“More than ever, I truly believe that food is our future,” said 2015-16 National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) Chairman Jack Kofdarali during his speech during the recent NACS Show. But he cautioned that, while all signs are pointing toward food as the industry’s future, it won’t happen without work.
“We’re going to have to fight for customers in an already crowded marketplace,” said Kofdarali, who also serves as president of Corona, California-based J&T Management Inc., which operates stores in Southern California. “We’re also going to have to tell our story and correct misperceptions about our offer. And we’re going to have to address an increasingly long list of regulations that stand in our way—whether related to food or our other products.”
He revealed it is eye-opening to travel from California to the East Coast—and Europe—and see so many retailers executing at a very high level with food.
“Their focus is not just on food made fast, but on food that is really good—both in taste and in quality,” said Kofdarali. “And here’s the most important thing: It’s making them money.”
Kofdarali shared regional breakout data from 2015’s NACS State of the Industry Report, showing how increased prepared food sales also push the sales of other items higher.
“Prepared foods are bringing in more customers, and retailers are selling more food and other items,” he said.
“Over the past few years, especially during my time as NACS chairman, I have seen the future of retail,” he added, citing excellence in merchandising and branding, new concepts and fresh ideas. “But that future also isn’t guaranteed—even if we have the smartest business plans and the best execution—because there is one other element that affects our business—and that is regulation.”
Kofdarali shared a few examples of regulations in his home state of California, from potential tobacco bans to warning labels on bottled water or fuel dispensers, to a litany of fuel-related regulations.
But, he warned, what’s happening in California is not happening in isolation. He said that just as weather patterns move west to east, so do regulations—especially those emitting from California.
NACS also is working to address these regulatory and legislative storms before they get too big—but taking them on at the local level.
“Our NACS In-Store events bring elected leaders to stores in their community so that we can show them the positive impact that we have in their districts—and the negative impact bad legislation has on our businesses,” he said.
And NACS continues that outreach by working even more with the state associations that address local issues.
“After all, we can’t take on all the issues we face by ourselves,” said Kofdarali.
He noted he is optimistic about the industry’s future and the role that NACS plays in shaping that future.
“If there is anything I have learned this past year, it is that we have a great story to tell—about how we make a difference in communities and about how we are great places to start a career—or start a business,” said Kofdarali.