A Florida success story - SIGMA's Spring Convention NPN MarketPulse
A Florida success story — SIGMA's Spring Convention Over the years, the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America has gained a well-earned reputation as an organization that will go above and beyond when enticing its members to its off-site meetings. From the Winter Management Conference to the Spring Convention and fall's Annual Meeting, SIGMA chooses sites that are a cut above the ordinary. The first week of May was no different as SIGMA and its members converged on the posh Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, Fla., for its 2005 Spring Convention. But while the meeting locations may come with all of the requisite bells and whistles, the mission remains basic: providing attendees with the tools needed to improve and enhance their businesses. And while those enhancements may at times be eye-popping, with new technologies and marketing programs designed to dazzle and attract the customer, the foundation for any successful business is always built on simple fundamentals. In the case of this year's Spring Convention, that foundation was given voice by John Melo, BP's president of U.S. fuel operations, who climaxed his address at the Business Meeting and General Session on May 5 by saying: "You have to have a clarity and focus in your core business. When you're clear in what you want to do then do it with deep capability." To achieve that focus, Melo said petroleum marketers are going to have to accept some simple truths: U.S. refining production is not likely to catch up with imports; the U.S. fuels market is now a global market and will become even more global; consolidation in the refining sector will continue; and an integrated approach will be needed to serve the marketplace. Perhaps most interestingly, Melo spoke about what he sees as an inevitable "bifurcation" of the convenience-store/petroleum-marketing universe. Basing his observations on what has taken place in the European market, Melo foresees a market that will be divided into unbranded (or private label) operations versus branded operations. "The market's going to go two ways and there will be lots of winners and losers," he said. "The losers will be the people in the middle with the winners on either end." Melo eventually sees a 70-30 split in the market, with 70 percent of the market branded with very good brands and 30 percent of the market featuring very good private-label brands. Melo's presentation was heard by the bulk of the 526 attendees at this year's Spring Convention, a number that convention chairman Stewart Spinks called "the highest in many years." Those attendees did not lack opportunities to absorb the wealth of information that was being offered for their benefit. The OPIS/SIGMA Gasoline Marketing Track featured a series of presentations designed to keep attendees up-to-date on the volatile goings-on in the gasoline market, while the specific committee meetings gave insight into the many aspects of SIGMA. The always-popular Motor Fuels Outlet Tour took attendees on a two-state, four-hour bus trip to see first-hand what works at four unique sites, including the Cisco Travel Plaza II in Kingsland, Ga., that takes advantage of its favorable market dynamics to pump more than 2 million gallons of fuel per month. The Legislative Committee Meeting was its annual raucous occasion with updates on energy legislation, credit-card fees, FSC-ETI tax legislation, the new off-road diesel sulfur reduction program and the state of the remote sales of tobacco products. Stage two of the joint SIGMA/ National Petroleum News Station Resuscitation Project was also presented at the General Session with marketer participants Spinks of Spinks Oil Co. in Greenville, S.C., and Joe Stark of Top Star Inc. in Emmaus, Pa., informing the audience which path they've chosen in remodeling their specific sites with the help of Jim Fisher of IMST Corp. and Michael Lawshe of Paragon Solutions. The newly remodeled sites are scheduled to be unveiled at the Annual Meeting. That Annual Meeting will be held in Philadelphia from Oct. 21-23 at another top-of-the-line location, the Loews Philadelphia Hotel. For a full report on SIGMA's Spring Convention, see the June issue of NPN. roposition with Shell's V-Power offering and ConocoPhillip's Proclean Gasolines. A cornerstone of these efforts has been the Top Tier Detergent Gasoline criteria set by Honda, General Motors, Toyota and BMW to promote a level of fuel quality that would make it easier for those companies to meet rigid emissions standards. Chevron gasoline with Techron was the first to meet the criteria, though Shell, ConocoPhillips and a variety of others soon followed.