We got this.’”

“It was a great event, with strong traffic, great energy and a lot of interaction with buyers. We can’t wait until next year’s NACS Show in Las Vegas,” said NACS 2021-22 Supplier Board Chairman Brent Cotten, senior director of customer and industry affairs at The Hershey Company.

 

Expo Features a Record Number of New Exhibitors

The NACS Show expo featured 1,235 exhibitors from startups to big brands, including a record-breaking 388 new exhibitors offering retailers a sneak peek at the new products available for convenience stores.

In addition, the Cool New Products Preview Room allowed attendees to quickly preview 277 of the latest products and services available to the convenience store industry. New this year, attendees used the NACS My Show Planner app to collect details about the products. With each scan, attendees could store a “personal shopping list” of products to check out on the expo floor within the app. The Preview Room boasted 11,350 total product scans.

As the convenience retailing industry continues to thrive in today’s constantly evolving retail environment, the NACS Show’s 40-plus education sessions, designed by retailers for retailers, helped attendees solve strategic challenges around core business functions relating to foodservice, technology, consumer insights, category management, fuels and human resources/labor.

 

General Sessions Focus on Big Themes

Content from the general sessions focused on the themes of reconnecting, resiliency and defining and innovating the industry’s future.

The October 6 general session featured a panel discussion with NACS President and CEO Henry Armour and three retailers—Rachel Krupa of The Goods Mart in New York City, Lonnie McQuirter of 36 Lyn in downtown Minneapolis, and Don Rhoads of The Convenience Group in Washington state—who epitomize what it meant to be essential and resilient during a tumultuous 2020, and how they’ve forged ahead.

On October 7, Armour was joined on stage by Scheeler and Smartt to talk about the future of convenience in three areas: last-mile solutions, the future of energy and age verification.

 

New Industry Initiatives Take Center Stage

The trio discussed TruAgeTM, the new digital solution developed by NACS and Conexxus that enhances current age-verification systems and protects user privacy. Launched in May 2021, TruAge makes the traditional carding experience more convenient and accurate and expands age verification beyond the traditional store register to online ordering, home delivery and curbside pickup, which have grown in popularity during the pandemic. Leading alcohol and tobacco companies—Molson Coors Beverage Company, Anheuser-Busch, Altria Group Distribution Company and Juul Labs—all announced financial support of TruAge. It also is supported by more than 130 retail companies that represent 22,000-plus convenience store locations in the United States, plus four industry point-of-sale (POS) providers.

The following day, Armour shared news about a new NACS initiative regarding digital search, named Project Search. “As the digital path to purchase becomes increasingly driven by digital engagement, NACS is taking steps to ensure our industry’s offers are everywhere shoppers are searching

We see the evolution of digital in our industry as a critical catalyst for the future of winning trips and building bigger baskets,” he said.

The October 8 general session also included the debut of the 2021 edition of the NACS Ideas 2 Go video program, featuring five companies that are redefining convenience around energy, foodservice, community and culture: The Market by Tiger Fuel Co. (Charlottesville, Virginia); Wawa (Wawa, Pennsylvania) the PRIDE stores’ 93 Octane Brewery (St. Charles, Illinois); 7-Eleven’s Evolution Store (Dallas); and Weigel’s (Powell, Tennessee). The episodes will roll out at convenience.org/ideas2go beginning in January 2022, accompanied by a live webinar and a podcast.tt

At the conclusion of the NACS Show, NACS worked with two local organizations to ensure a maximum amount of product was rescued to avoid food waste. The Greater Chicago Food Depository collected 36,006 pounds of food and beverages from exhibitors, which will support its 700 partner agencies and programs. Fight2Feed, an organization that rescues food from restaurants and chefs and collects donations from food distributors, collected 36,700 pounds (33 pallets) of food and beverages.

Also, new members were elected to the NACS Retailer and Supplier Boards. In addition to Scheeler being named the 2021-22 NACS chairman, Cotten, senior director of customer and industry affairs at The Hershey Company, was named 2021-22 NACS Supplier Board Chairman and Kevin Farley, COO of GSP, was named chairman elect.

Visit the NACS Show website (nacsshow.com) for post-event coverage, including the NACS Show Daily News. On-demand education session packages will soon be available for purchase, which are designed to help convenience retailers plan a learning experience for their teams that are tailored to their specific needs and goals.

The 2022 NACS Show will take place October 1-4 in Las Vegas at the Las Vegas Convention Center; sign up to be notified when 2022 registration opens.