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National Association of Convenience Stores
NACS: Joe Sheetz Talks About the Industry’s Image
His mission as NACS chairman:
Keep the industry focused on the immediate service millions
of consumers expect when they walk into a c-store.
Portions of this article appear in the current issue of NACS Magazine.

Alexandria, VA – January 2018 / Newsmaker Alert / Perhaps there is one thing in the resume of Joe Sheetz that best qualifies him to be the new chairman of NACS: He was born above a convenience store.

Odds are also pretty good that he won’t be the last National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) chairman to bear the last name Sheetz. In fact, he’s the third in the Sheetz family to embrace that role—and he doesn’t take it lightly. “It’s a very big deal for me, not just because this is such an awesome industry, but because NACS is one of the best trade associations in the country,” says Sheetz, 51, who has been CEO of the Altoona, Pennsylvania-based Sheetz since 2013.

His top mission as NACS chairman: to keep the nation’s 154,000-plus convenience stores laser focused on the immediate service that millions of consumers expect when they walk into a convenience store, and look toward taking that message global as NACS continues to expand its membership internationally.

“There’s a lot of noise in retail about all the disruption and disarray from Amazon, but at the end of the day, we have to remind ourselves that we’re c-stores. Convenience is in our name,” says Sheetz. “We’re not about next-day delivery or one-hour delivery. We’re about instantly fulfilling customer needs.”

NACS: Joe Sheetz Talks About the Industry’s Image
Joe Sheetz, CEO of the Altoona, Pennsylvania-based Sheetz.
Now, with 565 stores (in six states), 18,200 employees and annual sales exceeding $6.4 billion, Sheetz and its CEO are trying to strategically respond to the new and dynamically changing world of retail. At the same time, as NACS chairman, Sheetz vows to advocate for NACS and to uplift the industry’s image.

“There are a lot of misconceptions and myths about what a c-store is and NACS is working to refresh that image,” he says. “We are fighting against people who say, well, I like your story, but I don’t want one of your stores in my neighborhood.” The way Joe Sheetz figures it, perhaps the most important job he can accomplish over the next year is to help revitalize the modern c-store industry’s image by re-telling its story to skeptical consumers.

“As an industry we have been guilty in the past of allowing our assets to get old and tired, and guilty of selling unhealthy items and of having super high prices,” he says. “Sure, at some point in time it all happened, but that was in the past. I think the image is outdated. The c-stores of today are significantly different from just 10 years ago.”

Technology First
Perhaps the biggest industry challenge of all is the changing dynamic of retail—much of it brought on by the spiraling growth and impact of Amazon. “I do not have Amazon-phobia,” says Sheetz. “But it may push us to get better.”

Amazon may be the kingpin of retail delivery, he says, convenience stores “still own immediate.” While Amazon is pushing hard to get products in consumers hands in a few hours, “what they do is a reminder of why people use us in the first place: They want it now, not in an hour or two. We’d better be willing and able to give them what they want right now.”

But technological improvement can’t stop at food. It also has to travel to the fuel pumps—and, in the future, to electric vehicle charging stations. Sheetz currently has 20 such charging stations at various locations, but all are funded by someone else. Ultimately, all c-stores must figure out a way to make real customers out of folks who think they are just stopping by for an electric charge.

One of the biggest tech challenges for the c-store industry is finding partners willing to offer solutions specific to the industry, says Sheetz. “Our industry has become a hybrid,” he says. “You’re a restaurant that also sells gas.” Finding technology partners who are willing to find solutions for this increasingly complex industry will be challenging, he says.

Celebrating Employees
Culture has always been key at Sheetz. “If you can describe your culture in a few words, it’s probably not really a culture—you have to live it,” says Sheetz. That culture comes from the right training—and from treating all employees like family members. “If I was to write out my job description, it would say: I’m the keeper of the culture.”

Celebrating your employees is far more beneficial than most convenience store owners realize, he says. Sheetz hears employees talking about and planning for the celebratory parties months in advance.

His top tip for all c-store owners—no matter how big or how small: Know who you are and what you want to be. “A lot of times people in our industry chase the latest fad, but that might not be the best way to go,” he says. C-store success, ultimately, is about finding your niche and doing it really, really well, he says.

About NACS
NACS, was founded August 14, 1961 as the National Association of Convenience Stores, advances the role of convenience stores as positive economic, social and philanthropic contributors to the communities they serve. The U.S. convenience store industry, with more than 154,000 stores nationwide selling fuel, food and merchandise, serves 160 million customers daily—half of the U.S. population—and has sales that are 10.8% of total U.S. retail and foodservice sales. NACS has 2,100 retailer and 1,750 supplier members from more than 50 countries.

NACS Contact:
Jeff Lenard
V.P., Strategic Industry Initiatives

To register as media for a NACS event contact Erin Pressley.

Publishing Dates: 01/18/18 – 03/18/18
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