On Wednesday, NACS Chairman of the Board Tom Robinson welcomed retailers and suppliers to the NACS Leadership Forum in Miami. "We€™re here to exploit our future," he told the crowd of 300. "If we continue to innovate, and continue to share new ideas with our peers in the industry, we are a whole lot likely to continue to exploit our future."
Robinson, president of Robinson Oil Corporation, then welcomed Roy Strasburger, president of the international division at Strasburger Enterprises Inc., to the stage to serve as moderator for a discussion with two industry leaders: Don Zietlow, president and CEO of Kwik Trip, and Ari Haseotes, president and COO of Cumberland Farms.
Zietlow shared the history of the family-owned 385-store chain headquartered in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, as well as a few of the company€™s differentiators. No-fee ATMs at Kwik Trip locations keep 60% of the customers who use them in the stores for more sales. Commodities such as bananas, potatoes, butter and milk €" promoted heavily to consumers €" are strong performers for the retailer. But not every one eats healthy, Zeitlow acknowledged, and the bakery offering also brings in solid sales.
Kwik Trip shares 40% of profits with its employees, which inspires a culture of accountability and cuts down on turnover and shrink.
In addition, opportunities exist for the retailer in the areas of take-home meals, mobile payments, fresh meat and CNG ("but ask me about how well that€™s going in a few years" Zeitlow admitted). Challenges include excessive government controls €" "we send more people to Washington than ever before" €" and increasing health-care costs.
Haseotes took the stage next and discussed Cumberland Farms€™ recent transition into two businesses €" a retail and an energy side. A conversion of the retailer€™s legacy logo was the first step in the path toward systematically constructing a long-term strategy for the newly divided company. A fresh, food-centric model with an emphasis on beverages also marks the road ahead.
The retailer also adheres to the philosophy of continuously providing brand-enhancing experiences to ensure customer loyalty, including mobile cash cards, which make it easier for customers to pay, as well as drive-thrus. "Shame on us for ceding the drive-thru concept to QSRs," admonished Haseotes.
Cumberland€™s focus on people is one of the hallmarks of its long-term strategy. According to Haseotes, "you can€™t be the best place to shop if you€™re not the best place to work."
A robust Q&A session following the presentations tackled the topics of self-checkout, employee ownership programs, differentiated fuel offers and take-home meals.
Stay tuned: Day two of the Leadership Forum dives deep into customer engagement and loyalty in the social media sphere.