Notes from a NACS Newbie
Wednesday, October 18
10:15 a.m.: The SSCS team (that’s us!) arrives at McCormick Place and it is a sight to behold! The trade show floor must extend upward five stories. Some booths rise to three-quarters that. Tall booths and towering signage, colorfully lit, make it seem like you’ve arrived downtown in a city built upon the shoulders of the retail petroleum and related industries. It’s a little overwhelming. I even get turned around one or two times (with all the compelling distractions NACS places in front of you, it’s easy to do).
The day looks to be a very busy one.
5:00 p.m.: The rush of attendees coming through the doors at show opening foreshadows the rest of the day. The aisles are soon packed and our team pushes hard to close, demonstrating our solutions for a multitude of prospects. I didn’t get much of a chance to walk the show floor, but between slices of free pizza (from multiple vendors!) I did manage to snap a couple of panoramic shots from an elevated position on our side (there are two…it’s that immense) of the show.
Thursday, October 19
10:00 a.m.: We arrive early—not for booth preparation, that’s all taken care of—but to look around. While I’m here to rep SSCS and everything we offer, the NACS Show holds tremendous appeal for me as a consumer. I mean, this is all stuff that I’ll probably encounter sometime in my daily life as a “civilian.” It relates to me. It’s fun.
During our brief walkaround a few things capture my attention. One of them is packaging, of all things. New containers with innovative designs likely will help usher in an era of new c-store products such as fresh fruit parfaits with separate-able compartments and drinkable soups from foldable cups.
Also notable are the number of companies providing some form of support for food service—partners, if you will, that allow even smaller stores to get their programs up, running, and profitable. It’s no secret that food service is increasingly vital for any c-store that wants to move their business into the future. Independent stores are turning toward third parties that can help them compete in this area, many of them wholesale distributors.
One last thing making an impression is the dominance of high resolution digital signage throughout the show. Running up the side of or perched atop the towering booths I mentioned earlier, creating kind of a futuristic, “Blade Runner” effect throughout the show floor. The NACS organizers take a sophisticated approach to the use of this technology—walking through the entryway to their booth is like walking through a waterfall of beer: intoxicating.
11:15 a.m.: We journey back to our booth for the opening of Day 2 and start attending to the many booth visitors stopping by. Many of the visitors we get today are exhibitors, suppliers, and affiliates. Meeting these professionals helps broaden my perspective, makes me feel more a part of the industry, and ultimately will help refine my approach as a sales consultant.
5:30 p.m.: After a long day of demonstrations, customer interactions, and show food (I sampled a good tapas dinner—believe me, NACS takes sampling food to a whole new level), we snake our way out of the show, taking a look at the exhibits we didn’t see previously. One thing I found completely remarkable were the car wash companies that brought, literally, entire car wash structures—rollers, driers, and all—to the show floor.
Friday, October 20
9:30 a.m.: The booth remains busy, but on my breaks I manage to take in some of the larger displays.
I marvel at the sheer immensity of the popular Clydesdale horses that we all know from television.
A pair of energy drink purveyors take the term “booth” to a whole new level, as both manage to transform a pair of tractor trailers into two-story display areas. Larger than most people’s homes, they come complete with T.V. screens, video game systems, and pop-up bars featuring their latest drink flavors.
12:30 p.m.: As the short, final day starts to wind down, this NACS Show rookie takes a quick visit to one of our partners to clarify some answers about data formats that will help me more effectively address customer needs. After that, I’m back at the booth, doing what we at SSCS do best: creating positive impressions and heightening interest in our solutions.
1:30 p.m.: It’s time to close up. As the team prepares to depart I start thinking about how fast the industry seems to evolve, and what might be in store for next year. That I’m even contemplating this seems a little bizarre; the whole show moved so fast I can barely wrap my head around the fact that it’s over. As we remove our technology from the SSCS booth and pack it up, I watch the carpets being rolled up and the cleaning crews breaking out the brooms.
Part of me is left thinking that you can’t really get a true feel for the industry as a whole until you see all its characteristics and personalities under one roof and watch them blend together. NACS provides that opportunity! And if you want a compact, convenient, yet thorough look at the industry’s possible futures, NACS has no peer.
It makes me wonder what’s in store for 2018, and frankly, I’m looking forward to it already. I hope to see you all next year!