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Convenience U CARWACS attendees learn about customer service

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Photos by John Packman

Customers must always be king.

The key message from the 10th anniversary Convenience U CARWACS Show at Toronto’s International Centre March 5 and 6 was that everyone in the industry has a stake in ensuring that retailers give customers the best possible in-store experience. Without customer loyalty, independent, banner and chain retailers alike will have a hard time competing with other formats.

Thousands of c-gas and wash operators, distributors and suppliers attended the show, some for the first time, others for the 10th time, proving that despite what Trooper sang, a good time can last a long time.

Against a backdrop of balloons and photos from the past 10 years of the show, retailers participated in educational sessions to learn how to keep their sites fresh, spent time with distributors, and engaged suppliers on the packed trade show floor, looking for innovation and advice to draw in customers.

Retailers like Tish Wawrynchuk, co-owner of Baysville Country Store in Baysville, Ont., said The Convenience U CARWACS Show keeps them updated and reinvigorates their passion for c-store retailing. She attends with her husband because “we’re always trying to improve, refocus, and get excited about how we can be bigger, better, and more successful.”

Show and tell

Dean Jutzi of D.H. Jutzi Ltd. in Ayr, Ont., said he came to the International Centre to attend Hugh Large’s “Store renovations and enhancements to grow convenience sales” seminar and ensure his ongoing renovation is on the right track.

“I was hoping that some of the renovation work we did do wasn’t in the wrong direction, and found that it wasn’t,” Jutzi said. “I’m here to get some ideas about what’s going on now, and to get some new ideas about how to take the next step in the renovation. Looking at the layouts in different stores, the next thing we would try to do is knock out a wall, take out office space, and make that more retail.”

While some operators like Jutzi attended the show searching for answers to specific questions, others looked to broaden their c-gas knowledge base and pinpoint areas for improvement.

Hetalbahen Mahida and her husband, who have owned their Elm Street Kwik Way store in Sudbury, Ont. for only four months, attended the show to soak up as much industry information as possible.

“We came to learn,” Mahida said. “My husband is with me, and we went to some of the seminars. Basically, we just want to update ourselves. For example, we don’t have ice cream, so we want to buy those machines.”

With 10 years under its belt, The Convenience U CARWACS Show doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Not when retailers are already making plans for March 2014.

“We come to upgrade and get information about new products,” said Rajesh Kumar Patel of Jackson’s Point Hasty Market. “I came once before, and I’ll come back again next year.”

Five ways to put show learning to use in store:

1. Compile your comments. Put all notes in a binder so you can review and share show learning with employees throughout the year.

2. Reassess your strengths. Take a close look at your store to determine where you’re succeeding and where you want to improve.

3. Implement a plan. Develop a strategy for carrying out the changes you want to see, remembering to take one step at a time so you don’t overwhelm your customers (or yourself).

4. Showcase what’s new. Find the best place to display any innovation or equipment you purchased at the show, and use POS materials to inform customers about the updates.

5. Follow up. Get in touch with any suppliers, distributors, or operators you met at the show to further the connection and learn even more.