The Summit Floor

Tribes get together in the Pacific Northwest to network with each other and stay abreast of the processes and practices that lead to C-store success.

Tribal Summit Group LogoIndian tribes across the U.S. have coalesced into retail juggernauts thanks to their more than Totem Poleconsiderable participation in the hospitality, gaming, and—last, but not least—gas station/convenience store industries. Their emergence in their markets has been a rapid one; it makes for a challenging transition that has tribal leadership running at full speed to keep up with the practices and processes that can keep their businesses as profitable as possible.

To meet the burgeoning need for knowledge and practical know-how, tribes have begun to network to share information among themselves. They are also seeking out experts in different aspects of retail management to help them. This development is perhaps best exemplified by the recent Tribal C-Store Summit meeting, which SSCS had the pleasure of attending.

The Tribal C-Store Summit is an opportunity for Indian tribes from across the Northwest to attend a full slate of business education programs and speakers revolving around our industry. Individuals representing all levels of management are encouraged to attend. The most recent event took place at the Little Creek Casino Resort in Shelton, Washington, operated by the Squaxin Island Tribe. The Chairman of the Summit Group, Jamey Balousek of the Puyallup Tribe, is COO of Marine View Ventures, an SSCS customer whose palatial convenience store, Tahoma Market, has been featured prominently on our website and in our ads.

Tahoma MarketAs a technology vendor to numerous tribal retail interests across the country—many of who were present in Shelton—SSCS is a supporter and sponsor of the Tribal C-Store Summit. What is good for tribal business is good for us.

“The mission of the Summit which is to get tribes engaged in improving their retail IQ,” states Vice President of Sales Shawn Herrick who represented SSCS at the event. “The educational and informational material is presented in a more intimate setting than your typical regional expo. This circumstance makes for enlightening exchanges between members and breeds the creation of productive business relationships.

bird_statue_blogThis time the summit’s point of emphasis was hiring and employment: how to be an effective recruiter, what to look for in a prospective employee, and how to retain productive employees—all of which pose unique challenges for the tribes and which may be difficult for those outside the tribal structure to fully grasp.

“Indian retailers understand their own issues like no other group, so when someone presents a solution or piece of beneficial experience it really resonates with the assembled,” adds Herrick. “It’s kind of a peer education environment to help others avoid pitfalls. What SSCS tries to do is informally share new trends and opportunities that are coming down the road and may affect participants.”

Kamilche Trading PostIncluded in the program was a chance to tour the resort premises, which included the tribe’s flagship convenience store, Kamilche Trading Post. As is typical of most tribal C-stores, it moves vast quantities of tobacco products.

The Squaxin Island Tribe takes it one step further, though, in that it manufactures its own cigarettes at the Skookum Creek Tobacco Company, just a stone’s throw away from the trading post. Across the street, construction is underway for another retail outlet, a marijuana store, as the substance is legal in the state of Washington.

“Not only were the Squaxin Island Tribe gracious hosts, they provided guests a real life model of how a progressive and innovative approach to the gas station and C-store industries can benefit the tribe,” says Herrick. “It’s always exciting to work with this market segment because their potential for operational improvement and increased profitability is sky-high. They are extremely receptive to new ideas and strategies, which makes it fun, too. We always look forward to interacting with our tribal partners.”