The roll-on effects of the global pandemic have been brutal for retail, with some parts of the industry harder hit than others. While sectors such as grocery and supermarkets have found a way to survive by swiftly pivoting to e-commerce and home delivery, convenience and impulse retailers haven’t had quite the same opportunity.
In the case of Melbourne – the one city in Australia most affected by the coronavirus outbreak and home to a significant proportion of suppliers and head offices in this industry – participants are chomping at the bit to get business moving again.
Next year’s Convenience & Impulse Retailing Expo – hosted as always by industry magazine C&I Retailing – is almost a celebration of finally being back at the point where such an event can be held in person again, an opportunity for retailers and suppliers to come together in one arena after an unprecedented loss of connection.
“The main effect that Covid’s had on the industry is that it has shut down people meeting one another,” observes C&I Media’s publisher & commercial director Safa de Valois. “The field forces on the road haven’t been able to get to the buyers of the big brands or the independent stores, and that’s the downfall. There’s been a lot of NPD coming through over the year, and no one has really been able to see – let alone taste – anything that’s been launched.”
C&I Expo has been the leading trade-only event for all banners and brands in Australian convenience and route for more than 30 years, targeting brands both large and small to meet up with suppliers all in one place. This post-covid event will be even more relevant than ever, bringing industry players back in touch after being devastated by supply issues, the loss of field teams, and reps visiting stores to showcase new products. Part of the expo’s focus will be to help industry players “renew, reconnect and rebuild” as they breathe life back into the trade, re-establishing the relationships that are vital to smooth operations.
“People want to reconnect with everybody again, and see the faces that they all know,” says de Valois. “Everybody knows everybody in this industry, and they all have relationships – even competing companies have relationships with each other, because the staff on the floor are always at the same events. So people are going to be so happy just to catch up with their mates, it’s not just about the work – it’s a social opportunity as well.”
The two-day in-person event will conscientiously observe whatever social distancing regulations are in force at the time, and will introduce four industry-based speakers at each morning’s symposium, all C&I hard-hitters speaking principally about how they’ve kept their staff motivated and connected throughout the pandemic.
“It’s all about staffing,” says de Valois, “as well as how to rebuild and reconnect – but it’s chiefly about retaining staff and retraining them or how expanding on their training during Covid was such a big factor in the business, especially in petrol & convenience.”
Confirmed speakers at the event (with more to follow) include AACS CEO Theo Foukkare as MC, Carman’s Kitchen founder Carolyn Creswell, Australian United Retailers CEO Kym Coventry and OTR GM Darryl Cotter. Ampol’s GM merchandise Skye Jackson and TPG Telecom’s group GM James Gully will also be speaking at the symposium.
The key message of the symposium is not only about resilience and how to keep staff engaged and motivated during something like a lockdown, but also how to identify good talent and how to nurture and develop employees. This is a timely message for the sector considering recent articles published about the “great resignation wave” that’s about to hit Australia, where people who’ve gone through the lockdown have not been able to mentally bounce back from the ordeal. Responsible employers need to recognise that this has had a huge impact on people’s wellbeing and sense of self, and need to be proactive in dealing with and recognising this problem.
The C&I Expo 2022 is free to attend for all those who register, giving retailers the chance to come face-to-face with suppliers again since the start of the outbreak. Participants will be invited to a cocktail event on the first night, and early arrivals to the expo will be presented with a show bag with around $1200 worth of samples contributed by 20 suppliers. Exhibitors are welcome to request a prospectus or call to book a stand, while visitors can register online at candiexpo.com.au.