“The best ideas and concepts don’t solely reside within the walls of the biggest retailers,” said 2012-2013 NACS Chairman Dave Carpenter during the NACS Show Closing General Session on Oct. 10
Carpenter, president and CEO of J.D. Carpenter Companies Inc., West Des Moines, Iowa, challenged the industry to think big, and said that retailers regardless of size can play a role in shaping the future of the industry and in engaging with NACS.
After all, said Carpenter, he is proof that small chains do matter — both in the industry and with NACS. When he first got engaged with NACS, he had concerns that his store count — never more than 16 stores — would affect how he was treated. But he said that there was never any reason for concern.
“Everyone was there to find new ideas. No one cared about anything else,” he said. “That’s why some of the industry’s largest and best operators have come to see my stores — and in turn I’ve been welcomed to come see theirs. These relationships have helped me get smarter over the years. It’s opened my eyes and helped set my sights higher.”
Carpenter set his sights equally high for the industry, urging attendees to play a major role in shaping their future, specifically with fuels and payments.
He noted that while convenience stores sell 80 percent of the fuel purchased in the country, other groups — auto manufacturers, environmental groups, oil companies, renewable fuels, government agencies — each push their own views of what they think retailers should sell.
“Individually, some of their ideas have merit, but they don’t work together and rarely do they have our businesses or our customers in mind,” he said. “When these groups seek to push ideas through the political process independently of other viewpoints, what comes out is often unrealistic and devastating to us and our customers.”
Instead, Carpenter said that NACS should have a significant and proactive place in the process.
“It only makes sense that NACS brings everyone to the table to take on the big issues and come up with recommendations. NACS is already creating pathways to interject us in this process that will be game changing. We will be the go-to organization for fuels,” said Carpenter.
Payments is another area in which the industry can influence its own future.
“Look at credit and debit cards. All along, we have said that we will address this system through legislation, litigation and innovation. And we are clearly doing that. But here’s the next step: defining and building a market,” he said.
A few weeks ago, Carpenter had the chance to visit Silicon Valley and see first-hand how technology leaders are addressing the velocity of change in social and mobile technology — especially around mobile payments.
“We need to be meeting more with these companies to talk about our issues related to payment systems and processes. The tech guys I talked to out there challenged us to get involved. Today, card payments are an $11 billion problem for our industry. This is a challenge worth taking on.”
One of the coolest things Carpenter saw in Silicon Valley was a hack-a-thon — where teams spend up to 48 straight hours devising mold-breaking solutions to unique challenges presented to them. “These can be game changers — and can open doors to potential ways to address critical issues that affect our industry.”
Carpenter stressed that retailers of all sizes will ultimately define the industry’s future, and that NACS will be an integral part of the process in bringing retailers together.
“I can’t stress enough: If you get involved, you will not be alone. I’ve seen how connections have changed my business. But that is really our industry. We share ideas; we help each other,” said Carpenter.
“So now, let’s take a step further,” he urged attendees. “Let’s take on the big issues and own them. Let’s work to create, challenge and inspire others to build something entirely new that shapes how we do business.”