MIAMI, Fla. - On Wednesday, nearly 300 retail leaders and industry suppliers gathered at the Eden Roc hotel in Miami, Florida, to begin the NACS Leadership Forum.
NACS Chairman of the Board Jeff Miller welcomed the crowd to the invite-only leadership and networking event by stating: "For connections, forget about Facebook, this is face time€¦this will be the real social networking for your business."
Miller continued to lay out the program for the three-day event, which embraces the theme, "Visions of the Future."
Taking a deep dive into the future of the industry, a panelist of three visionary leaders took the stage on Wednesday: Jeff Miller, NACS Chairman and president of Miller Oil Co; Joe DePinto, CEO of 7-Eleven; and Jeff Morris, CEO of Alon USA.
DePinto outlined several significant issues he see facing the industry in the coming years: the jobless recovery, rising commodity costs, channel blurring, increasing oversight by the government, the changing political landscape, consumer trends and emerging technologies such as social media. He continued by digging deep into the facts and challenges around each issue.
While DePinto covered the retailer perspective inside the store, Morris admittedly covered the refiner perspective outside the store. He shared his personal "truths" about fuels: fuel demand peaked in 2007 and will keep going down; when gas prices hit $4/gallon in 2008 consumer behavior change permanently; diesel demand will continue to grow; and hybrid cars will beat out E15.
Morris told the audience to look in car dealership showrooms for a glimpse of what the future holds for petroleum retailers. He also advised retailers to think about niche opportunities in diesel, travel centers and fleet, advising against significant investment in CNG and ethanol in favor of a focus on electric vehicles.
The panel ended with a lengthy question-and-answer session led by NACS CEO Hank Armour. Topics included: channel blurring (or obliteration as DePinto called it), supply chain inefficiencies, electric vehicle charging feasibility in c-stores and QSR competition.
As the forum continues, industry leaders will focus on a critical element of the convenience industry each day €" fuels, refreshment and people. The event culminates on Friday with Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, as the closing session speaker.