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Two days of discovery at The Convenience U CARWACS Show

Con UThe Convenience U CARWACS Show, which took place March 3-4 in Toronto, continues to stand out as Canada’s leading location for insight and discovery for members of the car wash, fuel retail and c-store sectors.

Day 1 highlights

Attendees on the car wash side gathered to hear Karen Smith, compliance & training manager at Valet Car Wash discuss safety inspections and how operators can prepare. Smith took  attendees through a full slate presentation (Compliance in the Workplace; Are you ready for an inspection) that covered all the bases. She offered insights from information posting to Ontario Health & Safety requirements, to action plans and program excellence. Key takeaways were that its never too soon to implement a safety plan and the payoffs help keep your operation running smoothly. “If you see an issue, act on it,” she told participants. “Don’t wait for inspectors to discover a problem. Be proactive.”

Next, the stage was opened to Barry Munro who was promoting Car Wash for a Cure, an offshoot from Paving the Way for a Cure, a fundraising program that has raised more than $250,000 for the Canadian Spinal Research Organization (CSRO), a group that assists those challenged with spinal cord impairment. Munro is a survivor of a serious spinal cord injury. The injury has not slowed him in his efforts to bring this condition to the forefront of public awareness and his speaking date at the CCA’s morning seminar sessions is a good case in point. With Car Wash for a Cure, Munro invites members of the industry to help raise funds for a study of neuromodulation, one of the most promising therapies in spinal cord injury research today.

Next on Day 1’s agenda was a round table discussion hosted by Canadian Car Wash Association (CCA) president Jason Kaye and Terry McGowan, business development manager, Mosaic. The duo led attendees through a series of questions on marketing and building your business. ‘Do you use flyers, social media and other tools?’ and ‘How do you stand out from the competition?’ were questions thrown out to the crowd who took 15-minute breaks to discuss topics among table members. The questions earned a considerable buzz in the room with attendees creating a very vigorous discussion.

Meanwhile, in the packed Cohen Ballroom, attendees heard from Ontario Convenience Stores Association CEO Dave Bryant, who spoke about the importance of uniting to stand up for the convenience industry to fight for, among other things, fair vaping regulations and the right to sell beer and wine in Ontario. He also highlighted the important of C-store Day, which is to take place August 22, in support of Ontario’s Children’s Hospitals.

Screen Shot 2020-03-09 at 1.14.55 PMNext up, keynote speaker Lee-Anne McAlear took to the stage to talk about “Disrupting the disruptors” and exploring the convergence of technology and convenience. She pointed to block chain as a game changer in the convenience industry and challenged people to consider: “What does technology reveal that we can take advantage of?” She spoke about innovation and creativity, sharing four hacks to fuel disruption.

“It is not always the experts in the field who come up with new ideas,” says McAlear. “If we are going to meet the challenges of our future we need to be able to take in different points of view—different thinking.” She encouraged attendees to work across the innovation continuum, moving from incremental through to disruptive and pointed out that, especially in retail, “small changes—such as listening to employers, suppliers and customers—can be remarkably effective.”

Next up, Ontario Lottery and Gaming hosted a lunch-and-learn session designed to help attendees drive lottery commissions in store.

Screen Shot 2020-03-09 at 1.14.42 PM“We are the single largest traffic driver into the convenience channel—in terms of transactions,” says Larry Colatosti, executive director retail sales, adding OLG has achieved $2.846 billion in C&G sales so far this fiscal year, ends at the end of March. That translates into $207 million in commissions for stores.

He spoke about new games, as well as a pilot project introducing new improved terminals

“This is one example of how we are committed to retail. Making sure you, we, have the right equipment in place to bring us into the future,” said Colatosti. “We continue to innovate at retail to make sure you can serve your customers, our customers.”

Dante Anderson, director, brand marketing for OLG, spoke about an exciting new initiative to reinvent the brand. “The opportunity is for us to reintroduce the OLG brand and create a new brand image that stands for fund, excitement and play.”

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Dave Ayres signs autographs

The afternoon kicked with the opening of the tradeshow floor. The room was abuzz with excitement, thanks in part to two special guests—Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Carolina Hurricanes emergency backup goalie Dave Ayres, courtesy of Last Call Beverages.

Day 1 culminated with a cocktail reception and the OCSA gala dinner.

Day 2 highlights

On the second day, car wash attendees gathered in the morning to take in a tour of southern Ontario’s leading car wash sites. More than 80 people boarded two highway coaches to head off to visit three locations-Crosstown Car Wash in North York, Popular Car Wash in Etobicoke and AutoSpa in Mississauga.

Crosstown featured equipment from MacNeil, Belanger, ICS and Autovac. Crosstown sported a 12-unit free vacuum ‘farm’ and showed off the power of its marketing efforts. Crosstown offers a monthly and annual pass program as well as other features such as a buy one Works wash and get another free (with-in 14 days). Popular Car Wash also featured free vacuums with LED lighting, a detailing centre and full-service 100-foot tunnel wash. Equipment came from Sonny’s, Mondo and Transchem. Promotions included three-tier rustproofing as well as ten automotive maintenance services and oil change. Popular also offers a subscription wash service.

Last on the tour was AutoSpa. This site is likely Canada’s best car wash facility and is run by Fred Misheal, an acknowledged leader among his peers in the industry. This facility has two conveyorized tunnel washes and three conveyorized detailing lines. This is in addition to its window and lube centres and Starbucks café. The wash system was built by Washtec with both Mondo and Mark VII supplying additional features such as chemicals.

Other attendees spent the morning with business coach George Anastasopoulos, who spoke about the new reality of mangers, who are being asked to do more and more. He shared three valuable and practical techniques designed to help people do less and accomplish more, including arguing effectively, confront easily and accountability contracting.

In turn, ShipperBee presented about effortlessly increasing revenues through passive profit generators, such as its network of transfer mailboxes, called Hives: Hive hosts are paid for every parcel that passes through the Hives. They also benefit from moving two potential customers—the drop-off driver and pick-up driver—through their locations as parcels move through the Hive network.

“With more than 5,000 attendees, the 2020 Convenience U CARWACS Show provides an ideal opportunity to showcase our Hives, and their value, to gas and convenience retailers throughout Canada,” said ShipperBee’s founder and chief executive officer, Jim Estill.

Screen Shot 2020-03-09 at 1.10.41 PMThe show itself was well attended and well exhibited. The car wash and fueling sector-related part of the Convenience U CARWACS Show was a buzz of the latest equipment and offered a Who’s Who of the industry. “This is where people have been coming for solutions to operation questions and finding them,” said Steve Wickens, account executive, ChargePoint, a company showing off new equipment for fast EV charging. 

On the convenience side, exhibitors and attendees connected to discuss the latest product and equipment innovations, as well as burgeoning opportunities for c-store operators looking to diversify their offerings.

Norman Katz, sales manager, Maple Leaf Displays, comes to the show year after year: “I found it was well attended and lots more vendors to meet and conduct business with. I am looking forward to 2021 show.”