Convenience Industry Takes Center Stage

Tips, thoughts and reminders to enhance your NACS Show experience.

Move over Ringling Brothers because the NACS Show is indeed “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Beyond the night life, parties, shows and the glitter of the Las Vegas lights lies, by far, the best and most comprehensive trade show and conference in the industry for convenience store owners and executives. If, however, you hope to achieve the kind of success to justify a trip to the NACS Show and, more importantly, bring back the knowledge, ideas and new product information that are crucial for getting your company to the next level, it is absolutely essential that you place a great deal of thought into the planning of your show.

There is a lot to do and see and without the proper planning, whether it’s on the trade show floor or in the educational sessions, you could miss the next big idea for your business. Develop that plan, make appointments and stick to your schedule. Choose in advance from the educational meetings menu those that will do you and your organization the most good.

If you are to pay homage to this magnificent show and its star-studded line up of vendors and industry consultants, you can’t waste time. And yes, it takes all three days to do proper justice to the more than 1,300 vendors spread across 400,000-square-feet of show floor space. If you examine the displays closely, you’re likely to find the next generation of products and equipment that will rule your stores for years to come.

With upwards of 22,000 attendees, the NACS Show also offers an abundance of networking opportunities. Your peers are coming to the show ready and willing to share ideas. Don’t be shy. The finest minds in the industry will be there and they are all very approachable. Remember, it’s not just first time attendees that can learn. NACS prides itself on having something for even the saltiest dog.

To manage the key insights you’ll be learning, I suggest bringing along a tape recorder. Sure you’ll stand out in the crowd, but, more importantly, you’ll be able to write a meaningful report to share with the rest of the management team when you arrive home. Think that won’t be appreciated?

Comfort Rules
Other tips to remember include getting to the trade show early to be among the first to check out NACS’ “Hot New Products” area. There are great ideas in there for category managers and chains of all sizes, and it opens before the trade show.

Perhaps my most practical advice to one and all comes via my dad, who in his 87th year, resplendent in his blue pinstripe suit and regimental tie, was standing at the edge of the altar as the soloist at my son’s wedding. Dad’s sneakers spoke priceless volumes regarding the importance of being comfortable. Heed this sage advice! Ladies, save that great new pair of shoes for the evening. Comfort rules on the show floor.

And to our wonderful vendors, and I do mean that, it is extremely frustrating to wander through your booths while you and your fellow employees are carrying on conversations in groups of four. It happens every year and is quite counter-productive. Let this be the year we see great improvement in this troubling area. Retailers are on the show floor to learn about your products and how you can help us improve our businesses and be more efficient. Making us wait to hear your message is a bad a sign. If you make us wait in your effort to get us to be a customer, how will you treat us should we become a customer?

Lastly, don’t forget your business cards. Vendors will be scanning badges, but scanners sometimes malfunction and business cards don’t, plus they are great to exchange with the people you meet.

Jim Callahan has more than 40 years experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on He can be reached at (678) 485-4773 or via e-mail at


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